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The Origin of Coronavirus, Not Genetic Engineering

The Origin of Coronavirus, Not Genetic Engineering - Scientists have found that the coronavirus or Covid-19 is not an artificial virus created in a laboratory or synthetic engineering.

According to findings published in the journal Nature Medicine, Covid-19 originates from natural evolution. Previously, there have been speculations that the virus that first appeared in the city of Wuhan, China, which eventually became a global pandemic, is a laboratory-made for biological weapons.

Researchers found the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus novel that appeared in the city of Wuhan, China, last year and has caused a large-scale Covid-19 epidemic and spread to more than 70 other countries is a product of natural evolution.

The Origin of Coronavirus, Not Genetic Engineering
Credits: Pixabay
Immunology researcher Kristian Andersen said analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or engineered.

"By comparing available genomic sequence data for known strains of coronavirus, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originates from natural processes," Andersen was quoted as saying by Science Daily Thursday (3/19/2020).

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that can cause disease with high severity. The first known severe disease caused by coronavirus emerged with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China. The second severe disease outbreak began in 2012 in Saudi Arabia with Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

On December 31 last year, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization about the outbreak of a new coronavirus that caused severe disease, which was later named SARS-CoV-2.

As of February 20, 2020, nearly 167,500 cases of Covid-19 have been documented, although many milder cases may not be diagnosed. This virus has killed more than 6,600 people.

Shortly after the epidemic began, Chinese scientists sequenced the SARS-CoV-2 genome and made data available to researchers around the world. 

The resulting genomic sequence data has shown that the Chinese government quickly detected an epidemic and that the number of Covid-19 cases has increased due to human-to-human transmission after a one-time introduction to the human population.

The scientists found that the RBD portion of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein had evolved to effectively target molecular features on the outside of human cells called ACE2, a receptor involved in regulating blood pressure. The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is beneficial for human binding cells.

This evidence for natural evolution is supported by data about the SARS-CoV-2 backbone - its overall molecular structure. If someone tries to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, it will make it form the backbone of a virus that is known to cause disease.

But scientists found that the backbone of SARS-CoV-2 differs substantially from that of known coronaviruses and most resembles related viruses found in bats and anteater.

"These two features of the virus, mutations in the RBD portion of the different spike proteins and backbone, rule out laboratory manipulation as a potential origin for SARS-CoV-2," Andersen said.

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