New Delhi: A new research by British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr. Birger Sørensen made shocking claims that the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus which led to the deadly pandemic was created in a lab in Wuhan.
According to the scientists, once the pandemic began, they tried to cover their tracks by reverse-engineering different versions of the virus to back their bat origins claims.
The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has no “credible natural ancestor” and was created by Chinese scientists who were working on a ‘Gain of Function’ project in a Wuhan lab, the Daily Mail reported on Sunday, citing a new research paper by professor Dalgleish and Dr Sørensen.
The researchers claim scientist took a natural coronavirus “backbone” which are found in Chinese cave bats and spliced onto it a new “spike”, turning it into the deadly and highly transmissible Covid-19. During an excusive interview with the Daily Mail, Sorensen said that four amino acids on the spike have a positive charge, which causes the virus to tightly cling to the negatively charged parts of a human, becoming more infectious. Because these positively charged amino acids also repeal each other, it was rare to find even three in a row in naturally occurring organisms, while four in a row is ‘extremely unlikely, he said.
“The laws of physics mean that you cannot have four positively charged amino acids in a row. The only way you can get this is if you artificially manufacture it,” Dalgleish told DailyMail.com.
In their 22-page study which is set to be published in the scientific journal Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, the researchers claim to have found “unique fingerprints” in Covid-19 samples that they say could only have arisen from manipulation in a laboratory they also claimed they had prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year, but were ignored by academics and major journals.
The study alleged “deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data” at Chinese labs and notes the silencing and disappearance of scientists in China who spoke out about the activities.
Gain of function studies
Gain-of-function research alters an organism or disease in a way that increases the transmissibility and/or virulence of pathogens. Scientists work on gain-of-function projects to study their potential effects on humans in order to stay ahead of the curve of potential new diseases. But it also carries a risk of an outbreak if not conducted safely. A yet-to-be published report by British and Norwegian scientists is expected to claim that, starting around 2008 in China, a pattern of research can be traced that shows the ‘engineering’ of coronaviruses the Daily Mail reported.
“This looks like a weak defence to protect the discipline so that this type of genetic engineering will not be interfered with. I make no bones about it. The Gain of Function engineering should have been banned ages ago,” Dalgleish told Daily Mail.
“We have seen lab leaks and we know it’s happening. We also know from the reports we’ve seen, that coronavirus is worked on in Biosafety Level 2 or 3 labs. If they do Gain of Function in such labs, what do you expect?” Sørensen was quoted as saying by Daily Mail.
“The implication of our historical reconstruction, we posit now beyond reasonable doubt, of the purposively manipulated chimeric virus SARS-CoV-2 makes it imperative to reconsider what types of Gain of Function experiments it is morally acceptable to undertake. Because of the wide social impact, these decisions cannot be left to research scientists alone,” they added.
Interest in lab leak theory
There is a growing interest among politicians, media & academicians in the lab leak theory. A few days ago, an article was published in the Wall Street Journal which revealed that three researchers at Wuhan Institute fell ill in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized. The report was based on previously undisclosed US intelligence. The researchers were admitted into the hospital a month before China reported the first case of Covid-19.
The US’ top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci also said he is “not convinced” Covid-19 developed naturally. US President Joe Biden, last week, ordered the intelligence community to re-double efforts to examine how the virus originated, including the lab accident theory.
The European Union, the UK, Australia and Japan also have joined the US in seeking a deeper probe into the origins of the pandemic.
In February 2020, Botao Xiao, a molecular biomechanics researcher at South China University of Technology, published a paper claiming “the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan,” highlighting safety issues at the institute. However, he withdrew the paper weeks later after Chinese authorities denied any accidents at the lab.
A former New York Times science journalist Nicholas Wade published an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said that much of the work of Chinese virologists on gain-of-function in coronaviruses was performed at the BSL2 safety level lab, which requires taking fairly minimal safety precautions. The pandemic broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. For the lab escape scenario, a Wuhan origin for the virus is a no-brainer.
A team of 18 scientists from Universities in the US, Canada, the UK and Switzerland have signed a letter in the journal Science arguing the need to determine the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dalgleish is a professor of oncology at St George’s University, London, while Sorensen is a virologist and chair of pharmaceutical company Immunor.