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Virology: Current Research

Open Access

Implications of Haplotype Switching for the Origin and Global Spread of COVID-19

Abstract

Edward J. Steele*, Reginald M. Gorczynski, Herbert Rebhan, Patrick Carnegie, Robert Temple, Gensuke Tokoro, Alexander Kondakov, Stephen G. Coulson, Dayal T. Wickramasinghe and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe*

When analysed in patients at epicentres of outbreaks over the first three months of the 2020 pandemic, the virus responsible for COVID-19 cannot be classed as a rapidly mutating virus. It employs a haplotype-switching strategy most likely driven by APOBEC and ADAR cytosine and adenosine deamination events (C>U, A>I) at key selected sites in the ~ 30,000 nt positive sense single-stranded RNA genome (Steele and Lindley 2020). Quite early on (China, through Jan 2020) the main haplotype was L with a minor proportion of the S haplotype. By the time of the explosive outbreaks in New York City (mid-to late-March 2020) the haplotype variants expanded to at least 13. The COVID-19 genomes analysed at the main sites of exponential increases in cases and deaths over a 2 week time period (explosive epicentres) such as Wuhan and New York City showed limited mutation per se of the main haplotypes engaged in disease. When mutation was detected it was usually conservative in terms of significant alterations to protein structure. The coronavirus haplotypes whether in Wuhan, West Coast USA, Spain or New York differ by no more than 2-9 coordinated nucleotide changes and all genomes are thus ≥ 99.98% identical to each other. Further, we show that the most similar SARS-like CoV animal virus sequences (bats, pangolins) could not have caused the assumed zoonotic event setting off this explosive pandemic in Wuhan and regions: zoonotic causation via a Chinese wild bat SL-CoV reservoir jumping to humans by an intermediate amplifier (e.g. pangolins) is clearly not possible on the basis of the available data. We also discuss the evidence for airborne transmission of COVID-19 as the main infection route and highlight outbreaks on certain ships at sea consistent with their hypothesised cosmic origins. We conclude that the virus originated as a pure genetic strain in a life-bearing carbonaceous meteorite which was first deposited in the tropospheric jet stream over Wuhan. Over the next month or so this viral-laden dust cloud not only descended through the troposphere to target Wuhan and its environs, but was also transported in a Westerly direction through the mid-latitude northern jet stream causing explosive in-fall events sequentially over Iran, Italy, Spain and then New York City in the early months of the pandemic to the end of March 2020.

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