China upholds openness and transparency in studying the origins of the novel coronavirus, and has been cooperating with global researchers and sharing relevant data, according to an article released by a group of Chinese scientists on Thursday.
They said that there is no definitive conclusion regarding the origins of the virus, and uncovering this will take tremendous effort. They called for maintaining a scientific and logical attitude in future research.
The article was written by scientists from several institutions, including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Ruijin Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and Peking University's School of Life Sciences.
It was published in China CDC Weekly, a national public health bulletin and an academic platform set up by the CDC.
"On the issue of the origin of SARS-CoV-2, all studies and conclusions should be based on science," the scientists wrote. "Chinese scientists maintain an open, transparent and responsible attitude and practice. They have worked with scientists from all over the world on origin tracing and have contributed many scientific references."
During the initial phase of the epidemic in Wuhan, Hubei province — the outbreak between late 2019 and early 2020 — a number of cases were found to be linked to the city's Huanan Seafood Market. As a result, researchers from the China CDC and local disease control workers were dispatched to collect and analyze environmental and animal samples.
"These results were promptly shared with the public through official media. After surveillance work in the field, the data were further analyzed, and during the "WHO-convened Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part from July 2020 to February 2021", the results were reported to WHO experts and discussed by a team composed of both WHO and Chinese experts," the scientists said in the article.
At the same time, Chinese researchers summarized their analyses linked to the seafood market and released their findings to the public in a preprint study. Raw data related to the study were also deposited in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, an international database.
"The data have neither been removed nor deleted since they were added. In accordance with the usual practice of publication, and by agreement with the journal and GISAID, the data are released simultaneously with formal publication, but the link to access the data for journal review has always existed," the scientists wrote.
However, they stressed that all these data only showed that the market acted as "an early amplifier during the pandemic due to the high number of consumers every day, resulting in many of the initially identified infection clusters".
"The origin of the virus involving animal-to-human transmission cannot be determined based on current data," they wrote.
The researchers said that hypotheses and conclusions presented in the report released by the WHO in March 2021 are both scientific and objective.
They added that tracing the origins of the virus is a scientific issue that requires scientific evidence and logical inference. Determining the origins of the novel coronavirus may still be a long way off.