Did someone create the coronavirus in a lab?

Ju Waran

We all love a good conspiracy theory. So it is exciting to think that the novel coronavirus may have originated from a lab in Wuhan. But did it? Scientists refute this theory, read on to know why.

We have been told that the Coronavirus originated from a wet market in Wuhan that sells wildlife meat, however, there are those who think it was engineered in a lab!

On April 16, news broke out that the U.S. government was investigating the possibility that the novel coronavirus may have somehow escaped from a lab. While even the most secure laboratories do sometimes have accidents, and a human-engineered pandemic has been identified as a possible risk to our civilisation, but there is no good evidence that either has happened. This is no bioweapon in a race to be the superior power, say scientists!

Why? For starters, this is not the first time a virus has jumped from its animal host to humans. Think SARS, which originated from civet cats and MERS, which originated from camels. There are many more, like the Bird Flu, Ebola and HIV AIDS, among others.

Reason number two: Scientists studied the genetic template for the spike proteins that protrude from the surface of the coronavirus, scientifically known as SARS-CoV-2. The found that the ‘hook’ part of this spike had evolved to target a receptor on the outside of human cells called ACE2, which is involved in blood pressure regulation in our bodies. This means the scientists think the spikes that hook onto us naturally evolved in the virus to allow it to infect humans more effectively as it moved from its original animal host (most likely bats) to an intermediary animal host (likely to be pangolins) before infecting us!

Jane Goodall, primatologist and anthropologist, perhaps most known for her study of chimpanzees strongly refutes the theory that the virus was created in a lab too! She says it is not impossible for the viruses in animals to jump to another animal or even to crossover to humans.

“It’s our fault really. Not the bats,” she says in an interview with Norwegian-Swedish talk-show host Fredrik Skavlan.

“The bats are perfectly fine where they are, but we have invaded their habitats, we are destroying the forests where they live and so we come in contact with them.”

She reminds listeners of the past epidemics such as the Bird Flu, HIV AIDS, which spread from the consumption of chimpanzee meat, and Ebola which spread from consumption of bat meat. Goodall points out that this is proof that virus can spill over and infect humans due to conditions we have created.

In the case of the SARS-CoV-2, it’s the bat infecting some other animal because they are being crowded together as forests become smaller due to human activity, she reinforces.

“Then the wet markets that trade in wild life keep the animal in such horrendous conditions where vendors and customers could easily get contaminated by the faeces, urine and blood because the animals are often killed on the spot,” she says.

Goodall believe these markets, the bush market in Africa and our intensive farming methods are an origin of a good number of diseases.

How do we overcome this? Goodall says this is a tricky situation as many of the wild life meat traders depend on this for their livelihood.

“In Africa, we have worked with many communities to help them find ways of living without destroying the environment,” she says.

Goodall hopes the trade of wild life meat will end as not only is it harmful to health, it is cruel to the animals, who can feel the same fear and pain we feel.

Watch Jane Goodall's interview here:


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