Anthony Fauci has urged China to release information about six labourers who fell ill after working in a mine in Yunnan province in 2012, and are now seen as a key part of efforts to find the origins of COVID-19.
The workers, ages 30 to 63, were scrubbing a copper seam clean of bat faeces in April 2012. Weeks later, they were admitted to a hospital in the provincial capital of Kunming with persistent coughs, fevers, head and chest pains and breathing difficulties. Three eventually died…..
With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching its worst heights, people are interested in the origin of SARS-CoV-2.
This study started with two important questions: first, were there any similar atypical pneumonia outbreaks, even on a smaller level, reported between SARS in 2004 and COVID-19 in 2019/20 in China. Second, examining the beta-coronavirus most closely related to date with SARS-CoV-2 at the genome sequence level, strain RaTG13 (CoV4991), which was sampled from a horseshoe bat in Yunnan province, we asked where exactly did it come from.
It was found that RaTG13/CoV4991 was collected from Tongguan mineshaft in Mojiang, Yunnan, China, in 2013.
Surprisingly, the same mineshaft was also associated with a severe pneumonia-like illness in miners in 2012 killing three of the six miners. A Master’s thesis (in the Chinese language) was found on the cnki.net website which described in detail the severe illness in miners. The thesis concluded that a SARS-like CoV originating from Chinese horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus) was the predicted causative agent.
The cases were remotely monitored by a prominent pulmonologist in China. Retrospective analysis of the pneumonia cases shows striking similarities with COVID-19.
Bilateral pneumonia, vascular complications like pulmonary thromboembolism, and secondary infections are the main similarities. The treatment regimes were similar to the current treatments for COVID-19. We propose that the Mojiang mineshaft miners’ illness could provide important clues to the origin of SARS-CoV-2.
These cases should be studied by various academicians, researchers, and medical professionals as many important questions are raised in this context.