Study population and setting
A selection of three patients admitted to hospitals with severe pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei province, China identified on December 21, 2019. Seven patients with pneumonia from Beijing served as controls. Wuhan patients were present at the Huanan Seafood Market close to the time of their clinical presentation.
Summary of Main Findings
Genetic code from viruses sequenced from three pneumonia patients from Wuhan match with 86.9% sequence identity with SARS-related betacoronaviruses previously detected in bats: bat-SL-CoVZXC21 and bat-SL-CoVZC45 (GenBank isolate names), identified in 2015 and 2017 from the insectivorous bat species Rhinolophus sinicus in Zhejiang province. Investigators also infected human cells from the upper respiratory tract with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and showed that the virus was able to infect and kill cells.
Rapid detection and identification of the infectious agent through sequencing technology. Successful culture of the virus in human cells from the upper respiratory tract agrees with observed respiratory symptoms in infected patients.
Evidence from sequencing alone is not sufficient to conclude that the detected virus caused the symptoms and mortality in humans. The similarity of genomes and the number of animal hosts sampled is insufficient to establish whether humans were infected directly from bats or through another intermediate animal host.
This is one of the earliest reports establishing a coronavirus as the probable etiological agent of the acute respiratory disease, including genetic information about the novel coronavirus and a potential zoonotic link with bats.