Did Corona Virus Leak From a Research Lab?

Experts know the new coronavirus is not a bioweapon. They disagree on whether it could have leaked from a research lab

I wonder if this is a fringe idea or not. Sounds fringe…

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Which reminds me: why has none of the recent chloroquine controversy mentioned Michael Behe?

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Chimera’s occur naturally, so even if that were true, it wouldn’t tell us it was from a research lab.

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No, I just thought it was interesting and related. Although it sounds to me that such an origin would suggest an accidental and natural source–would they likely be studying a virus with those precise properties, and would we be likely to know if they had been? It seems the strongest evidence is that "Ebright points out that scientists in Wuhan have collected and publicized a bat coronavirus called RaTG13, one that is 96 percent genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2. ", but that isn’t close to telling us anything definitive is it? I strongly suspect if there is as of yet uncovered evidence of an accidental release, the Chinese will be making sure it stays good and covered. Or would it be very difficult to conceal such evidence, suggesting that it wasn’t likely released from the lab?

It seems that evidence points to a wet market in Wuhan…

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We’ve heard that a lot, but it doesn’t seem very definite. Is there clear evidence? It sounds plausible with various wild animals held in close proximity there in cages, but it can happen in the wild as well, can’t it? The wild is a lot bigger :slight_smile: I keep wondering if people just put two and two together and said “well they have all those animals in there, and it’s in Wuhan, so…” and it’s taken on a life of its own.

So uncertain and ‘radioactive’ a topic, I don’t think I’d make a post about it…

A paper in 2007 warned about this exact situation.

The findings that horseshoe bats are the natural reservoir for SARS-CoV-like virus and that civets are the amplification host highlight the importance of wildlife and biosecurity in farms and wet markets, which can serve as the source and amplification centers for emerging infections.

The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.


Having personally modified viral genomes, I thought I might share a few thoughts. First off, if the virus carried something like a fluorescent protein or a luciferase gene, then the source would be pretty obvious. With that said, scientists are able to specifically change any base in a viral genome in such a way that it can’t be detected as coming from human manipulation. Human intervention can never be entirely ruled out, but we can make some conclusions based on our knowledge of human motivations and common practices.

I agree with many of the conclusions drawn in the Nature Medicine paper. A lot of it boils down to “Why would anyone do that?”. For example, why create a virus with a novel RBD in the spike protein? There is no reason to do that. In my experience, most scientsits will switch protein domains between different viral strains to see what impact a single change will have in a given genetic background. Creating a completely new binding domain serves no research purposes. The weaker argument is the furin cleavage site. One could make a very weak argument that inserting the cleavage site could serve some research goals since the same modification is seen in other viruses. However, it isn’t a very likely target for research.

If we consider the possibility that this viral strain was created with malicious intent instead of accidental release from a research lab, then it makes even less sense. Modification of the first SARS-COV viral strain would be a much more obvious target. It’s virulence was already high, and all it needs is tweaks to allow for wider transmission.

The most compelling evidence is the presence of the novel binding domain in a wild population of pangolins. Low level human to human transmission would have created the environment for the subsequent evolution of the furin cleavage site. Could well funded and maliciously motivated scientists create this virus? The answer would be yes for every new human virus that comes along. However, when you find a natural reservoir that has many of the adaptations needed for adapting to humans, then Occam’s Razor favors the natural process. In fact, given the known processes that naturally evolve viruses that attack humans, the assumption should be towards natural sources unless there is compelling evidence for human activity.