Virologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan and others have published a paper that shows that the virus that causes COVID-19 [SARS-CoV-2] originated from laboratory modification. The paper is entitled: Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route.
This is a rather involved subject, delving into the genomic sequences of various types of viruses. These have a number of spike proteins that infect cells by binding to certain types of ACE2 receptors on a cell’s outer wall. What is important to understand is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has a particular affinity for the human form of this receptor, designated as hACE2. In contrast to other ACE2 receptors of other species, particularly horseshoe bats.
The natural origin theory is based on the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolving from the RaTG13 virus. The paper shows that the SARS-CoV-2 virus had to have originated from ZC45/ZXC21 with some genetic manipulation.
The report makes several important points in the assertion that the SARS-CoV-2 originated from laboratory modification. To begin, they make the following point in the introduction of the paper:
“The existing scientific publications supporting a natural origin theory rely heavily on a single piece of evidence – a previously discovered bat coronavirus named RaTG13, which shares a 96% nucleotide sequence identity with SARS-CoV-218. However, the existence of RaTG13 in nature and the truthfulness of its reported sequence are being widely questioned. It is noteworthy that scientific journals have clearly censored any dissenting opinions that suggest a non-natural origin of SARS-CoV-2. Because of this censorship, articles questioning either the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 or the actual existence of RaTG13, although of high quality scientifically, can only exist as preprints.”
This is important because further on in the paper, they cite evidence that RaTG13 cannot be the origin of SARS-CoV-2, discounting the natural origin theory. The report detailed three lines of evidence to support their contention that laboratory manipulation is part of the history of SARS-CoV-2:
i. The genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 is suspiciously similar to that of a bat coronavirus discovered by military laboratories in the Third Military Medical University (Chongqing, China) and the Research Institute for Medicine of Nanjing Command (Nanjing, China).
ii. The receptor-binding motif (RBM) within the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which determines the host specificity of the virus, resembles that of SARS-CoV from the 2003 epidemic in a suspicious manner. Genomic evidence suggests that the RBM has been genetically manipulated.
iii. SARS-CoV-2 contains a unique furin-cleavage site in its Spike protein, which is known to greatly enhance viral infectivity and cell tropism. Yet, this cleavage site is completely absent in this particular class of coronaviruses found in nature. In addition, rare codons associated with this additional sequence suggest the strong possibility that this furin-cleavage site is not the product of natural evolution and could have been inserted into the SARS-CoV-2 genome artificially by techniques other than simple serial passage or multi-strain recombination events inside co-infected tissue cultures or animals.
The first two lines of evidence are the most important for our discussion, since point one contradicts the natural origin theory. While the second is a ‘smoking gun’ that points to laboratory manipulation.
Only certain types of virus, should be the backbone used for the creation of SARS-CoV-2
As previously stated, the natural origin theory is based on a previously discovered bat coronavirus named RaTG13. To which they dismiss based on the evidence:
Searching the NCBI sequence database reveals that, among all known coronaviruses, there were two related bat coronaviruses, ZC45 and ZXC21, that share the highest sequence identity with SARS-CoV-2 (each bat coronavirus is ~89% identical to SARS-CoV-2 on the nucleotide level). Similarity between the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and those of representative β coronaviruses is depicted in Figure 1. ZXC21, which is 97% identical to and shares a very similar profile with ZC45, is not shown. Note that the RaTG13 virus is excluded from this analysis given the strong evidence suggesting that its sequence may have been fabricated and the virus does not exist in nature.
Further on, they show that the virus in question cannot bind with the receptors of the species of bat in question – disproving the natural origin theory:
Substantial evidence has accumulated, pointing to severe problems associated with the reported sequence of RaTG13 as well as questioning the actual existence of this bat virus in nature. A very recent publication also indicated that the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the RaTG13’s Spike protein could not bind ACE2 of two different types of horseshoe bats (they closely relate to the horseshoe bat R. affinis, RaTG13’s alleged natural host)2, implicating the inability of RaTG13 to infect horseshoe bats. This finding further substantiates the suspicion that the reported sequence of RaTG13 could have been fabricated as the Spike protein encoded by this sequence does not seem to carry the claimed function. The fact that a virus has been fabricated to shift the attention away from ZC45/ZXC21 speaks for an actual role of ZC45/ZXC21 in the creation of SARS-CoV-2.
The smoking gun for laboratory modification
Further on in the paper they state that the receptor-binding motif (RBM) of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike cannot be born from nature and should have been created through genetic engineering. This centres around how the virus interacts with a host cell receptor.
“If SARS-CoV-2 does indeed come from natural evolution, its RBM could have only been acquired in one of the two possible routes: 1) an ancient recombination event followed by convergent evolution or 2) a natural recombination event that occurred fairly recently.”
In the first scenario, the ancestor of SARS-CoV-2, a ZC45/ZXC21-like bat coronavirus would have recombined and “swapped” its RBM with a coronavirus carrying a relatively “complete” RBM (in reference to SARS). This recombination would result in a novel ZC45/ZXC21-like coronavirus with all the gaps in its RBM “filled” (Figure 4). Subsequently, the virus would have to adapt extensively in its new host, where the ACE2 protein is highly homologous to hACE2. Random mutations across the genome would have to have occurred to eventually shape the RBM to its current form – resembling SARS-CoV RBM in a highly intelligent manner. However, this convergent evolution process would also result in the accumulation of a large amount of mutations in other parts of the genome, rendering the overall sequence identity relatively low.
In other words, had this taken place over time, the a genomic sequence identity wouldn’t be there.
In the second scenario, the ZC45/ZXC21-like coronavirus would have to have recently recombined and swapped its RBM with another coronavirus that had successfully adapted to bind an animal ACE2 highly homologous to hACE2. The likelihood of such an event depends, in part, on the generalrequirements of natural recombination: 1) that the two different viruses share significant sequence similarity; 2) that they must co-infect and be present in the same cell of the same animal; 3) that the recombinant virus would not be cleared by the host or make the host extinct; 4) that the recombinant virus eventually would have to become stable and transmissible within the host species.
The striking finding of EcoRI and BstEII restriction sites at either end of the SARS-CoV-2 RBM, respectively, and the fact that the same RBM region has been swapped both by Dr. Shi and by her long-term collaborator, respectively, using restriction enzyme digestion methods are unlikely a coincidence. Rather, it is the smoking gun proving that the RBM/Spike of SARS-CoV-2 is a product of genetic manipulation.
The research shows that this is highly unlikely. Leading them to assert that this it is the smoking gun proving that the RBM/Spike of SARS-CoV-2 is a product of genetic manipulation.
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