Nature Medicine ran a 3 page article that claimed to explain why the novel coronavirus is not a lab construct. USA Today wrote a summary piece explaining it:
“If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” the report said. “But the scientists found that the SARS-CoV-2 backbone differed substantially from those of already known coronaviruses and mostly resembled related viruses found in bats and pangolins.”—USAT
Yet it turns out to be a specious argument, relying on the fact that the novel coronavirus backbone sequence was not already known in the open virology literature.
- While starting from a known RNA sequence is one easy way to create a pathogen, it is certainly not necessary to do so.
- Nor is it likely that biodefense/biowarfare programs share knowledge of all their creations. They never have before.
- a) Finally, it is relatively easy to detect the human hand when a chimera of known virulence factors is strung together.
b) But because plausible deniability is a critical component of a bioweapons attack, I doubt that a chimera using known sequences is the path that would have been followed by a modern biowarrior.
I will briefly mention some of the old techniques for creating bioweapons, none of which require that a known, published RNA backbone would be required to build a novel, virulent coronavirus:
- China has unique bats. So do other countries. Unique bats likely harbor unique viruses. Bits of these viruses can be strung together, while no outside parties are aware that these particular RNA threads exist in nature.
- You take an already virulent RNA virus, subject it to high rates of mutation via chemical or radiological exposure, and test the viruses that survive for the acquisition of new virulence characteristics.
- You simply passage the virus through tens, hundreds or thousands of lab animals or cell cultures and test the results for acquisition of new virulence characteristics.
- You mix different viruses together with different virulence characteristics, allow them to grow together, and seek recombinants that have obtained the desired new mix of virulence factors.
All these possibilities result in viruses that are hard to pin on lab production. I dare the Nature Medicine scientists to dismiss these scenarios.
Still, I doubt that any national program would deliberately release this coronavirus onto the people of the earth, because it is so hard to control.
Historically, bio-weaponeers have required their creations to be controlled at all costs. In one well-documented example of biowarfare, unleashing African swine fever on a Caribbean island was associated with no spread beyond the island. In another, anthrax spores were used because they stay put — their use did not cause anthrax cases beyond the borders of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
So why do we have a coronavirus epidemic now?
An accidental biowarfare laboratory release is the best current hypothesis, in my opinion. Such accidental releases have been documented for many decades, throughout the world. But I could certainly be wrong.
Update April 29: Newsweek has been delving into “gain of function” (which means increasing the virulence of a pathogen) coronavirus research in Wuhan, China which might have contributed to the formation of SARS-CoV-2… and the interesting fact (which I posted about here) that the US government provided financial support for this research. Newsweek’s pieces were posted April 27, and 29. My other pieces questioning the origin of SARS-CoV-2 are here and here.