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Genome Inconsistencies Further Obscure SARS-CoV-2 Origins

September 20, 2020

Mohit Singla , Saad Ahmad , Chandan Gupta , Tavpritesh Sethi*

doi: 10.20944/preprints202008.0595.v1



An intense scientific debate is ongoing as to the origin of SARS-CoV-2. An oft-cited piece of information in this debate is the genome sequence of a bat coronavirus strain referred to as RaTG13 1 mentioned in a recent Nature paper 2 showing 96.2% genome homology with SARS-CoV-2. This is discussed as a fossil record of a strain whose current existence is unknown. The said strain is conjectured by many to have been part of the ancestral pool from which SARS-CoV-2 may have evolved 7, 8, 9. Multiple groups have been discussing the features of the genome sequence of the said strain. In this paper, we report that the currently specified level of details are grossly insufficient to draw inferences about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. De-novo assembly, KRONA analysis for metagenomic and re-examining data quality highlights the key issues with the RaTG13 genome and the need for a dispassionate review of this data. This work is a call to action for the scientific community to better collate scientific evidence about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 so that future incidence of such pandemics may be effectively mitigated.

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