There is interest in understanding the mechanisms that underlie reports that patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remain PCR positive many weeks after initial infection. The recent paper by Zhang et al. (1) suggests a potential explanation of this phenomenon by claiming that SARS-CoV-2 RNA can integrate into the genome of infected human cells. The authors also reanalyze RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data and report that SARS-CoV-2−host chimeric reads are present in cells and patient tissues. Given the potential implications of this research on the long-term impacts of COVID-19, we feel that it’s necessary to scrutinize the evidence presented.
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Parry, R., Gifford, R., Lytras, S., Ray, S. & Coin, L. 2021, 'No evidence of SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription and integration as the origin of chimeric transcripts in patient tissues', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(33), article no: 2109066118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2109066118