Scientists Trace Earliest Cases of COVID-19 to Market in Wuhan, China

The earliest cases of COVID-19 in humans arose from a live animal and seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, according to findings from an international team of 18 researchers, including one from University of Utah Health. They linked these cases to infected bats, foxes, and other live mammals sold in the market either for meat or for their fur.

The findings published in Science align with early reports that live animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market were the likely source of the pandemic that has claimed at least 6.4 million lives since it first emerged in China nearly three years ago.

“These are the most compelling and most detailed studies of what happened in Wuhan in the earliest stages of what would become the COVID-19 pandemic,” says study co-author Stephen Goldstein, a postdoctoral scientist in the department of Human Genetics at U of U Health.

The researchers say that moving forward, public officials should seek better understanding of the wildlife trade in China and elsewhere and promote more comprehensive testing of live animals sold in markets to lower the risk of future pandemics.


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