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UA scientist helps prove COVID came from animals at Huanan Market, not from a lab

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago, there has been debate about its origins. Did it come from a Chinese market, where live animals came into contact with people? Was it the result of a lab accident? Something more insidious?

Now,  two papers in the journal Science use maps and genetics to pin down the origins of the virus that changed the world overnight back in March 2020 and has claimed 6.4 million lives since. The papers trace the roots of COVID back to live animals like foxes and so-called racoon dogs sold at the Huanan Market immediately before the pandemic began.

It’s what Michael Worobey calls an important inflection point in this hugely consequential pandemic. Worobey is a virus evolution expert at the University of Arizona, and he led the team of researchers who published these papers.

He said the first paper is very technical, the kind of thing he usually focuses on in his work, while the second paper was a little outside of this wheelhouse. Despite that, he said he managed to crack its code — and the results were essential.

The Show spoke with him to learn about his team's findings.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.