The hypothesis came up almost simultaneously with the pathogen: For months, the claim that the novel corona virus was not of natural origin, but man-made – as a kind of bio-weapon – has been buzzing around. Is there something there?
In any case, US Chief of Staff Mark Milley on Tuesday did not rule out that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory. “We’ve had a lot of intelligence agencies looking at that,” said Milley at a press conference with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. “I would simply say at this point: It is not clear.” The weight of the evidence goes towards a natural origin. “But we don’t really know.”
Milley had previously been asked by a journalist if there was any evidence to suggest that the novel corona virus came from a Chinese laboratory and was accidentally released.
Claim: According to a survey, almost one in three Americans believe that the corona virus is a laboratory product – a large part of them even believe that the pathogen was intentionally bred.
Rating: Scientists do not think this is plausible.
Facts: In fact, there is still no conclusive information as to how humans could originally have been infected with the novel corona virus. It quickly became clear: the pathogen is a type from the group of corona viruses that has been known for decades. Experts have known for a long time that these highly variable viruses can jump between animals and from animals to humans.
However, there are now scientific advances: In mid-March, researchers led by Swedish microbiology professor Kristian Andersen published their analysis of the corona family. The team specifically investigated whether the virus could have been produced artificially.
If the virus were a biological weapon, it would be even more dangerous
To do this, they examined the spike proteins that protrude from the virus surface. The pathogen uses these spines to dock into and penetrate a host cell in the lungs or throat. The study shows two important differences between Sars-CoV-2 and its relatives: In simple terms, the protein has a different structure and a different composition of its amino acids.
The researchers emphasize that, based on the characteristics examined, the new virus is particularly easy to infect human cells. However, the whole thing is not designed as optimally as you would expect from an artificially produced biological weapon. “This is strong evidence that Sars-CoV-2 is not the product of deliberate manipulation,” says the analysis.
In addition, it is not at all understandable why one should have developed Sars-CoV-2 from a virus that was previously harmless to humans and not from long-known dangerous corona relatives such as Mers or Sars. The scientists therefore believe that a laboratory scenario is not plausible.
For them, only natural transmission to humans is an option: Either the virus could have jumped directly from bats or used an animal intermediate host. However, it is still unclear whether Sars-CoV-2 mutated before that in such a way that it docked more easily to human cells – or only later than it was possibly already circulating undetected among humans.
Drosten also rejects the theory
The Berlin virologist Christian Drosten and more than two dozen other researchers also strictly reject the theory of laboratory origin in an article from the beginning of March.
The Chinese authorities consider it probable that the virus spread was caused by the sale of wild animals on the Huannan market in the metropolis of Wuhan, which was the first affected. Many of the first cases of infection were attributed to this market. Another study by Chinese scientists, however, believes it is possible that the market was not the original source, but that the virus had been carried elsewhere.
More on MSN