In a Yale med page (interview) on Covid-19 from January it is said that

The molecular dating of the virus genomes indicates that the original animal exposure event happened sometime between late October and early December of last year, very near the times that the first cases were detected. This is unlike Zika virus, for example, where transmission occurred for many months before the virus was detected.

To someone unschooled in molecular dating, how do you explain that we (seem to) know with such precision when the "original animal exposure event" occurred in that October-December timeframe?

  • $\begingroup$ @reuns: I'd accept that as frame challenge answer (there are some papers which say it that way, IIRC). I think for SARS it's still disputed in some corners exactly how it was transmitted to us. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ From what I read in cell cultures it seems that when changing the species/cell-line the virus usually gets between 2 and 10 AA mutations in days or weeks. I think this idea deserves to be investigated a little more because if we find this mutation process usually lasts for months it would indicate that the species jump occurred a few months earlier. $\endgroup$
    – reuns
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I linked to the wrong paper (in the same journal) in my previous comment. The one disputing more intensely the route of SARS to us is ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356540 (section 2.1) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 3:30


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