Scientists Say that COVID-19 Originated from Natural Sources

It's now believed that the coronavirus stemmed from natural evolution, and not laboratory-engineering.
Fabienne Lang

There has been some controversy over where the origin of COVID-19 stemmed from. Beliefs that it was a natural evolution were wide-spread, however, there were some that believed that it may have come from a laboratory of some other type of engineering. 

Now, scientists from Scripps Research say that the virus' origins come from natural selection. 

Their findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine on Tuesday.


Natural processes

"By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes," stated Kristian Andersen, associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research and corresponding author of the research. 

Once the outbreak of a novel coronavirus strain, called SARS-CoV-2, broke out in late December last year in Wuhan, China, Chinese scientists sequenced its genome and made the data available to researchers worldwide. 

Since then, it's been made clear that the virus spread through human to human contact after a single introduction into the human population. Researchers have been working hard at figuring out the origin and the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since the outbreak. 

The Scripps Research scientists discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was so effective at binding to human cells that it had to be the result of natural selection and not the product of genetic engineering. 

This conclusion was further supported by the overall structure of the virus' backbone. 

"These two features of the virus, the mutations in the RBD portion of the spike protein and its distinct backbone, rule out laboratory manipulation as a potential origin for SARS-CoV-2," said Andersen.

Josie Goulding, epidemics lead at Wellcome Trust in the U.K. further endorsed this conclusion by stating "They conclude that the virus is the product of natural evolution. Ending any speculation about deliberate genetic engineering." 

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