Genomic Study Explains The Source Of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most discussed and debated topic everywhere, be it on, online platforms or TV channels. There is huge speculation that the new virus that is claiming lives and livelihoods of people all over the world was engineered in a lab. But there is scientific evidence that quashes this theory and shows that it has come into existence naturally.
The Virus is not a Bioweapon
Throughout the history of mankind, many new kinds of diseases have emerged. Among them, the coronavirus has broken out twice before COVID-19, SARS, and MERS. But there are rumors that this virus has spread due to a lab accident, but there is no evidence of the same. Similar viruses are found in bats and are thought to be the origin and host of COVID-19. The genome sequencing and subsequent analysis using bioinformatics tools have come to the conclusion that it is a natural virus. The following points prove the same.
Spike proteins: The coronavirus depends on their spike proteins to infect the other cells. These spike proteins also give this coronavirus family its distinctive appearance of a crown. Researchers studied the genomes of these crowns and found that every virus in the family has a different protein from that of the others. It was thought of as a clue to its evolutionary state and found modifications in the genomes when it was compared to other SARS and MERS.
The genomic data of the COVID-19 also revealed that the spike protein had made some unique modifications to itself. Among them was the capability to attach itself to a certain protein on the cells in the human body called ACE2, angiotensin-converting enzyme. Many computer models predicted that this virus could not bind to the human protein ACE2 as much as the one that caused SARS, (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). But surprisingly, the new virus did far better then what was expected. That became a reason for researchers to believe that this virus was not engineered as it is more than likely that ACE2 was selected naturally by the virus and not manipulated.
Molecular structure analysis: The analysis of the molecular structure of the new coronavirus shows that it has a great resemblance to the bat coronavirus. On further analysis by front line genomics, it was found that it binds to ACE2 and resembles a virus that is found in pangolins. That is another proof that the COVID-19 is of natural origin. If it had been lab manufactured, then the engineers would have used the molecular structure of coronaviruses that cause deadly diseases in people.
What caused the COVID-19 Pandemic?
After analyzing the genomic sequences, researchers are of the opinion that the origin of the new coronavirus called the SARS COV2 is due to two possibilities.
Natural selection: One of the possibilities as per research is through natural selection where a non-human host infects the humans. The MERS and the SARS outbreaks also happened through this process. Humans who were exposed to civets had SARS and through camels got MERS. In the case of the COVID-19, bats are believed to be the transmitter. But since there is no documented case of the direct transmission from bats to humans an intermediary host’s involvement is suspected.
Conversion from non-pathogenic form to pathogenic: The other scenario proposed by researchers on the origin of the new coronavirus is this. The virus in its non-pathogenic state does not cause any disease and when it transfers from an animal to human it evolves and becomes pathogenic. For example, coronavirus found in pangolins and COVID-19 has an RBD structure that is similar. The virus from pangolin which is found in Asia may have been transmitted to a human. The spike protein then could have evolved before it enters the human and may have caused the current situation.
To know which is the most possible scenario is difficult. But if the COVID-19 has entered the human host in a pathogenic form from an animal host then there can be further outbreaks. That is because the animal population will still have this virus and can lead to an epidemic in the future too.
To conclude, there is very little evidence to say that COVID-19 is made in a lab. This piece of information should put to rest your doubts and help you focus on more relevant things. That includes practicing proper handwashing and other good hygiene practices. Along with that, social distancing, supporting the people who are trying to contain this epidemic is vital. Also, it’s best not to fall for rumors.