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Maybe Dogs, Then Again Maybe Not

Researchers have been trying to trace back the origins of SARS-CoV-2, with studies suggesting bats, pangolins, and now even dogs as possible sources of the virus, but LiveScience cautions that the new study implicating dogs may be flawed.

In that study, which appears as an accepted manuscript at Molecular Biology and Evolution, the University of Ottawa's Xuhua Xia suggests that as SARS-CoV-2 is quite deficient in CpG dinucleotides, it may have evolved in an organism with high levels of zinc finger antiviral protein, which binds those sites. He then surveyed other coronaviruses to find that a canine alphacoronavirus had similar levels of CpG deficiency, suggesting dogs have a ZAP protein level that would select against CpG.

But other researchers tell LiveScience that they aren't convinced dogs are the source of the virus. San Francisco State University's Pleuni Pennings notes that other viruses are CpG deficient, meaning that trait doesn't make SARS-CoV-2 unusual. "There are many viruses with lower [CpG] values than SARS-CoV-2," she adds. "When you look at all viruses, the [CpG] value is not strange at all."