Preliminary study results suggest virus was produced in lab cultures using human cells.
- Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
A team of Australian scientists has produced new evidence that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is optimized for penetration into human cells rather than animal cells, undermining the theory that the virus randomly evolved in an animal subject before passing into human beings, and suggesting instead that it was developed in a laboratory.
The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, provides new but not yet conclusive evidence favoring the theory that the novel coronavirus originated not in a food market as has been claimed, but rather in a laboratory, presumably one operated by the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, the city in which the first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in December of 2019.
The lead researcher on the team says that the results represent either “a remarkable coincidence or a sign of human intervention” in the creation of the virus.
The authors of the study, led by vaccine researcher Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University in Australia, used a version of the novel coronavirus collected in the earliest days of the outbreak and applied computer models to test its capacity to bind to certain cell receptor enzymes, called “ACE2,” that allow the virus to infect human and animal cells to varying degrees of efficacy.
They tested the propensity of the COVID-19 virus’s spike protein, which it uses to enter cells, to bind to the human type of ACE2 as well as to many different animal versions of ACE2, and found that the novel coronavirus most powerfully binds with human ACE2, and with variously lesser degrees of effectiveness with animal versions of the receptor.
According to the study’s authors, this implies that the virus that causes COVID-19 did not come from an animal intermediary, but became specialized for human cell penetration by living previously in human cells, quite possibly in a laboratory. …