Amid the sudden interest in whether the pandemic began with an escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, two U.S. experts are saying look to the science — which they say shows the COVID-19 pathogen “has a genetic footprint that has never been observed in a natural coronavirus.”
A finding that doesn’t bode well for China — or Dr. Anthony Fauci, who tripled down Sunday on previous claims, telling CNN “I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human.” The infectious disease expert said it was “far-fetched” to think the Chinese “deliberately engineered” the virus.
Physician-scientist Dr. Steven Quay and Richard Muller, a physics professor at the University of California Berkeley penned a Wall Street Journal editorial published on Sunday that looks past current circumstantial evidence, such as the mysterious illness of lab workers in December 2019 and the dangerous “gain of function” research going on at the lab that has reportedly collaborated on projects with the Chinese military.
In the editorial, titled “The Science Suggests a Wuhan Lab Leak,” Quay and Muller wrote “the most compelling reason to favor the lab leak hypothesis is firmly based in science. In particular, consider the genetic fingerprint of CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for the disease Covid-19.”
More from the WSJ:
In gain-of-function research, a microbiologist can increase the lethality of a coronavirus enormously by splicing a special sequence into its genome at a prime location. Doing this leaves no trace of manipulation. But it alters the virus spike protein, rendering it easier for the virus to inject genetic material into the victim cell. Since 1992 there have been at least 11 separate experiments adding a special sequence to the same location. The end result has always been supercharged viruses.
A genome is a blueprint for the factory of a cell to make proteins. The language is made up of three-letter “words,” 64 in total, that represent the 20 different amino acids. For example, there are six different words for the amino acid arginine, the one that is often used in supercharging viruses. Every cell has a different preference for which word it likes to use most.
COVID-19 has the genome sequencing “CGG-CGG,” which is one of 36 sequencing patterns. While commonly used by scientists in gain-of-function research, outside of this the pattern is extremely rare, with Quay and Muller asserting that it “has never been found naturally.”
They wrote, “That means the common method of viruses picking up new skills, called recombination, cannot operate here,” adding that a virus “cannot pick up a sequence from another virus if that sequence isn’t present in any other virus.”
Quay and Muller went on to assert that it was a “damning fact” that the double CGG sequence was found in CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
“Proponents of zoonotic origin must explain why the novel coronavirus, when it mutated or recombined, happened to pick its least favorite combination, the double CGG,” the experts wrote. “Why did it replicate the choice the lab’s gain-of-function researchers would have made?”
“Yes, it could have happened randomly, through mutations. But do you believe that?” they asked. “At the minimum, this fact — that the coronavirus, with all its random possibilities, took the rare and unnatural combination used by human researchers —implies that the leading theory for the origin of the coronavirus must be laboratory escape.’
Unlike SARS and MERS, which were confirmed to be of natural origin and evolved as they spread, COVID-19 was highly contagious from the moment it was first detected.
“Such early optimization is unprecedented, and it suggests a long period of adaptation that predated its public spread,” Quay and Muller noted. “Science knows of only one way that could be achieved: simulated natural evolution, growing the virus on human cells until the optimum is achieved. That is precisely what is done in gain-of-function research.”
Quay and Muller concluded that the “scientific evidence” shows that COVID-19 was engineered in a lab.
“The presence of the double CGG sequence is strong evidence of gene splicing, and the absence of diversity in the public outbreak suggests gain-of-function acceleration,” the editorial stated. “The scientific evidence points to the conclusion that the virus was developed in a laboratory.”
Fauci was reportedly warned as early as January 2020 that the virus may have been engineered. On Sunday, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS News that Fauci briefed world leaders over a year ago on the concerns that COVID-19 had leaked from the Wuhan lab.
“I was told at that time back in the spring [of 2020], that Dr. Fauci had gone over to a meeting of world health leaders in Europe around the World Health Assembly, and actually briefed them on the information that they were looking at — that this could have been a potential lab leak, that this strain looked unusual,” Gottlieb said.
Last week, British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr. Birger Sørensen released an “explosive study” claiming Chinese scientists created COVID-19 in the Wuhan lab, then tried to cover their tracks by reverse-engineering versions of the virus to make it look like it evolved naturally from bats, the Daily Mail reported.
Dalgleish and Sørensen wrote that they have had “prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China” for a year and were ignored by academics and major journals, the British tabloid added
The authors say they have had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year – but were ignored by academics and major journals. pic.twitter.com/cJqMGEgyQQ
— Josh Boswell (@JoshTBoswell) May 29, 2021
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