Coronavirus spread: China must allow global probe to ascertain origin of COVID-19

Written By: Lawrence Sellin
USA Published: Apr 07, 2020, 01:45 PM(IST)

File photo of coronavirus Photograph:( AFP )

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It is important to note that deadly viruses have previously 'leaked' out of Chinese virology labs in two separate incidents.

Let’s be clear, although there have been many attempts to do so by scientists worldwide, so far, no one knows the origin of COVID19, the coronavirus strain responsible for the global pandemic.

COVID-19 has several unique features such as high-affinity human angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor binding, a furin (polybasic) cleavage site and certain “open reading frame” derived proteins, all of which come together in a single organism to create an extremely contagious and often deadly virus.

COVID-19 is the seventh member of the family of coronaviruses that infect humans. Although the SARS-CoV coronavirus, responsible for the 2002-2003 pandemic, also binds to the human ACE2 receptor, none of the previously-identified human-infecting coronavirus strains is sufficiently similar to CoVid-19 to be designated its immediate relative or “progenitor.”

Of the comparisons made between COVID-19 and all of the other potential progenitors, including those identified in an article much-cited by the mainstream media, none possess the furin (polybasic) cleavage site, which potentially makes it a marker in the search for the origin of COVID-19, if other structural similarities are also present.

Much like the climate change debate, there appears to be a politically-motivated campaign to demonstrate that COVID-19 occurred naturally as a species “jump” from animals to humans originating in the Wuhan wet market. Despite an extraordinary effort, mainly by the Chinese government, and a flood of publications, there is still little evidence that directly supports that contention.

An alternative interpretation is that COVID-19 “leaked” out of a Wuhan laboratory, either as a yet undescribed or not fully sequenced natural coronavirus isolate e.g. bat coronavirus BtCoV/4991 (GenBank KP876546) or as one manufactured by combining the properties of multiple viruses and subjected to a sequential passage of the recombinant through live animal hosts.

It is important to note that deadly viruses have previously "leaked" out of Chinese virology labs in two separate incidents.

A 2004 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) in China involved two researchers who were working with the virus in a Beijing research lab, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on April 26, 2004, and confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Synthetic biology, that is, the engineering of biology to create biologically-based systems that do not exist in nature is now widely used in laboratories worldwide. It has a number of benefits including as a rapid response platform to provide treatments for emerging diseases.

If unregulated, however, such bioengineering can produce combined or “chimeric” novel human pathogenic microorganisms capable of circumventing therapeutics or vaccines and, if released in nature, could have dramatic and permanent effects on disease transmission among species via natural-occurring mutations of the new viral entity.

The technology to create a coronavirus chimera has been demonstrated.

In a 2015 collaborative study between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and American scientists, funded by the National Institutes of Health, properties of two different viruses, the SHC014-CoV coronavirus and a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV, the coronavirus responsible for the 2002 pandemic, were combined as a chimera. It produced a new viral entity, SHC014-MA15, which, according to the authors, "Despite predictions from both structure-based modelling and pseudotyping experiments" unexpectedly "was viable and replicated to high titers" [a lot] in cell culture (Vero cells) and was capable of infecting human airway epithelial (HAE) cultures [human lung surface cells] and "showed robust replication" comparable to the "epidemic SARS-CoV Urbani strain."

That is, with the appropriate starting coronavirus strains, it is theoretically possible to manufacture a COVID-19-like chimera.

Given the illness, death and economic destruction caused by COVID-19, it is the responsibility of the Chinese government to fully open its research files and databases to international inspection, including information about the hundreds of coronavirus isolates, in order to ascertain the true origin of the COVID-19.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

(This article was originally published on The ZeroHedg Read the original article)


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