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Sun Mar 28, 2021, 06:45 PM

The Mojiang Mine, RaTG13/CoV4991, and SARS-CoV-2

Lethal Pneumonia Cases in Mojiang Miners (2012) and the Mineshaft Could Provide Important Clues to the Origin of SARS-CoV-2

With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching its worst heights, people are interested in the origin of SARS-CoV-2. This study started with two important questions: first, were there any similar atypical pneumonia outbreaks, even on a smaller level, reported between SARS in 2004 and COVID-19 in 2019/20 in China. Second, examining the beta-coronavirus most closely related to date with SARS-CoV-2 at the genome sequence level, strain RaTG13 (CoV4991), which was sampled from a horseshoe bat in Yunnan province, we asked where exactly did it come from. It was found that RaTG13/CoV4991 was collected from Tongguan mineshaft in Mojiang, Yunnan, China, in 2013. Surprisingly, the same mineshaft was also associated with a severe pneumonia-like illness in miners in 2012 killing three of the six miners. A Master's thesis (in the Chinese language) was found on the cnki.net website which described in detail the severe illness in miners. The thesis concluded that a SARS-like CoV originating from Chinese horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus) was the predicted causative agent. The cases were remotely monitored by a prominent pulmonologist in China. Retrospective analysis of the pneumonia cases shows striking similarities with COVID-19. Bilateral pneumonia, vascular complications like pulmonary thromboembolism, and secondary infections are the main similarities. The treatment regimes were similar to the current treatments for COVID-19. We propose that the Mojiang mineshaft miners' illness could provide important clues to the origin of SARS-CoV-2. These cases should be studied by various academicians, researchers, and medical professionals as many important questions are raised in this context.

More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7606707/

Addendum: A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin

Peng Zhou, Xing-Lou Yang, […] Zheng-Li Shi
Nature volume 588, pageE6 (2020)

Here we provide further information about the bat SARS-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV) strain RaTG13 reported in our Article. Between 1 July and 1 October 2012, we received 13 serum samples collected from 4 patients (one of whom was deceased) who showed severe respiratory disease. These patients had visited a mine cave in Tongguan town, Mojiang County, Yunnan Province, China, to clean bat faeces in order to mine copper before being admitted to the First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University on 26–27 April 2012. The samples we received were collected by the hospital staff in June, July, August and September 2012. To investigate the cause of the respiratory disease, we tested the samples using PCR methods developed in our laboratory targeting the RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRp) of Ebola virus, Nipah virus and bat SARSr-CoV Rp3, and all of the samples were negative for the presence of these viruses. We also tested the serum samples for the presence of antibodies against the nucleocapsid proteins of these three viruses, and none of the samples gave a positive result. Recently, we retested the samples with our validated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) against the SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) nucleocapsid protein—which has greater than 90% amino acid sequence identity with bat SARSr-CoV Rp3—and confirmed that these patients were not infected by SARS-CoV-2.

We suspected that the patients had been infected by an unknown virus. Therefore, we and other groups sampled animals including bats, rats and musk shrews in or around the cave, and found some alphacoronaviruses1 and paramyxoviruses2. Between 2012 and 2015, our group sampled bats once or twice a year in this cave and collected a total of 1,322 samples. From these samples, we detected 293 highly diverse coronaviruses, of which 284 were designated alphacoronaviruses and 9 were designated betacoronaviruses on the basis of partial RdRp sequences. All of the nine betacoronaviruses are SARSr-CoVs, one of which (sample ID4991; renamed RaTG13 in our Article to reflect the bat species, the location and the sampling year) was described in a 2016 publication1. The partial RdRp sequence (370 bp) of ID4991 was deposited in GenBank in 2016 under accession number KP876546. All of the identified bat SARSr-CoVs are distantly related to SARS-CoV based on partial RdRp sequences. In 2018, as the next-generation sequencing technology and capability in our laboratory had improved, we performed further sequencing of these bat viruses and obtained almost the full-length genome sequence (without the 5′ and 3′ ends) of RaTG13. In 2020, we compared the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 with our unpublished bat coronavirus sequences and found that it shared a 96.2% identity with RaTG13.


China clamps down in hidden hunt for coronavirus origins

December 30, 2020

MOJIANG, China (AP) — Deep in the lush mountain valleys of southern China lies the entrance to a mine shaft that once harbored bats with the closest known relative of the COVID-19 virus.

The area is of intense scientific interest because it may hold clues to the origins of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide. Yet for scientists and journalists, it has become a black hole of no information because of political sensitivity and secrecy.

A bat research team visiting recently managed to take samples but had them confiscated, two people familiar with the matter said. Specialists in coronaviruses have been ordered not to speak to the press. And a team of Associated Press journalists was tailed by plainclothes police in multiple cars who blocked access to roads and sites in late November.

More than a year since the first known person was infected with the coronavirus, an AP investigation shows the Chinese government is strictly controlling all research into its origins, clamping down on some while actively promoting fringe theories that it could have come from outside China.

More: https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-coronavirus-pandemic-china-only-on-ap-bats-24fbadc58cee3a40bca2ddf7a14d2955

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