Waiting for the Truth: Is Reluctance in Accepting an Early Origin Hypothesis for SARS-CoV-2 Delaying our Understanding of Viral Emergence?

Marta Canuti et al.

Waiting for the truth: is reluctance in accepting an early origin hypothesis for SARS-CoV-2 delaying our understanding of viral emergence?

Two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, key questions about the emergence of its aetiological agent (SARS-CoV-2) remain a matter of considerable debate. Identifying when SARS-CoV-2 began spreading among people is one of those questions. Although the current canonically accepted timeline hypothesises viral emergence in Wuhan, China, in November or December 2019, a growing body of diverse studies provides evidence that the virus may have been spreading worldwide weeks, or even months, prior to that time. However, the hypothesis of earlier SARS-CoV-2 circulation is often dismissed with prejudicial scepticism and experimental studies pointing to early origins are frequently and speculatively attributed to false-positive tests. In this paper, we critically review current evidence that SARS-CoV-2 had been circulating prior to December of 2019, and emphasise how, despite some scientific limitations, this hypothesis should no longer be ignored and considered sufficient to warrant further larger-scale studies to determine its veracity.

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