Only science can give an exact answer to the origin of novel coronavirus

Only science can give an exact answer to the origin of novel coronavirus

PR Newswire

BEIJING, April 28, 2020

BEIJING, April 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A news report by Liu Haiying from Science and Technology Daily:

On April 20, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a warning at a news conference in Geneva, saying that lack of international solidarity is aggravating the current pandemic.

"Don't take this virus as an opportunity to fight against each other or score political points. It's dangerous. It's like playing with fire," he said, pointing out that without national unity and global solidarity, the worst is yet "ahead of us."

Throughout human history, various viruses have always lurked. Although the level of human science and technologies is constantly improving, sometimes we are still helpless in the face of viruses. The outbreak of COVID-19 is proved to be a fierce enemy. It's even rare once in a century for a pandemic with such rapid spread, wide transmission and profound impact.

Where does this current virus come from? What evolution has it undergone? Everyone wants to know the answers. Though we may not get them any time soon, the truth will eventually reveal itself.

Let professionals do their job. Scientific problems will always need to be solved by scientists. This is common sense. This is why the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House sent a letter to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) as early as February, requesting it to rapidly solicit opinions from scientists regarding the search on the virus origin.

It is the responsibility of scientists to search the origin of the virus, and it cannot be passed on to others. Yet, scientists are not omnipotent and the research on virus origin searching cannot be done overnight.

Dr. Richard Y. Zhao, fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a virologist at the University of Maryland, pointed out that the research on virus origin searching is a scientific challenge filled with great uncertainty. Scientists need to undertake an epidemiological survey, genomic analysis, host (intermediate host and natural host) screening and identification, field sampling, homology research on isolated virus strains, and final bioinformatics analysis and identification. Only after all these steps have been completed can they track back to the origin of a virus.

So, it's fair to say that the research on virus origin searching is a long and time-consuming process, and scientists should be given sufficient time to undertake their duties. Currently, there are many scientists all over the world conducting scientific research on this virus, and the research on virus origin searching is naturally a key task. Yet, the research is still in its early stages.

There's a recent update of a significant research achievement: COVID-19 cannot be made in a laboratory, but is the product of natural evolution. It is possible that this is a natural selection of the virus to human or animal host. On March 17th, the findings were published on the journal Nature Medicine by six scientists from the United States, The United Kingdom and Australia, including W. Ian Lipkin, world-renowned "virus hunter" and profeesor of Columbia University and Kristian Andersen, associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, Robert F. Garry of Tulane University and member of the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats. They are regarded as authorities in academia, so their achievements in virus origin searching should be paid high attention to.

However, there is still a long way to go in terms of searching the virus origin from the perspective of science. The current achievements known to the public are still far away from the true answer.

As the global pandemic worsens, it is very important to take scientific and decisive measures to prevent and control the virus with a scientific attitude. Exploiting the virus and the pandemic as political tools not only does not help the prevention and control of the pandemic, but also will backfire, causing more serious consequences.

For this reason, many scientists around the world have called to treat the pandemic with a scientific attitude, to promote scientific demonstration, and to promote international cooperation. Under the circumstances that many normal scientific research activities in the world have been severely affected, the cooperation among different countries, and their scientists is even more precious.

As stated in NASEM's reply to the request from the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the White House, international scientific collaboration, which is already occurring, is more important than ever in addressing these research questions and overcoming global challenges brought by the current pandemic.

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