Virus Similar to SARS-CoV-2 Might Have Existed Since 2013, Swiss Epidemiologist Says
© CDCThis illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
GENEVA (Sputnik) - The virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2 might have existed since 2013, Didier Pittet, lead infectious diseases expert at Geneva University Hospitals and inventor of hand sanitiser, told Sputnik in an interview.
"In 2013, in China, approximately 1,100 km [683.5 miles] from Wuhan, in the caves that speleologists were exploring, the virus was found that was 96% similar to COVID-19, and it could have been transmitted to people who were working in that cave. And what is unclear is that this virus was probably identified by one of laboratories in Wuhan... Some publications, dissertations were made by the people working in those laboratories. But those dissertations disappeared. In addition, when you work on a new virus, you freeze it [the sample]. But it turned out that the laboratory failed to find that sample. And this is a little worrying", Pittet said.
This does not mean the virus was created artificially, the expert went on, but it may mean that the virus pretty much similar to SARS-CoV-2 was found in 2013 and this fact was concealed.
© REUTERS / NIH/HandoutColorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (red) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (red) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland
© REUTERS / NIH/Handout
"And to become a pandemic, the virus must circulate in nature for a while. So, probably, this virus has been with us much longer than we can imagine", he continued.
Pittet added that there is evidence that people in Europe and Asia contracted COVID-19 before this virus became globally known.
The situation has to be scrutinised in detail to find out how long it takes a virus to turn into a pandemic, in order to respond quickly next time when a similar issue arises, according to Pittet.
The World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Over 4 million people worldwide have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.