WHO presented this hypothesis in a 120-page report released on Tuesday.
The animal whose name recurred through the report was a bat. And according to the health organisation, the scenario where COVID-19 was transmitted directly from a bat to a human “is considered to be a possible-to-likely pathway”.
But this type of transmission is just one of four main scenarios WHO assessed to determine the root cause of COVID-19.
Another of those scenarios outlined is transmission through an ‘intermediate’ or secondary animal host. WHO considers this to be a “likely to very likely” possibility.
The other two scenarios are the introduction of the virus through ‘cold food products’ — WHO describes this as a “possibly pathway” — and introduction through a ‘laboratory incident’, which the health organisation said is “extremely unlikely”.
There has been heavy speculation that the virus originated out of the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China. But WHO has said “no firm conclusion” about the role of the market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn.
WHO further made it clear that the scenarios examined are initial findings. The organisation further said research is ongoing.
“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table,” WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” he added.