An American researcher says that, while searching for files stored in the Google cloud, he managed to recover up to 13 sequences of the covid-19 virus that had mysteriously disappeared from the database last year. According to The New York Times, about a year ago, the genetic sequences of more than 200 virus samples from the first cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan (China) disappeared from a scientific database on the internet.
Now, by connecting files stored in the Google cloud, a researcher in Seattle (USA) ensures that he has recovered 13 of those original sequences, which adds data to discern when and how the virus could have spread from a bat or another animal to humans, assures the newspaper.
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The new analysis, released Tuesday, reinforces theories that a variety of coronaviruses may have been circulating in Wuhan before the initial outbreaks linked to animal and seafood markets in December 2019.
While the administration of the president of the USA, Joe Biden, investigates the controversial origins of the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2 , this study does not reinforce or rule out, for now, the hypothesis that the pathogen was leaked from a famous laboratory of Wuhan. But it raises questions about why the original sequences were removed and suggests that there may be more revelations that can be retrieved from “the farthest corners” of the Internet, the newspaper said.
“This is great detective work without a doubt, and it significantly advances efforts to understand the origin of SARS-CoV-2,” Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, who has not been involved in the New York Times, told the New York Times. This studio.
Jesse Bloom, the virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who developed this report, called the deletion of these sequences suspicious. “It seems likely that the sequences were removed to hide their existence, ” he wrote in his report, which has not yet been reviewed by his colleagues or published in a scientific journal, the newspaper acknowledges.
Bloom and Worobey belong to an independent group of scientists who have called for more research into how the pandemic began. In a letter published in May, the two complained that there was insufficient data to determine whether the virus was more likely to spread from a laboratory or jump to humans from contact with an infected animal outside that facility.
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While Bloom was reviewing the covid genetic data that had been published by various research groups, he came across a March 2020 study on a spreadsheet that included information on 241 genetic sequences collected by scientists at Wuhan University.
That spreadsheet had been uploaded to an online database called the Sequence Read Archive , run by the US government’s National Library of Medicine. But when Bloom looked up the Wuhan sequences in the database earlier this month , no longer “found any items”.
Puzzled, he returned to the spreadsheet in search of more clues and did a profuse investigation, cites the New York newspaper, and found no answer to the fact that the sequences had been uploaded to the Sequence Read Archive and later disappeared.
However, the expert has managed to recover 13 of those lost sequences in the cloud and, after combining them with others published from the first coronaviruses, he hopes to advance in the construction of the SARS-CoV-2 family tree.