Scientist claims to identify COVID patient zero

EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: RESENDING SCRIPT TO CORRECT STORY THROUGHOUT TO INDICATE THE PUBLICATION WAS A COMMENTARY PIECE, NOT A FORMAL STUDY.

The first known case of COVID-19 was a market vendor in the Chinese city of Wuhan - that's according to a U.S. researcher who documented his findings in a commentary piece published in the journal Science on Thursday.

The origin of the pandemic remains a mystery and a major source of tension between China and the United States.

Up until now, an accountant who appeared to have no link to the Wuhan market was widely thought of as the first known case of the disease following a joint investigation by China and the World Health Organization.

His case, however, contributed to speculation the virus could have leaked from a lab in the city.

U.S. scientist Michael Worobey, who specializes in the evolution of viruses at the University of Arizona, has poured over public accounts of early Covid-19 cases and drawn up a different conclusion.

He said the accountant reported that his first symptoms appeared on December the 16th, several days later than initially known.

He also said the confusion was caused by a dental problem the accountant had on December the 8th.

Worobey's article details how most early symptomatic cases were linked to the market, with a female seafood vendor there the earliest known case on December 11th.

While his research does not settle the debate over how the pandemic began, it does provide strong evidence of a live-animal market origin.

Last month, the WHO proposed a new expert panel to investigate the source of the coronavirus.

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