Did a Chinese team 'obscure' early coronavirus sequences?
In a world starved for data to clarify the origin of COVID-19, a study claiming to have unearthed early sequences of SARS-CoV-2 that were deliberately hidden was bound to ignite a sizzling debate. Last week, a preprint by evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center asserted that Chinese researchers sampled viruses from some of the first COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China, posted the viral sequences to a National Institutes of Health database, and then later had the genetic information removed to "obscure their existence." Other researchers note the Chinese team published the mutations they found in a scientific journal and that, as one said, it9s "farcical" to assert that they were attempting to hide anything. The sequences themselves do little to clarify the origin questions, but they have fueled suspicions of people who want to see a more open and rigorous probe of the possibility that the virus spilled over from a lab in Wuhan that studies coronaviruses.