Two recently published studies shed light on the origins and spread of the coronavirus pandemic, from bats and psoriasis in China to New York's dramatically fatal outbreak.
A study conducted today in the Open access journal Science Advancesanalyzed 43 genome sequences from three strains of coronavirus, similar to those that cause COVID-19 in humans. These strains have been identified in bats and in PangolineAnteater-like animals that are valued for their scales. The two pangolins, from which coronavirus samples were obtained, were smuggled into China and confiscated by customs officials.
The type of corona virus that caused the human pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, is more similar to bat viruses than pangolin viruses. A key piece of the genetic material relating to the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to bind to human cells has been identified in pangolin viruses, but not in bat viruses.
None of the viruses examined are likely to be in the direct line leading to the virus that made the jump to humans, but their diversity suggests that SARS-CoV-2 went through evolution between species before it made the jump made it to man.
“Much like the original SARS, which jumped from bats to civets, or MERS, which went from bats to dromedary camels and then to humans, the forerunner of this pandemic coronavirus underwent evolutionary changes in its genetic material that eventually allowed it to infect humans . ”Senior study author Feng Gao, professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a press release.
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Scientists have suspected this for a long time China's "wet markets" serve as cross-species breeding grounds for new virus strains and have been pointing out bats and pangolines as potential culprits for the corona virus for months. The newly published study shows a scenario of how SARS-CoV-2 picked up on its deadliest trick. It also contains a recipe to ward off future cross-species infections. known as zoonoses.
"While the direct reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 is still being sought, one thing is clear: The reduction or elimination of direct human contact with wild animals is crucial to prevent a new zoonosis of the coronavirus in the future," write Gao and his colleagues.
Another study published today in the journal Scienceexamines samples of all-too-human coronavirus from 84 patients who were treated at Mount Sinai Health System facilities in New York in March. The researchers analyzed the genetic sequences of the patients' various viruses and compared them to more than 2,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes from around the world.
They found only limited evidence that the New York viruses were imported directly from China. The evidence supported the view that the virus was introduced several times, mainly from Europe and other parts of the United States. Two launches were attributed to the main outbreak in the Seattle region in February.
In addition to Gao, the authors of the Science Advances study "Formation of SARS-CoV-2 through recombination and strong cleaning selection" These include Xiaojun Li, Elena Giorgi, Manukumar Honnayakanahalli Marichannegowda, Brian Foley, Chuan Xiao, Xiang-Peng Kong, Yue Chen, S. Gnanakaran and Bette Korber.
The science study, "Introduction and early distribution of SARS-CoV-2 in the New York City region" has 35 authors, including the older authors Harm van Bakel, Viviana Simon and Emilia Mia Sordillo from the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai.