Genetic samples from the market were recently uploaded to an international database and then removed after scientists asked China about them.
An international team of virus experts said on Thursday that they had found genetic data from a market in Wuhan, China, linking the coronavirus with raccoon dogs for sale there, adding evidence to the case that the worst pandemic in a century could have been ignited by an infected animal that was being dealt through the illegal wildlife trade.
The genetic data was drawn from swabs taken from in and around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market starting in January 2020, shortly after the Chinese authorities had shut down the market because of suspicions that it was linked to the outbreak of a new virus. By then, the animals had been cleared out, but researchers swabbed walls, floors, metal cages and carts often used for transporting animal cages.
In samples that came back positive for the coronavirus, the international research team found genetic material belonging to animals, including large amounts that were a match for the raccoon dog, three scientists involved in the analysis said.