Researchers studying wastewater in New York have come across coronavirus bits that are of uncertain origins, the New York Times reports.
Scientists across the globe have been using wastewater samples to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2 through universities, towns, cities, states, and countries, as well as monitor for new variants. Now by sifting through samples collected in New York, a Queens College-led team has uncovered viral fragments that do not match any known viral lineages, as they report in Nature Communications.
These newly identified cryptic lineages contain both mutations not seen before in clinical samples as well as mutations observed in the Omicron variant, the researchers say. These lineages could reflect clinical human infections that have not been sampled or virus that has circulated in an animal reservoir, like rats, they add. However, they note that the cryptic lineages appeared to be geographically constrained, which is not consistent with a human source, but they also did not find an overrepresentation of any particular animal material in their samples, leaving its origins murky.
"I think it's really important that we find the source, and we have not been able to pin that down," senior author John Dennehy from Queens College tells the Times.