We examined public sequencing data from Wuhan and discovered contamination of agricultural datasets by viral sequences. We were even able to pull out two novel MERS-like coronaviruses, one of which was in a reverse genetics backbone.
So much for “they would have used a known backbone” argument of Andersen. Our findings confirm the following:
• there was massive work on many viruses in Wuhan
• novel CoVs and backbones remain unpublished
• biosafety guidelines were potentially breached
Read and shiver.
In this study we document the unexpected discovery of multiple coronaviruses and a BSL-3 pathogen in agricultural cotton and rice sequencing datasets. In particular, we have identified a novel HKU5-related Merbecovirus in a cotton dataset sequenced by the Huazhong Agricultural University in 2017. We have also found an infectious clone sequence containing a novel HKU4-related Merbecovirus related to MERS coronavirus in a rice dataset sequenced by the Huazhong Agricultural University in early 2020. Another HKU5-related Merbecovirus, as well as Japanese encephalitis virus, were identified in a cotton dataset sequenced by the Huazhong Agricultural University in 2018. An HKU3-related Betacoronavirus was found in a Mus musculus sequencing dataset from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017. Finally, a SARS-WIV1-like Betacoronavirus was found in a rice dataset sequenced by the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in 2017. Using the contaminating reads we have extracted from the above datasets, we were able to assemble complete genomes of two novel coronaviruses which we disclose herein. In light of our findings, we raise concerns about biosafety protocol breaches, as indicated by our discovery of multiple dangerous human pathogens in agricultural sequencing laboratories in Wuhan and Fouzou City, China.