After more than 2 years of intensive investigation, the direct ancestors of the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remain unidentified. Molecular epidemiology strongly supports a timeline marked by multiple, independent zoonoses in late 2019 (Pekar et al, 2022) solidifying the consensus hypothesis that close relatives of SARS-CoV-2 with high zoonotic potential were naturally circulating prior to the start of the pandemic (Andersen et al, 2020). Understanding where and when these ancestors acquired the genomic features that resulted in a virus with epidemic potential could enable the identification and mitigation of future pandemic viruses, even before the first human infection.
Published 2023. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.