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.
Keywords: COVID-19; Mojiang; RaTG13; SARS-CoV-2; mineshaft; origin; pneumonia.
Copyright © 2020 Rahalkar and Bahulikar.