Dutch virologist to conduct research in China: ‘Want to learn from this outbreak’


Koopmans is collaborating on the research with experts from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Denmark, Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam and Russia.

1. What will you be researching?

“We are going to try to find out what exactly happened at the start of the pandemic. Where did the virus come from, how did it spread, where did it happen: those kinds of questions.

We know, of course, that the first outbreak was in Wuhan, and that many of the patients were in a market. But someone has also been found who has been ill before and the source of this is unknown. Was that something in the marketplace itself, was the market a ‘superspreader’ event? “

2. Is this the first study in which foreigners in China are allowed to do their own research?

“The WHO has already sent an international mission. Then the data on the control were looked at. It was already found that the early origins are still largely unclear. There was understandably no time for that in the first wave in Wuhan, because they had our hands full fighting, but now that Covid-19 is under control there, these questions are getting to the top of the list. ”

3. Why is it important to know the origin of the virus?

“Because we try to learn from each outbreak. Many new infectious disease outbreaks have originated in the animal world. It will not provide direct practical advice, but we do need to look for insights that will allow us to notice something crazy in the future. is going on. “

4. The idea is that the virus comes from bats. Is it possible that it first jumped to another animal and then to man?

“Yes, that’s one of the hypotheses.”

5. One theory is that the virus would have “escaped” from a laboratory in Wuhan. Are you allowed to do research there?

“In principle, all options are being investigated. We will first start with a thorough study to see where we need to zoom in further. If it turns out that there were already a few patients in another city in December, the source may be very different. “

6. When do you hope to go to China?

“We start with online meetings because a lot of the first steps are ‘paperwork’. We expect to go that way sometime in February or March. That’s probably the start of a long process, with repeat visits, because this is a complex question. This has also taken years with other viruses. “


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