Analysis: No, the coronavirus was not bioengineered. The rumors are false

Coronavirus COVID-19Ever since the emergence of the novel coronavirus, in December of last year, prominent public health scientists have consistently condemned rumors that it may have been bioengineered. The scientists are right to persist. The rumors that the novel coronavirus was deliberately weaponized are not supported by the available scientific evidence.

Coronaviruses are not new in nature or to humans. SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-associated coronavirus 2) is only the latest coronavirus we have identified that infects humans and causes disease (COVID-19). Because other corona viruses have also been isolated, it is possible to sequence the genome of these viruses. This provides detailed information about their origins. This is particularly important in light of the rumors that this virus has been manipulated by various governments.

Similar to the SARS-CoV strain, the one responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), this novel virus also binds to a protein, the receptor for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is found on cells in humans, in the lungs, kidneys, GI tract, heart, and bladder. The virus uses a “spike protein” to attach to the receptor protein on cells in these regions, and then punctures the cell to inject the viral nucleic acids (genetic material). Once inside the cell, the virus nucleic acids are reproduced by the cell, and new viruses are manufactured.

When scientists analyzed the nucleic acids sequence responsible for attaching to cells, they found that the sequence was optimal, but not ideal. This means that the virus can recognize and bind tightly to the ACE2 receptor protein, but it is not perfect. This is analogous to having an old key (spike protein) that will fit into a lock (ARE2 receptor), but does not always work properly (open the door). In bioengineering, the goal is to have the perfect key so that all of the virus can enter cells and reproduce rapidly. This perfect fit is not found in SARS-CoV-2. This provides evidence of natural selection, and not of bioengineering.

Additionally, the SARS-CoV-2 genome has a unique amino acid in an important region of the spike protein. This amino acid, a proline, has an unusual structural characteristic that causes a protein to make a sharp change in direction (a turn). This is not seen in the SARS-CoV, the closest genetic relative to SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, when the sequence for the SARS-CoV-2 is compared to other coronaviruses, the SARS-CoV-2 sequence does not appear to be derived from previously sequenced viruses. This fact also points to natural selection, since a bioengineered virus would be based on a known template that could be easily manufactured in a laboratory.

Rather it appears, from genetic and biochemical analysis, that SARS-CoV-2 started in bats, moved to pangolins, and then to humans. It is unclear whether the evolutionary changes that gave rise to the SARS-CoV-2 variant changed once it entered pangolins from bats, or whether it entered humans and continued evolving into the strain we see today. While the evidence indicates that it is highly unlikely that the virus was bioengineered, it is impossible to determine whether it entered humans in its present form, or evolved once it crossed the species barrier.

Author: Dr. A.T. | Date: 24 March 2020 | Permalink

Remembering Gouzenko, the defector who triggered the Cold War

Igor GouzenkoBy ANDREW KAVCHAK* |
In 1998, my wife and I moved to downtown Ottawa, the capital of Canada. In 1999, when my first son was born I took several months off work to stay home with him. Every day I would take him to the local park. It was called Dundonald Park, located on Somerset Street, between Bay and Lyon. While my son was enjoying the outdoors and the fresh air in the park, I was routinely distracted by an old brick two-story building across the street. Something very dramatic happened there decades ago. And yet, there was no marker, no plaque, no statue, no monument…nothing. On the way home my son would typically fall asleep in the stroller. And in my free time I began making some phone calls to city officials and federal government offices. What would it take to erect some sort of historic marker to indicate that the first significant international incident of the Cold War happened in downtown Ottawa, so that generations of future Canadians and tourists in the nation’s capital could be informed or reminded of the historic events that transpired here?

The Japanese formally surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. The world assumed that peace and reconstruction would replace war and destruction. However, just three days later, on September 5, Igor Gouzenko, a cypher clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa walked out of the embassy with over 100 secret documents detailing the existence of a vast Soviet espionage network in Canada and other countries of the West. He wanted to expose the Soviet activity and warn the West. He went to the night editor of the Ottawa Journal and provided him with what could have been the scoop of the century, but the night editor told him to come back the next day. He spent the night with his pregnant wife and infant son at their apartment at 511 Somerset Street. The next day he returned to see the day time editor at the newspaper. Read more of this post