Top Scientists Debunk Covid-19 Conspiracy Theory That Wuhan Institute Created Virus
The theory gained popularity online because of two facts.
First, the Wuhan Institute of Virology contains one of the world’s biggest databases of bat-related viruses.
Second, the Institute was the first to identify the new coronavirus as directly related to a wild strain found in bats.
Given the infectiousness and deadliness of the virus, many have been quick to entertain the theory that the virus was a manufactured bioweapon. This includes US politicians like Senator Tom Cotton, who has repeated his assertions that the mystery of the virus’ origin might indicate human involvement.
In particular, Senator Cotton claimed that it came from a “biosafety level-4 super laboratory”.
Another earlier report which has already been disproven seemed to point toward a bioweapon theory as well. An Indian research paper claimed that an amino acid sequence from HIV had been inserted into Covid-19’s structure.
They claimed that this was unlikely to be coincidental.
Scientists from the Wuhan Institute have expressly refuted all such claims. Shi Zhengli, the institute’s lead researcher, previously said in a post on WeChat:
Covid-19 is Nature’s punishment on Mankind for their uncivilised habits. I, Shi Zhengli, swear on my life that it has nothing to do with the laboratory.
Top scientists explain why Covid-19 is likely natural
A new research paper, titled ‘The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2’, was released on Monday (17 Feb). The WHO has explained that Covid-19 does not refer to the novel coronavirus itself, but rather the disease caused by it.
However, the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has named the virus itself SARS-CoV-2. Its official name owes itself to the fact that it is related to the earlier coronavirus strain that caused SARS in 2003.
Authored by top epidemiologists, the paper explains how the Covid-19 virus’ structure definitively proves that it evolved naturally. It claims that the genome sequence of the virus demonstrates several new features never observed before in a lab.
Therefore, since these features are new, they could not possibly have been engineered.
Noting the way that the virus binds to cells, the scientists found that the ‘spike’ with which the virus attaches itself to human cells is not designed to ‘grab’ onto human cells.
If the virus had been engineered, they said, it would have been designed to be more efficient in binding.
A weapon would have used a familiar structure
The paper also stated that if the virus was engineered as a weapon, it would not contain so many never-before-seen features. From a practical standpoint, the most logical thing to do would be to construct it off a “previously used virus backbone”.
But this was tellingly absent.
Other scientists have come out to assert that the unique features sported by the Covid-19 virus prove that it evolved naturally.
Scientists have 2 theories on how coronavirus originated
This still leaves open the question of where the Covid-19 virus came from.
Scientists currently have 2 theories.
The first states that natural selection refined the virus during animal-to-animal transmission, before making the jump to human hosts.
The second states that the virus made the jump from animal to human first. Thereafter, it refined itself as it transmitted between human to human. Finally, it became sufficiently optimised that it could transmit more efficiently, and the breakout occurred.
As of now, there aren’t any clear answers.
Featured image adapted from Al-Sabbaq.