Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19: Was SARS-CoV-2 genetically engineered for biological warfare?

An article published in Nature Medicine noted that it is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. This article disproves most conspiracy theories about the artificial origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

I am going to try to explain what the article says in simplified terms but you need to have some background in biochemistry to understand what it says. Let's begin!

What helps the coronavirus genome infect humans? 
The ability to bind to human receptors using the receptor-binding domain (RBD). The RBD in the spike protein is the most variable part of the coronavirus genome. It determines which species the virus will infect.

What makes the SARS-CoV-2 virus so infectious?
SARS-CoV-2 seems to have an RBD that binds with high affinity to ACE2 from humans, ferrets, cats and other species with high receptor homology.

Which amino acids are crucial in the RBD?
Previous studies have shown that six RBD amino acids have been shown to be critical for binding to ACE2 receptors and for determining the host range of SARS-CoV-like viruses.

What is different about the RBD of SARS-CoV-2?
Five of these six residues differ between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV.

If the virus was lab-made, how would it be made?
Changing nucleic acid sequences of several known coronaviruses and testing their infectivity using reverse genetics.

Why do we know it is not genetically engineered?
Because the genetic data for SARS-CoV-2 is so different that it irrefutably shows that the virus is not derived from any previously used virus backbone.

You can read more here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9

That's all!

Andersen, K.G., Rambaut, A., Lipkin, W.I. et al. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nat Med (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9

Molecular structure of SARS-CoV-2


  1. and people who are believing in conspiracy theories will trust the article published in nature?

    1. This article is for medical professionals who want to know facts. It is hard to prove or disprove either theory. But based on probabilities, I think jumping from a zoonotic source from a live animal market is more probably than getting 5 amino acid sequences just right to be infectious and deadly at the same time.

      The scary thing is, in the future, this model can be used for biological warfare. I hope we find a vaccine or some form of treatment soon.


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