Ever since the Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China, speculation has been rife about its origin. Extreme conspiracy theorists have claimed that it was a biological weapon. However, recent research published in the journal Nature Medicine puts to rest all such theories. It proves conclusively that the virus was natural in origin and not purposefully manipulated.
The research team from the Scripps Research Institute studied the genome sequence data from Covid-19 and related viruses. The Covid-19 is the seventh known coronavirus. The genome data was made available by Chinese scientists soon after the epidemic began. The team used this data to investigate the origin and evolution of the virus. They studied the spike proteins, the ‘hooks’ it uses to attach and penetrate human and animal cells, and the cleavage site, the opening where the virus enters the human cells.
The Covid-19 spike proteins were so effective in hooking on to human cells, that the team concluded it could only be natural selection. The second evidence was the backbone of the virus. It differed from other coronaviruses but resembled viruses found in pangolins and bats. This showed that it was not developed from existing illness-causing viruses.
The team came up with two theories on the possible origin:
- The virus evolved as a pathogen in a non-human host and then moved to humans.
- The virus jumped from the animal host to humans in a non-pathogenic state and then evolved to its current pathogenic version.