Die vorliegende Studie zum Ursprung der Coronavirus-Pandemie wurde im Zeitraum vom 01.01.2020 bis 31.12.2020 an der Universität Hamburg durchgeführt. Erste Zwischenergebnisse dieser Studie wurden am 5. Mai 2020 im Rahmen einer Pressemitteilung bekannt gegeben. Seitdem sind durch internationalen Informationsaustausch weitere wesentliche Erkenntnisse und Dokumente zusammengetragen worden.
Das vorliegende Dokument wurde am 6. Januar 2021 fertig gestellt. Es wurde zunächst ausschließlich in Wissenschaftskreisen verteilt und diskutiert. Am 12. Februar 2021 erfolgte die Freigabe für die Veröffentlichung als Basis einer breit angelegten Diskussion in der Bevölkerung, die angesichts der Bedeutung der Thematik faktenbasiert informiert werden soll und in zukünftige Entscheidungsprozesse einzubeziehen ist.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has led to over 910,000 deaths worldwide and unprecedented decimation of the global economy. Despite its tremendous impact, the origin of SARS-CoV-2 has remained mysterious and controversial. The natural origin theory, although widely accepted, lacks substantial support. The alternative theory that the virus may have come from a research laboratory is, however, strictly censored on peer-reviewed scientific journals. Nonetheless, SARS-CoV-2 shows biological characteristics that are inconsistent with a naturally occurring, zoonotic virus. In this report, we describe the genomic, structural, medical, and literature evidence, which, when considered together, strongly contradicts the natural origin theory. The evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 should be a laboratory product created by using bat coronaviruses ZC45 and/or ZXC21 as a template and/or backbone. Building upon the evidence, we further postulate a synthetic route for SARS-CoV-2, demonstrating that the laboratory-creation of this coronavirus is convenient and can be accomplished in approximately six months. Our work emphasizes the need for an independent investigation into the relevant research laboratories. It also argues for a critical look into certain recently published data, which, albeit problematic, was used to support and claim a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2. From a public health perspective, these actions are necessary as knowledge of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 and of how the virus entered the human population are of pivotal importance in the fundamental control of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in preventing similar, future pandemics.
We are currently witnessing a major epidemic caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019- nCoV). The evolution of 2019-nCoV remains elusive. We found 4 insertions in the spike glycoprotein (S) which are unique to the 2019-nCoV and are not present in other coronaviruses. Importantly, amino acid residues in all the 4 inserts have identity or similarity to those in the HIV-1 gp120 or HIV-1 Gag. Interestingly, despite the inserts being discontinuous on the primary amino acid sequence, 3D-modelling of the 2019-nCoV suggests that they converge to constitute the receptor binding site. The finding of 4 unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV, all of which have identity /similarity to amino acid residues in key structural proteins of HIV-1 is unlikely to be fortuitous in nature. This work provides yet unknown insights on 2019-nCoV and sheds light on the evolution and pathogenicity of this virus with important implications for diagnosis of this virus.
A large number of SARS-related coronaviruses (SARSr-CoV) have been detected in horseshoe bats since 2005 in different areas of China. However, these bat SARSr-CoVs show sequence differences from SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in different genes (S, ORF8, ORF3, etc) and are considered unlikely to represent the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV. Herein, we report the findings of our 5-year surveillance of SARSr-CoVs in a cave inhabited by multiple species of horseshoe bats in Yunnan Province, China. The full-length genomes of 11 newly discovered SARSr-CoV strains, together with our previous findings, reveals that the SARSr-CoVs circulating in this single location are highly diverse in the S gene, ORF3 and ORF8. Importantly, strains with high genetic similarity to SARS-CoV in the hypervariable N-terminal domain (NTD) and receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the S1 gene, the ORF3 and ORF8 region, respectively, were all discovered in this cave. In addition, we report the first discovery of bat SARSr-CoVs highly similar to human SARS-CoV in ORF3b and in the split ORF8a and 8b. Moreover, SARSr-CoV strains from this cave were more closely related to SARS-CoV in the non-structural protein genes ORF1a and 1b compared with those detected elsewhere. Recombination analysis shows evidence of frequent recombination events within the S gene and around the ORF8 between these SARSr-CoVs. We hypothesize that the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV may have originated after sequential recombination events between the precursors of these SARSr-CoVs. Cell entry studies demonstrated that three newly identified SARSr-CoVs with different S protein sequences are all able to use human ACE2 as the receptor, further exhibiting the close relationship between strains in this cave and SARS-CoV. This work provides new insights into the origin and evolution of SARS-CoV and highlights the necessity of preparedness for future emergence of SARS-like diseases.
Although many severe acute respiratory syndrome-like coronaviruses (SARS-like CoVs) have been identified in bats in China, Europe, and Africa, most have a genetic organization significantly distinct from human/civet SARS CoVs in the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which mediates receptor binding and determines the host spectrum, resulting in their failure to cause human infections and making them unlikely progenitors of human/civet SARS CoVs. Here, a viral metagenomic analysis of 268 bat rectal swabs collected from four counties in Yunnan Province has identified hundreds of sequences relating to alpha- and betacoronaviruses. Phylogenetic analysis based on a conserved region of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene revealed that alphacoronaviruses had diversities with some obvious differences from those reported previously. Full genomic analysis of a new SARS-like CoV from Baoshan (LYRa11) showed that it was 29,805 nucleotides (nt) in length with 13 open reading frames (ORFs), sharing 91% nucleotide identity with human/civet SARS CoVs and the most recently reported SARS-like CoV Rs3367, while sharing 89% with other bat SARS-like CoVs. Notably, it showed the highest sequence identity with the S gene of SARS CoVs and Rs3367, especially in the RBD region. Antigenic analysis showed that the S1 domain of LYRa11 could be efficiently recognized by SARS-convalescent human serum, indicating that LYRa11 is a novel virus antigenically close to SARS CoV. Recombination analyses indicate that LYRa11 is likely a recombinant descended from parental lineages that had evolved into a number of bat SARS-like CoVs.
Although many severe acute respiratory syndrome-like coronaviruses (SARS-like CoVs) have been discovered in bats worldwide, there are significant different genic structures, particularly in the S1 domain, which are responsible for host tropism determination, between bat SARS-like CoVs and human SARS CoVs, indicating that most reported bat SARS-like CoVs are not the progenitors of human SARS CoV. We have identified diverse alphacoronaviruses and a close relative (LYRa11) to SARS CoV in bats collected in Yunnan, China. Further analysis showed that alpha- and betacoronaviruses have different circulation and transmission dynamics in bat populations. Notably, full genomic sequencing and antigenic study demonstrated that LYRa11 is phylogenetically and antigenically closely related to SARS CoV. Recombination analyses indicate that LYRa11 is a recombinant from certain bat SARS-like CoVs circulating in Yunnan Province.
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.
Recent SARS-CoV-2 epidemiological origin studies have made their conclusion based-in-part by analyzing a bat coronavirus strain that most closely matches SARS-CoV-2 called RaTG13. However, the origins of this strain are obfuscated and therefore the genomics of the strain cannot be trusted, especially in context of determining the origin of SARS-CoV-2.