“These additional data will play a big role in that effort,” Dr. Worobey mentioned.
It’s not clear why this precious info went lacking within the first place. Scientists can request that recordsdata be deleted by sending an electronic mail to the managers of the Sequence Read Archive. The National Library of Medicine, which manages the archive, mentioned that the 13 sequences had been eliminated final summer season.
“These SARS-CoV-2 sequences were submitted for posting in SRA in March 2020 and subsequently requested to be withdrawn by the submitting investigator in June 2020,” mentioned Renate Myles, a spokeswoman for the National Institutes of Health.
She mentioned that the investigator, whom she didn’t title, informed the archive managers that the sequences had been being up to date and can be added to a distinct database. But Dr. Bloom has searched each database he is aware of of, and has but to seek out them. “Obviously I can’t rule out that the sequences are on some other database or web page somewhere, but I have not been able to find them any of the obvious places I’ve looked,” he mentioned.
Three of the co-authors of the 2020 testing research that produced the 13 sequences didn’t instantly reply to emails inquiring about Dr. Bloom’s discovering. That research didn’t give contact info for an additional co-author, Dr. Fu, who was additionally named on the spreadsheet from the opposite research.
Some scientists are skeptical that there’s something sinister behind the elimination of the sequences. “I don’t really understand how this points to a cover-up,” mentioned Stephen Goldstein, a virologist on the University of Utah.
Dr. Goldstein famous that the testing paper listed the person mutations the Wuhan researchers discovered of their checks. Although the total sequences are not within the archive, the important thing info has been public for over a year, he mentioned. It was simply tucked away in a format that’s onerous for researchers to seek out.
“We all missed this relatively obscure paper,” Dr. Goldstein mentioned.
“You can’t really say why they were removed,” Dr. Bloom acknowledged in an interview. “You can say that the practical consequence of removing them was that people didn’t notice they existed.” He additionally famous that the Chinese authorities ordered the destruction of quite a few early samples of the virus and barred the publication of papers on the coronavirus with out its approval.