There are rumors floating around the Internet that the coronavirus virus escaped from a bioterrorism lab; but are they true? Researchers have analyzed the coronavirus genome responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic and came to the conclusion that it is of natural origin.
At the beginning of the epidemic, Covid-19 was compared to Flu viruses which turned out to be wrong. Since then, scientists all over the world have shared their observations, based in particular on data provided by the Chinese.
It appeared in China and is now responsible for a Covid-19 pandemic. More than 70 countries are affected. And the craziest theories about its origin are now circulating on the Internet. But researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in the US confirmed that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is the product of natural evolution.
The coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic is the product of a natural process
“We have compared publicly available CoV-2 SARS’s genome sequence data with publicly available data from known corona virus strains. We have clearly established that the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic originated from a natural process,” says Kristian Andersen, Professor of Immunology and Microbiology, in a statement from the Scripps Research Institute.
Remember that there are many coronaviruses. They belong to a family of viruses that can cause diseases of varying severity. The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that China experienced in 2003 was already caused by a corona virus. So was the SARS epidemic that Saudi Arabia had to fight in 2012.
Shortly after the outbreak began in China, Chinese scientists sequenced the SARS CoV-2 genome. They made this data available to researchers around the world. The studies quickly revealed human-to-human transmission through a single introduction to the human population.
Characteristics that prevent genetic manipulation
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute focused on revealing properties of the coronavirus. Characteristics that are carried by proteins that experts call spicular proteins. More specifically, they focused on the receptor binding domain (RBD) – a kind of grab hook that attaches itself to human cell walls – and the cleavage site – a kind of molecular can opener that allows the virus to break in.
According to the researchers, the needle-shaped proteins in SARS-CoV-2 are so effective in binding to human cells that they can only be the result of natural selection. They cannot be the product of genetic engineering.
This conclusion is supported by the general molecular structure of SARS-CoV-2. Its skeleton is very different from that of known corona viruses. And the researchers are convinced that if someone were to design a new pathogen, they would build it from an already existing structure known to cause disease.
“The properties of the coronavirus rule out manipulation in the laboratory as a possible origin of CoV-2 SARS,” stresses Andersen. This should put an end to any speculation of deliberate genetic manipulation.