The coronavirus that has become a global pandemic may have been created in a "cell culture experiment" in a laboratory because it "is uniquely adapted to infect humans.", according to a team of leading scientists who have carried out innovative research into the origins of the virus.
The teacher Nikolai Petrovsky, a prestigious vaccine expert who led a scientific study, currently under peer review, in conjunction with La Trobe University in Victoria, said the virus "Not typical of normal zoonotic (animal to human) infection", as He appeared with the "exceptional" ability to enter human bodies from day one.
The specialist added that the virus could have been transmitted by an animal in "A strange event of nature", but the theory that it originated in a laboratory cannot be ruled out.
"The two possibilities that I think are still open is that it was a chance transmission of a virus from an as yet unidentified animal to a human. The other possibility is that it was an accidental release of the virus from a laboratory. " Petrovsky said to Sky News Australia.
Petrovsky, professor of medicine at Flinders University in Adelaide, He has spent the past 20 years developing vaccines against pandemic influenza, Ebola, and SARS. He currently heads a biotechnology research unit that will begin human trials for a coronavirus vaccine next month.
"We certainly cannot exclude the possibility that this came from a laboratory experiment rather than an animal. Both are open possibilities ”, assured.
The teacher Petrovsky, who is also president and chief research officer of Vaxine Pty Ltd, said that COVID-19 has genetic elements similar to bat coronaviruses and other coronaviruses.
The coronavirus enters human cells by binding to a protein on the surface of lung cells called ACE2. The study showed that the virus bound more strongly to human ACE2s than any of the other animals they tested. "It was like it was designed to infect humans." said.
Petrovsky explained that "one of the possibilities is that an animal host has been infected by two coronaviruses at the same time and that COVID-19 is the progeny of that interaction between the two viruses ”
However, "The same process can happen in a laboratory culture plate. If you have cells in culture and you have human cells in that culture that are infecting viruses, then if there are two viruses on that plate, they can exchange genetic information and you can accidentally or deliberately create a completely new third virus ", he explained.
"In other words, COVID-19 could have been created from that recombination event in an animal host or could have occurred in a cell culture experiment," Petrovsky said.
According to the vast majority of scientists, the virus may have passed from animal to man in a market selling live animals in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic broke out. Scientists believe that the virus appeared in a bat and passed to man through an intermediate species, probably the pangolin. But a study by a group of Chinese scientists, published in January in the journal The Lancet, revealed that the first COVID-19 patient had no connection to the Wuhan animal market, Nor did 13 of the first 41 patients have it.
On the other hand, the existence of a high-security laboratory in that city encouraged speculation - even prompted by US President Donald Trump himself - that the virus came out of there, something that Chinese scientists rejected.
Asked about this hypothesis, Petrovsky noted the "coincidence" that the most closely related known viruses were being studied at that laboratory in Wuhan and claimed that scientists were reluctant to discuss the possibility of failed laboratory experiments or leaks since any violent reaction could lead to research restrictions and threaten crucial research. However, he added, It was vital to discover the source of the virus and insisted that the possibility of a leak, however remote, should not be ignored in the search for its origin.
"The implications may not be good for scientists or global politics, but just because the answers may cause problems, we cannot escape them." said to Mail on Sunday. "Currently there is no evidence of a leak, but there is enough circumstantial data to worry us. It remains a possibility until it is ruled out. ”
Professor Petrovsky said that an investigation should start immediately, not when the pandemic has ended. "The idea of postponing it until the end of the pandemic is over, it would be a mistake", Petrovsky said.
The World Health Organization itself said last week that discovering the origin is essential to understanding how the virus "invaded the human species" in a few months.
Petrovsky added that if SARS-CoV-2 were a natural event, Another virus could re-emerge from the same source with even more devastating consequences. "Next time, you could have much worse death rates."he warned.
The disease has infected more than 5.4 million people worldwide and has killed more than 340,000 according to the latest figures.
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