Coronavirus: Covid19 likely of animal origin, no sign of lab manipulation – WHO

Story Highlights
  • US government intelligence officials are reportedly investigating the potential source of the pandemic
  • All evidence so far points to the fact the COVID-19 virus is naturally derived and not man-made, says expert

Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) said that all available evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus originated in bats in China late last year and it was not manipulated or constructed in a lab.

“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not a manipulated or constructed virus in a lab or somewhere else,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a Geneva news briefing. “It is probable, likely that the virus is of animal origin.”

China has come under increasing global pressure over lack of transparency in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected over 2,490,516 people and claimed more than 170,590 lives across the world. 

A premier Chinese virology laboratory in Wuhan, which has been in the eye of the storm for allegedly being the source of the novel coronavirus, has been denying the charge, including those of US President Donald Trump, that the deadly virus originated from this lab before it spread across the world and wreaked havoc.

US President Donald Trump said last week that his government was trying to determine whether the coronavirus emanated from a lab in Wuhan, in central China.

Various studies and research work have been in process but when asked whether the Covid-19 virus was genetically engineered in a lab, scientists have already said “no” rather firmly, but the matter of the new coronavirus’ origin is unlikely to be put to rest so easily.

“All evidence so far points to the fact the COVID-19 virus is naturally derived and not man-made,” explains immunologist Nigel McMillan from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“If you were going to design it in a lab the sequence changes make no sense as all previous evidence would tell you it would make the virus worse. No system exists in the lab to make some of the changes found.”

Back in late March, we covered a study published in Nature Medicine, in which the researchers investigated the genomic data of SARS-CoV-2 – particularly the receptor-binding domain (RBD) sections of the virus – to try and discover how it mutated into the virulent and deadly version we’re currently struggling to contain. 

As a by-product of their research, they were able to determine that SARS-CoV-2 was not genetically manipulated.

Now, it is important to note that viruses can mutate naturally anywhere – in animal hosts, in humans, or even in laboratory cell cultures. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine where and how the new coronavirus acquired its mutations, although most researchers think the process involved an animal host.

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