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SARS Coronavirus Evolution via Recombination

Recombinomics Commentary

January 2, 2005

The complete 29,731 bp sequence of the SARS coronavirus (CoV), HC/SZ/61/03 was made public at GenBank.  The isolate came from Parguma larvata (Himalayan palm civet) in 2003 and its sequence led to the culling of civets and related species in Hong Kong in the fall of 2003.

As expected, it did not have the 29 nt deletion found in more recent human isolates and had much in common with earlier civet SZ1, SZ3, SZ16 and Nyctereutes procyonidae (Raccoon dog), SZ13, isolates as well as the earlier SARS CoV human isolates from the Guangdong Province in the Peoples Republic of China. 

In addition to a number of unique polymorphisms, the isolate shared polymorphisms with the palm civet, raccoon dog,  and early human isolates from Guangdong Porvince.  However, the sequence also contained  evidence of recombination with the human sequences, and followed the same recombination rules used by avian influenza (bird flu) and human influenza to rapidly evolve and emerge.

This mechanism of evolution and emergence is followed by virtually all viruses and provides a blueprint for vaccine development against viruses before they evolve and emerge.

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