Mysterious Coronavirus Signal In NYC Sewage

Posted February 3, 2022 by with 0 comments

Via NYT:

Last January, a team of researchers searching for the coronavirus in New York City’s wastewater spotted something strange in their samples. The viral fragments they found had a unique constellation of mutations that had never been reported before in human patients — a potential sign of a new, previously undetected variant.

For the past year, these oddball sequences, or what the scientists call “cryptic lineages,” have continued to pop up in the city’s wastewater. There is no evidence that the lineages, which have been circulating for at least a year without overtaking Delta or Omicron, pose an elevated health risk to humans. But the researchers, whose findings will be published in Nature Communications on Thursday, still have no idea where they came from.

“At this point, what we can say is that we haven’t found the cryptic lineages in human databases, and we have looked all over,” said Monica Trujillo, a microbiologist at Queensborough Community College and an author of the new paper.

The researchers themselves are torn about the lineages’ origins. Some lean toward the explanation that the virus is coming from people whose infections aren’t being captured by sequencing. But others suspect that the lineages may be coming from virus-infected animals, possibly the city’s enormous population of rats. Even then, the favored theory can change from day-to-day or hour-to-hour.

[New York Times: In New York City Sewage, a Mysterious Coronavirus Signal]