Coronavirus may have lain dormant across the world and emerged when the environmental conditions were right for it to thrive rather than starting in China, an Oxford University expert believes.
Dr Tom Jefferson, senior associate tutor at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), at Oxford and a visiting professor at Newcastle University, argues there is growing evidence that the virus was elsewhere before it emerged in Asia.
Last week, Spanish virologists announced that they had found traces of the disease in samples of waste water collected in March 2019, nine months before coronavirus was seen in China.
Italian scientists have also found evidence of coronavirus in sewage samples in Milan and Turin in mid-December, many weeks before the first case was detected, while experts have found evidence of traces in Brazil in November.
Dr Jefferson believes many viruses lie dormant throughout the globe and emerge when conditions are favourable, which also means they can vanish as quickly as they arrive.
“Where did Sars 1 go? It’s just disappeared,” he said. “So we have to think about these things. We need to start researching the ecology of the virus, understanding how it originates and mutates.
“I think the virus was already here – here meaning everywhere. We may be seeing a dormant virus that has been activated by environmental conditions.
“There was a case in the Falkland Islands in early February. Now where did that come from? There was a cruise ship that went from South Georgia to Buenos Aires, and the passengers were screened and then on day eight, when they started sailing towards the Weddell Sea, they got the first case. Was it in prepared food that was defrosted and activated?