Where did SARS-CoV-2 come from?

I don’t know, of course. Neither does anyone we’ll ever meet, probably. But I have heard very heated comments on the topic of whether the Lab at Wuhan might have been involved – some people saying that such a thing is impossible, and the technology doesn’t exist (yet). That’s a bold claim at the best of times – just because you are “an expert” and you can’t do something, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Especially if your dismissal includes “yet” – an admission that it could be possible, later (or maybe now, elsewhere). Others claim that the presence in the genome of various recognisable features “proves” that it was mutated in a sequence of animals.

Anyway, I came across this, which seems to me to be pretty conclusive about what’s possible these days. It’s a publication in the U.S. National Library of Medicine from 2014, about success at generating a version of a bat coronavirus, with greater ability to replicate both in vitro and in mice, “by incorporating the (SARS)-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein ectodomain”. Sound familiar?

A Mouse Model for Betacoronavirus Subgroup 2c Using a Bat Coronavirus Strain HKU5 Variant


Interested parties will want to read at least the whole abstract for themselves, but here are a couple of extracts: (emphasis mine)

Synthetic-genome platforms capable of reconstituting emerging zoonotic viral pathogens or their phylogenetic relatives provide new strategies for identifying broad-based therapeutics, evaluating vaccine outcomes, and studying viral pathogenesis. IMPORTANCE The 2012 outbreak of MERS-CoV raises the specter of another global epidemic, similar to the 2003 SARS-CoV epidemic. MERS-CoV is related to BtCoV HKU5 in target regions that are essential for drug and vaccine testing. Because no small animal model exists to evaluate MERS-CoV pathogenesis or to test vaccines, we constructed a recombinant BtCoV HKU5 that expressed a region of the SARS-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein, thereby allowing the recombinant virus to grow in cell culture and in mice. 

I don’t profess to know a huge amount about either genetics or viruses, but I am pretty sure this shows that:

  • current technology exists which can combine viruses in a way similar to zoonotic adaptation
  • people are out there doing exactly that, with the specific goal of incorporating the SARS spike which attaches the virus to the ACE2 receptor in mouse (and human) respiratory cells into a bat corona virus – thereby making a potentially pandemic-capable “novel virus”.

Add to this the possibility that someone might make a mistake in a safety protocol somewhere, and a laboratory leak seems just as credible a source for SARS-CoV2 as any other story. IMHO.

I suspect that all those funding and performing such research have an (understandable) reluctance to (1) expose themselves to any blame, or (2) admit to the obvious risks of such undertakings. Hence the relegation of all “SARS-CoV-2 was released from a lab” ideas to the “conspiracy theory” bin.

It’s not a conspiracy theory – I’m not suggesting there has been any conspiracy at all. It’s just completely possible.

2 Replies to “Where did SARS-CoV-2 come from?”

  1. It is getting somewhat more interesting, especially with Chinese reluctance to let the WHO team in. We shall see what they find. Im not surprised though at the engineering going on. After SARS everyone knew what a close shave it was and that we’d better get ready for next time. With gene editing technology, we can make viruses, I guess, that we know will be coming our way and get vaccines ready in advance.

    Or am I being naive? Perhaps, but whether it came from a bat, or BSL3’s we know there are some pretty hideous viruses out there, and they will spillover soon enough. The labs seem a way of compensating for unsustainable land use, habitat destruction, and the immediate consequences of spillover.The ‘cure’ would at least in part be restorative farming, more expensive food, and reduced travel.

  2. Yes indeed! It is a grave mistake to confuse a simple possibility with a conspiracy theory. Much better to stick to the Discordian Religion (of which you are a Pope by the way because that power is given to me and indeed any other Discordian Pope or Mome to dispense) and stick with the idea that the world is governed by Eris the Goddess of chaos. Especially given that the highest order of chaos (as defined by the sainted Robert Anton Wilson) is International Affairs!

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