Raccoon dogs might have caused the COVID-19 pandemic – report

The report suggests that raccoon dogs, which were being illegally sold at a wet seafood market in Huanan in China, might have been the source of the pandemic.

An artist performs with a raccoon dog during the presentation of the new show "Wonderful Home" at the Belarus State Circus in Minsk, Belarus February 1, 2019 (photo credit: VASILY FEDOSENKO / REUTERS)
An artist performs with a raccoon dog during the presentation of the new show "Wonderful Home" at the Belarus State Circus in Minsk, Belarus February 1, 2019
(photo credit: VASILY FEDOSENKO / REUTERS)

Researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) have found evidence that COVID-19 might have originated from raccoon dogs.

The report suggests that raccoon dogs, which were being illegally sold at a wet seafood market in Huanan in China, might have been the original source of the pandemic.

The CCDC in 2020 took swabs of the market and the animal cages present. The samples confirmed the presence of the virus. Notably, the animal cages had large amounts of of the virus mixed with DNA. Raccoon dogs’ DNA had the strongest presence with the virus.

"In samples with a hot amount of virus, there was not a trivial amount of DNA and RNA of raccoon dogs," Dr. Jeremy Kamil, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, according to ABC News.

"This is a really strong indication that animals at the market were infected," said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, one of the virologists involved in the report, according to The Atlantic.

A Raccoon dog is pictured near a brown bear watching hide located in a core area of around 700 Estonian brown bears, near Alutaguse, north-eastern Estonia, September 15, 2014. Visitors can participate in watching tours and observe bears as well as other animals such as foxes and wild boars from the  (credit: INTS KALNINS / REUTERS)A Raccoon dog is pictured near a brown bear watching hide located in a core area of around 700 Estonian brown bears, near Alutaguse, north-eastern Estonia, September 15, 2014. Visitors can participate in watching tours and observe bears as well as other animals such as foxes and wild boars from the (credit: INTS KALNINS / REUTERS)

The World Health Organization (WHO) was made aware of the study and stressed the importance of finding the source of the pandemic.

"The data, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, relates to samples taken at the Huanan market in Wuhan, in 2020, These data do not provide a definitive answer to the question of how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important in moving us closer to that answer," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. 

This research was made available shortly after the United States’ FBI services reported that it was likely that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory.

Raccoon dogs

The raccoon dog is indigenous to East Asia and northern Vietnam. They are closely related to foxes. They are social animals that live and hunt in family groups. They are illegal to own as pets in many countries, including the United Kingdom.

In China, raccoon dogs are often skinned for their fur and their meat is eaten.

From 2002-2003, a related virus broke out in China. While that virus was attributed to bats, the virus was found among both raccoon dogs and humans.