A study that claimed the Indian subcontinent might be the place where the earliest human-to-human novel coronavirus transmission occurred was withdrawn from the preprint platform of the medical journal The Lancet, Global Times reported recently.
Global Times said the study was first posted on SSRN.com, the preprint platform of the medical journal The Lancet, on November 17, but the article was withdrawn.
A staff from the Institute of Neuroscience under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) also confirmed with the Global Times that the study was withdrawn from the platform.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience under the CAS, the Shanghai-based Fudan University and the University of Texas in Houston.
The pre-print study, titled the "Early Cryptic Transmission and Evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in Human Hosts," suggested that the Indian subcontinent might be the place where the earliest human-to-human novel coronavirus transmission occurred, three or four months prior to the outbreak in Wuhan.
Global Times said withdrawing a study from the SSRN.Com is no surprise. "If the researchers or researching institute found their studies may have lacked data, or are not solid or deliberate enough to draw a conclusion, they would consider withdrawing their study, a Beijing-based public health expert told the Global Times on condition of anonymity," said the report in Global Times.
He said "the withdrawal of this study on the virus origin shows that tracking the virus origin around the world is a complicated scientific question, which is not an easy task, and is far from reaching a conclusion without international collaboration."
As the paper was still a pre-print version that has yet to go through the peer review process, the withdrawal could mean that the results of the study may need further verification, experts had said.
"More evidence suggests the early existence of the virus in the world before human beings became aware of it, and it points to multiple sources," he added.
Global Times said a study by the National Cancer Institute of Milan found the novel coronavirus in blood samples collected in October 2019, and research led by the University of Barcelona showed the presence of the virus in samples of sewage in Barcelona in March 2019.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal also quoted a government study that said COVID-19 was likely in the US in mid-December, about a month before the country reported its first case, and weeks before China reported its first case.
Francois balloux, Director, UCL Genetics Institute and Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College of London, described the paper by Chinese researchers as 'gibberish'. "A piece of gibberish nonsense arguing #SARSCoV2 originated in India, submitted to the Lancet. I can only hope that the process of 'peer review' will weed this one out promptly."