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Origins of COVID-19

Uncovering the truth behind the origins of the virus

The quest for the crime of the century begins now!


Suspicion of the Wuhan Institute of Virology


Since the early epidemic reports in Wuhan, the origin of COVID-19 has been a matter of contention. Was SARS-CoV-2 the outcome of spontaneous transmission from animals to humans or scientific experimentation? 


Although most of the recorded initial cases occurred near a seafood market, Western Intelligence Agencies knew that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was situated nine miles to the south. Researchers at the biosafety centre combed Yunnan caves for bats harbouring SARS-like viruses. They have been extracting genetic material from their saliva, urine, and faeces. Additionally, bat coronavirus RaTG13 (BatCoV RaTG13) shared 96% of its genome with SARS-CoV-2. 


Suspicion increased when it was discovered that WIV researchers dealt with chimeric versions of SARS-like viruses capable of infecting human cells. However, similar "gain-of-function" studies in Western biosecurity institutions have shown that such slow virulence increases may occur naturally. The coincidence that the pandemic began in the same city as the WIV outbreak was too obvious to ignore. According to two Chinese specialists, "the likelihood of bats flying to the market was quite remote".


Chan and Ridley's "Quest for the Origin of COVID-19"


Chan and Ridley have created a viral whodunit titled "Quest for the origin of COVID-19" to excite the curiosity of armchair detectives and scientific sceptics. Both need clarification as to why a virus of unknown origin was detected in Wuhan and not in Yunnan, 900 kilometres to the south. 


The stakes could not be more significant; if the virus were deliberately developed and spread by a Chinese laboratory, it would be the crime of the century. They are prudent in not going that far. They are, however, within their rights to cast doubt on the findings since their concerns were shared by numerous coronavirus experts who openly discounted the possibility of a non-natural origin and declared that the virus displayed no evidence of design at the time. 


Is this the impartial and fair probe the world has been waiting for? They present no evidence for the development of SARS-CoV-2. For example, Chan asserts that it seemed pre-adapted to human transmission "to an extent comparable to the late SARS-CoV-2 outbreak". This statement is based on a single spike protein mutation that appears to "substantially enhance" its potential to connect to human receptor cells, meaning it had "apparently stabilised genetically" when identified in Wuhan. 


Nonetheless, this is a staggeringly misleading statement. As seen by the alphabet soup of mutations, the coronavirus has undergone multiple alterations that have consistently increased its suitability. Additionally, viruses isolated from pangolins attach to human receptor cells more efficiently than SARS-CoV-2, indicating the possibility of additional adaptation. According to two virologists, although the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not wholly adapted to humans, it was "merely enough". 


Evidence for design of SARS-CoV-2 and possible natural origins of the virus


Another concerning feature of SARS-CoV-2 is a furin cleavage site, which enables it to infect human cells by interfering with the receptor protein. The identical sequence is present in highly pathogenic influenza viruses and was previously utilised to modify the spike protein of COVID-19. Chan and Ridley explain that this is the kind of insertion that would occur in a laboratory-modified bat virus. As a result, 21 leading experts have concluded that the furin sequence is insufficient. 


Coronaviruses have been shown to possess "near identical" genomes that often can infect humans and animals. Because the furin cleavage site characteristic is not seen in known bat coronaviruses, it is possible that it evolved naturally. 


Surprisingly, Chan and Ridley do not suggest that the SARS virus's high human infectivity feature was inserted on purpose since "there is no way to determine". There is also no way to determine if a RaTG13 is the pandemic virus's progenitor since history is replete with pandemics that began with zoonotic jumps. This argument is based on the strange fact that WIV researchers retrieved the bat isolate in 2013 from a decommissioned mine shaft in Yunnan. 


Six people were removing bat guano from the cave that year when they suffered an unexplained respiratory ailment. As a consequence, half of them perished. The 4% genetic diversity between RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2, on the other hand, is similar to 40 years of evolutionary change. While exploring caves in northern Laos, researchers discovered three more closely related bat coronaviruses, which have a higher affinity to attach to human cells than the early SARS-CoV-2 strains. 


This indicates an organic origin, either through another animal host or directly from a bat, maybe when a farmer went into a cave. This is arguably the most reasonable explanation since it is consistent with forensic and epidemiological data. 


The food sample isolates collected from the Wuhan seafood market are similar to human isolates, and the majority of original human cases had a history of market exposure, in contrast to the absence of an epidemiological connection to the WIV or any other Wuhan research institution. 


Lack of evidence for a laboratory origin


If scientists could demonstrate prior infection at the Wuhan market or other Chinese wildlife markets that sell the most likely intermediary species, including pangolins, civet cats, and raccoon dogs, the case for a natural origin would be strengthened. 


Although multiple animals tested positive for sister human viruses during the SARS epidemic, scientists have yet to find evidence of earlier infections in animals in the instance of Sars-CoV-2. Nonetheless, the absence of evidence does not confirm the absence and may indicate that samples were not taken from the appropriate animal. 


The same may be said of the lab leak argument's lack of evidence. However, even though history is littered with pandemics, no significant pandemic has ever been traced back to a laboratory. In other words, the null hypothesis is a zoonotic occurrence; Chan and Ridley must demonstrate otherwise. 


The irony is their drive to construct a compelling case for a laboratory accident. They are oblivious to the much more pressing story of how the commerce in wild animals, global warming, and habitat degradation increase the likelihood of pandemic viral development. This is the most plausible origin story that should concern us.


Summary


Although Chan and Ridley's "Quest for the Origin of COVID-19" has cast suspicion on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, there is still insufficient evidence to support the lab leak theory. There is, however, growing evidence for a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, with multiple animals testing positive for sister human viruses during the SARS epidemic and the discovery of more closely related bat coronaviruses in northern Laos. As such, we should be more concerned with the increasing likelihood of pandemic viral development due to the commerce in wild animals, global warming, and habitat degradation.



Written by Sara Maria Majernikova

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