When a previously unknown virus broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the turn of the year, few could have predicted the havoc it would wreak across the globe. Now a Danish scientist from the University of Copenhagen is travelling to the city to investigate where it came from.
Professor Thea Kølsen Fischer is an expert on viral epidemics and infections, as well as the head researcher at Nordsjællands Hospital. She joins a team of nine other experts from around the world appointed by WHO to shed light on the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic.
A batty detective
Within the next few weeks, the team will set off for Wuhan. Previous speculation has suggested that the virus originated from a bat at one of the city’s many food markets, but it is a suggestion that the Chinese government has contested. Fischer, however, is keeping an open mind.
“The city is where we have the first recorded case of COVID-19, so it is in Wuhan that our first focus lies. After that we have to see where it takes us,” she told TV2, diplomatically.
“There is a lot of speculation. But as researchers, we work with facts and documentation. A probable hypothesis may well be that it originated from bats and has since found its way to humans – perhaps through an intermediate host. Our task is to find the end of the thread.”
An international effort
Making up the team are experts from Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. They will be expected to work in conjunction with Chinese experts, the Daily Telegraph reports.
According to the WHO, concrete findings from the investigation may take years to emerge. It took over a year to find the source of the MERS virus that struck the Middle East in 2012, and even longer to identify the origin of the SARS virus outbreak in 2003. Both viruses are closely related to COVID-19.