Similar virus, similar or almost similar origin. This is the theory developed by Christian Drosten the German researcher threatened with death, who heads the Institute of Virology at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin. For 17 years, the renowned scientist has been researching coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV, also known as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). It was he who co-discovered the DNA of this virus in 2003. This time again, he believes that the origin of Covid-19 is to be found on the side of the animals whose furs are worked.
By the time of SARS, it was established that masked palm civets (canids that resemble raccoons) were clearly the source. “It’s scientifically proven. For me, that’s a closed story, ”explains the Berlin virologist to the Swiss online news site Republik. An interview cited by the site of the weekly Der Spiegel, which he recently covered. These animals, killed for their fur, can expectorate a virus that is transmitted to humans. It is through them that SARS-CoV has made its way between bats and humans. “I thought that this kind of animal trade had stopped”, admits the researcher who describes himself as “extremely naive”.
Malice in a laboratory? He hardly believes in it
The scientist thus sweeps aside, without completely excluding it, the hypothesis of a virus made more virulent in the laboratory by human malice: “If I want to know if a new car radio improves the sound, I take an existing car and I replace the radio. over there. Then I compare. I’m not building a whole new car for it. But it’s exactly like that with the Covid-19: the whole car is different, ”he tries to imagine.
It is rather towards the small carnivores that it turns, “the most plausible hypothesis”. “Fur animals are predators. They eat small mammals. They also hunt bats in the wild ”. Wild animals can mix with others bred for fur. The Berliner evokes the case of Denmark where 15 million mink were slaughtered for the virus to disappear.
Animal testing like in Denmark has probably not been done throughout China. But “it cannot be ruled out. I don’t know if there won’t be a study next week that will clarify that. It can be anything. I can only tell you: I have no information on this subject, ”he explains to Republik, regretting not having been approached by the WHO for a mission in China.