The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2

Identifying the closest viral relatives of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in animals will greatly assist studies of viral function. The genomic features described here may explain in part the infectiousness and transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 in humans.

Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here. However, since we observed all notable SARS-CoV-2 features, including the optimized RBD and polybasic cleavage site, in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.

Irrespective of the exact mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 originated via natural selection, the ongoing surveillance of pneumonia in humans and other animals is clearly of utmost importance.

Andersen, K.G., Rambaut, A., Lipkin, W.I. et al. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2Nature Medicine. Published: 17 March 2020.

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