“Here we report the bioinformatic analysis of a metagenome sample set collected from soil on King George Island, Antarctica between 2018-12-24 and 2019-01-13. It contains sequence fragments matching the SARS-CoV-2 reference genome with altogether more than half million nucleotides, covering the complete genome on average 17×.”
The Daily Mail has an update on this story however:
“Rare coronavirus mutations from a sample processed in Shanghai at the beginning of the pandemic were found along with genetic material from hamsters and monkeys, which suggest the virus was being experimented on using either the animals themselves or their cells.
Scientists made the discovery by accident while examining DNA from soil samples collected from Antarctica in late 2018 and early 2019 in a completely unrelated research project.”
UPDATE 1 – 12TH February 2022
“As we have shown previously, SARS-CoV-2 mutations in these samples show a unique pattern most closely related to the earliest known variants, but we could not find exact match neither in the published literature nor in the most comprehensive database of GISAID. The absence of more precise information on the contaminator samples leaves open the possibilities that either there are known samples that have escaped our attention, or that there are unpublished results that may be key to identify the origin of SARS-CoV-2.”