Anyone who, at this juncture, states categorically that COVID-19 is a naturally-occurring disease that mutated in animal populations, acquiring the ability to infect humans and did so via bats in the Wuhan Seafood Market, has not read or does not understand the scientific literature.
Yes, coronaviruses have previously “jumped” from animals to humans, but that does not mean that COVID-19 did.
First of all, it was already known by the end of January 2020 that the initial patients hospitalized between December 1-10, 2019 had not visited the Wuhan Seafood Market, and by the beginning of February 2020 a scientific report established that there were no bats sold in that market.
Those observations alone should have immediately raised doubts within the scientific community about the validity of a naturally-occurring theory for COVID-19.
There is also no evolutionary pathway that conclusively demonstrates that COVID-19 was the product of a natural process.
Questioning the naturally-occurring theory for the origin of COVID-19 is especially warranted given the presence of the unique furin polybasic cleavage site that does not exist in any of the yet-identified coronavirus close relatives.
There are, however, other reasons for scientists to doubt the naturally-occurring theory.
Viruses can change naturally or artificially through mutation, recombination events or both. Given the sophistication of modern techniques, the two can be indistinguishable. Nevertheless, sometimes clues are left behind.
The claim that COVID-19 is naturally-occurring is based nearly entirely on a single, but widely-cited Nature Medicine article entitled “The Proximal Origin of SAR-CoV-2,” which compares the structure of COVID-19 to what the authors consider its closest relative found in animal populations, specifically, the bat coronavirus RaTG13.
RaTG13 was isolated by Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists from Yunnan Province bats in July 2013, but, strangely, its sequence was not submitted for publication until January 2020 and was unknown to the scientific community before then.
It does not appear that anyone outside of China has verified the sequence of RaTG13, nor have any independent laboratories had an opportunity to conduct experiments on a strain critical to the naturally-occurring theory. One author suggests the RaTG13 sequence might be fabricated.
For the sake of argument, let’s consider the sequence accurate.
The naturally-occurring theory for the origin of COVID-19, which is based entirely on comparing its structure to RaTG13, begins to unravel when the genome of RaTG13 is examined more closely compared to the amino acid sequence.
Comparing the sequences in the S2 portion of the critical spike protein, between positions 647 and 1124, which would ordinarily tolerate mutations, not a single amino acid changes. Yet, at the gene level, which codes for those amino acids, the two differ 79 times.
Stated simply, the statistical probability of that occurring is 1 in 9,526,094, suggesting either COVID-19 or RaTG13 is not natural.
It is clearly premature to say definitively that COVID-19 is naturally-occurring when we do not fully know about what coronaviruses China has isolated, what experiments have been done with them and if the conclusions published by Chinese scientists are accurate, in particular, those conclusions published in 2020.
Since the outbreak began, China has flooded the scientific literature with subtle and sometimes not so subtle messages supporting its narrative that COVID-19 is naturally-occurring.
Despite the enormous number of comments made by Western media and the amount of digital ink expended by its so-called experts, the main evidence presented so far supporting the naturally-occurring theory of the origin of COVID-19 may be, at best, circumstantial or, at worst, completely wrong.
Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, who previously worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and conducted basic and clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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