- A biotech firm’s study suggests that coronavirus may have mutated within the human body, then spread to other humans.
- It also suggests there is not enough data to conclusively state the virus came from bats and pangolins.
- Recent studies show that scientists are still in the process of understanding the real origin of the virus.
Many scientists have pointed towards the Wuhan seafood market as the origin of the Coronavirus (CODIV-19) outbreak in early 2020. New studies and findings suggest that while some cases emerged from the wet market, earlier cases likely emerged from somewhere else.
A study from The Scripps Research Institute found two possible sources of coronavirus, which may explain the emergence of the initial wave of COVID-19 cases in November 2019, prior to the cluster of cases that emerged in the Wuhan seafood market.
The researchers identified the two origins to be: natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer and natural selection in humans following zoonotic (animal-to-human) transfer.
Coronavirus could have mutated within the human body
The first origin—mutation in an animal host—would mean that a form of virus mutated within wild animals in the likes of bats and pangolins before spreading to humans.
In this scenario, humans got in direct contact with animals that had mutated viruses within them, causing the first animal to human transmission to occur.
Researchers say that it is difficult to conclusively state that the Wuhan wet market is the origin of coronavirus because of the undersampled nature of studies that made the link between the market and the virus outbreak.
Prior to the batch of cases that were reported from the Wuhan seafood market, individuals reported coronavirus symptoms by as early as November 2019, which indicates that the coronavirus outbreak began before the wet market reported new cases.
The study read:
Neither the bat betacoronaviruses nor the pangolin betacoronaviruses sampled thus far have polybasic cleavage sites. Although no animal coronavirus has been identified that is sufficiently similar to have served as the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV-2, the diversity of coronaviruses in bats and other species is massively undersampled.
While the focus of the studies focused on the structure of the virus contained in bats, specifically Chinese Horseshoe bats, the study also emphasized that Malayan pangolins exhibit similarities to coronavirus.
The researchers explained:
Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) illegally imported into Guangdong province contain coronaviruses similar to SARSCoV-221. Although the RaTG13 bat virus remains the closest to SARS-CoV-2 across the genome , some pangolin coronaviruses exhibit strong similarity to SARS-CoV-2 in the RBD, including all six key RBD residues.
The second scenario—natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer—suggests that a lesser form of coronavirus may have transferred from a bat or a pangolin to a human body, and the virus mutated within humans afterward.
As the virus started to mutate, it also began to transmit from humans to humans, causing the outbreak to start.
Recent research papers show that scientists are still discovering new data about coronavirus, and as time passes, scientists are becoming increasingly skeptical towards the initial understanding of the origin of the virus.
No laboratory manipulation, though
The study eliminates the popular theory that the coronavirus emerged from a virus spill at the Wuhan laboratory. It said that the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of coronavirus is uniquely “optimized for binding to human ACE2,” which makes it highly unlikely for it to be a case of laboratory manipulation.
The study added:
Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.
It essentially makes the claim that the speed of the spread of coronavirus and its effectiveness in penetrating into the human body is far greater than any prediction that was made in the past.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.
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