Two scientists argued in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the “genetic footprint” of the COVID-19 pathogen “has never been observed in a natural coronavirus,” suggesting it could be man-made.
Dr. Steven Quay, a physician and founder of Atossa Therapeutics, and Richard Muller, a physicist and emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote on Sunday that “the possibility that the pandemic began with an escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology is attracting fresh attention. President [Joe] Biden has asked the national intelligence community to redouble efforts to investigate.”
They add that “the most compelling reason to favor the lab leak hypothesis is firmly based in science. In particular, consider the genetic fingerprint of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for the disease COVID-19.
“In gain-of-function research, a microbiologist can increase the lethality of a coronavirus enormously by splicing a special sequence into its genome at a prime location. Doing this leaves no trace of manipulation. But it alters the virus spike protein, rendering it easier for the virus to inject genetic material into the victim cell… The end result has always been supercharged viruses.” And “in the case of the gain-of-function supercharge, other sequences could have been spliced into this same site.”
According to Quay and Muller, “the entire class of coronaviruses that includes CoV-2, the CGG-CGG combination has never been found naturally... A virus simply cannot pick up a sequence from another virus if that sequence isn’t present in any other virus.
“Although the double CGG is suppressed naturally, the opposite is true in laboratory work. The insertion sequence of choice is the double CGG. That’s because it is readily available and convenient, and scientists have a great deal of experience inserting it. An additional advantage of the double CGG sequence compared with the other 35 possible choices: It creates a useful beacon that permits the scientists to track the insertion in the laboratory.
The scientists claim that “the damning fact” about COVID-19 is that this is the "exact sequence that appears in CoV-2. Proponents of zoonotic origin must explain why the novel coronavirus, when it mutated or recombined, happened to pick its least favorite combination, the double CGG.”
They note that “Yes, it could have happened randomly, through mutations. But do you believe that? At the minimum, this fact — that the coronavirus, with all its random possibilities, took the rare and unnatural combination used by human researchers — implies that the leading theory for the origin of the coronavirus must be laboratory escape.”
Quay and Muller conclude, “The presence of the double CGG sequence is strong evidence of gene splicing, and the absence of diversity in the public outbreak suggests gain-of-function acceleration. The scientific evidence points to the conclusion that the virus was developed in a laboratory.”
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