COVID-19 first made its presence felt in late 2019. The place was a seafood market in Wuhan, China. That was the inception of a pandemic that infected 21.67 million across 188 countries. More than 775,000 people have already lost their lives to coronavirus. However, a report that has come out recently reveals that SARS-Cov-2, the virus behind the pandemic, might not have evinced itself for the first time in Wuhan in 2019. Instead, in 2012, the virus first appeared some 1000 miles away in a mineshaft. In April 2012, six miners were removing bat feces from a Mojiang mine in China’s Yunnan province. They fell prey to an illness almost identical to pneumonia. Three of those six miners lost their lives eventually.
Getting Exposed To Bat Feces
Dr. Li Xu, the doctor of the miners, sent the miners’ tissue samples for testing to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The miners were kept on ventilation and were treated with antibiotics, steroids, blood thinners, so on and so forth. Dr. Xu also tested the infected for other diseases like dengue, hepatitis, and HIV to reach the crux of the illness. When specialists like Zhong Nanshan were consulted, many significant issues cropped up. The patients were suffering from dry cough, high fever, sore limbs, and headaches.
In the present times, these symptoms are what COVID-19 is identified with. Coronavirus caused the illness when Jonathan Latham, a virologist, and Allison Wilson, a molecular biologist, reviewed the thesis put forward by Dr. Xu. The samples of the miners that Dr. Xu sent to the lab in Wuhan were studied in the year 2018. It was a horseshoe bat that spreads the virus.
There have been varying reports stating the origin of SARS-Cov-2. While some reports claim that wild animals are the sources of this virus, other reports state that the virus is man-made. According to Wilson and Latham, the origin of the virus is based on the illness of the miners and the subsequent treatment they went through. There is another baffling theory about COVID-19: the virus spike protein’s affinity towards human receptors.
Wild animals are the sources of COVID-19, and therefore, the virus is bound to take some time to infect humans. Thus, this particular theory has surprised scientists to quite an extent. The theory also outlines why the lungs are the most affected part of the human body. This, too, is not normal for a coronavirus.
Similarities Between COVID-19 And Histoplasmosis
In the absence of a differential diagnosis, it’s tough to distinguish COVID-19 from histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis happens to be an infection of the respiratory tract caused when humans inhale the fungal spores of Histoplasma capsulatum, present in bird and bat droppings. Almost similar to the symptoms of COVID-19, is one with histoplasmosis infection displays symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, fever, dry coughs, chills, fatigue, and discomfort in breathing.
The symptoms appear in humans between 3 to 17 days exposed to Histoplasma capsulatum. The severity of this infection depends on how many fungal spores one inhales. The main difference between COVID-19 and histoplasmosis is that the latter is not contagious as the former.
Case History Of The Miners
Out of the six infected miners, four of them spent more than fourteen days in the mine. The other two spent only four days and had displayed milder symptoms. The deaths of the three miners were linked to secondary bacterial infections and weakened immune systems. In the case of histoplasmosis, the incubation period usually lies within the third and the seventeenth day. The miners caught the infection during that period.
However, no tests for a histoplasmosis infection were carried out. During the phase of treatment, none of the miners tested positive for a viral infection. The CT scans indicated more towards histoplasmosis than coronavirus. The theory put forth by Latham and Wilson didn’t quite point out the fact that the miners were down with the coronavirus.
However, we cannot conclude anything regarding the origin of SARS-Cov-2 yet. That is because there is not enough data to support the claims. But nearly all evidence points out that the Mojiang miners were suffering from histoplasmosis. So, until the researchers find ample data and find a cure, we need to be safe. It is important to wear a mask and maintain social distance while avoiding unnecessary travel!