By Theodore Shoebat
Scientists have concluded that the coronavirus that is infecting people in France did not come from China or Italy, but is another adapted strand, according to a report from South China Morning Post:
The coronavirus outbreak in France was not caused by cases imported from China, but from a locally circulating strain of unknown origin, according to a new study by French scientists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
Genetic analysis showed that the dominant types of the viral strains in France belonged to a clade – or group with a common ancestor – that did not come from China or Italy, the earliest hotspot in Europe.
“The French outbreak has been mainly seeded by one or several variants of this clade … we can infer that the virus was silently circulating in France in February,” said researchers led by Dr Sylvie van der Werf and Etienne Simon-Loriere in a non-peer reviewed paper released on bioRxiv.org last week.
The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 128,000 people in France and caused more than 23,000 deaths.
France detected the virus in late January, before any other country in Europe. A few patients with a travel history that included China’s Hubei province were sampled on January 24 and tested positive.
The scientists took samples of this French strand from patience with no travel history, suggesting a European origin:
The earliest sample in the French clade was collected on February 19 from a patient who had no history of travel and no known contact with returned travellers.
Several patients had recently travelled to other European countries, the United Arab Emirates, Madagascar and Egypt but there was no direct evidence that they contracted the disease in these destinations.
To the researchers’ surprise, some of the later strains collected were genetically older – or closer to the ancestral root – than the first sample in this clade.
A possible explanation, according to the authors, was that local transmission had been occurring in France for some time without being detected by health authorities.
The French government may have missed detecting the transmission. According to the researchers, a large proportion of those patients might have had mild symptoms or none at all.
The researchers also found that three sequences later sampled in Algeria were closely related to those in France, suggesting that travellers from France might have introduced the virus to the African country and caused an outbreak.