Vaishali Basu Sharma
Consultant – PPF
SARS-COV2 is a Chimera with HIV Gene Manipulation https://www.csis.org/programs/support
Several Studies from January to May 2020 reveal the possibility that SARS-COV2 was manipulated in a laboratory
By Vaishali Basu Sharma
Is the novel coronavirus a Bioweapon, created and released from a lab? Like Stephen King’s illusory flu ‘Captain Trips’ in ‘The Stand’? Is it a fanciful theory that the originally-christened 2019-nCoV might be derived from genetic manipulation or worse for the purpose of use as a bioweapon? Gradually, scientific evidence for the non-natural origins of SARS-CoV2 are emerging from several universities around the world, and offer credibility to the hypothesis that COVID-19 was caused by a virus that was in all likelihood manipulated and created in a laboratory.
The novel coronavirus in humans, first discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, was initially named 2019-nCoV and then designated as SARS-CoV-2 due to its taxonomic and genomic relationships with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-causing coronavirus.
The SARS virus of 2003 went through various pathways of evolution or manipulation. Coronaviruses can spread in humans, other mammals, and birds, and cause diseases of the respiratory, intestinal, liver, and nervous systems. There are seven types of human coronaviruses (HCoVs), including 2002 SARS-CoV, 2012 MERS-CoV, and the most pathogenic of all – the 2019 SARS-CoV-2.
Demonstrating the ease of engineering a virus in a laboratory, Swiss virologist Volker Thiel succeeded in reconstruction of SARS-CoV2 or a clone using a synthetic genomics platform. This creation is a marker for how easy it is in these modern times to pluck a string of nucleotides from a sequence and plant them onto another. Such expertise in the hands of terrorists or rogue states raise serious concern amongst national security establishments across the world.
In 2013, Shi Zhengli (or now infamous as ‘Bat Woman’) of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Peter Daszak (Eco Health Alliance; USA) in association with the Chinese and US Governments, published a Study that demonstrated the creation of a Spike protein, with a unique cleavage, the kind found in SARS-CoV2. According to this study replacing the RBD (Receptor Binding Domain) of one SL-CoV Spike protein with SARS-CoV S conferred the ability to use human angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2) and replicate efficiently in mice – a clear statement on lab-origin of the zoonotic nature of the virus.
Within two years, in 2015, the same set of Chinese and US scientists, Shi Zhengli and Peter Daszak, including Ralph S. Baric (USA; University of North Carolina), once again with funding from US and Chinese Governments, used the above Spike protein to artificially create a coronavirus that scientists call “a chimeric virus”, essentially a clone – one that is manufactured in a laboratory. This virus, christened SHC014, was demonstrated to efficiently infect a mammalian lung. This research done in conjunction with the University of North Carolina concluded in November 2015 – SARS-like virus could jump directly from bats to humans and there was no treatment that could help. It stated that, “to examine the emergence potential (that is, the potential to infect humans) of circulating bat CoVs, we built a chimeric virus encoding a novel, zoonotic CoV spike protein — from the RsSHCO14-CoV sequence that was isolated from Chinese horseshoe bats — in the context of the SARS-CoV mouse-adapted backbone.”
Scientific literature is replete with several research papers on the creation of chimeric viruses in the pursuit of discovering and creating deadlier viruses than those that exist in nature. Such research is referred as Gain of Function (GoF) research and is meant to create more virulence in order to be prepared with a cure (therapeutic or vaccine) in the event that such a virus appears or is released by an enemy agent or state.
Understanding the danger of such research, and interestingly for security czars, Shi and Baric had warned, “These data and restrictions represent a crossroads of GOF research concerns; the potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens”.
Given its deadly implications, the Obama administration, following several accidents at its GOF research facilities like Fort Detrick, Maryland, placed a ban on Government funding for such research in 2014, only to be reversed by the Trump administration in 2017. There are no records of whether China has ever allowed or disallowed GOF research. Nonetheless the co-authorship of Shi Zhengli in published GOF research does provide evidence of Chinese participation in creating chimeric viruses at least for the past decade.
Detailed review of published science from January onwards reveals that there are three distinct features in SARS-CoV2, which have enhanced its virulence, its transmission to humans and its reduction in human immune response.
A unique feature is the presence of elements of HIV in the virus. Chinese researchers in March 2020 revealed that “viral protein encoded from open reading frame 8 (ORF8) of SARS-CoV-2, which shares the least homology with SARS-CoV among all the viral proteins, can directly interact with MHC-I (Major Histocompatibility Complex Class 1) molecules and significantly down-regulates their surface expression on various cell types”, clearly indicating the presence of immuno-depressing features. According to Professor Ruan Jishou who led the team at Nankai University in Tianjin and discovered this new property of the SARS-CoV-2, this suggested that 2019-nCoV coronavirus may be significantly different from the SARS coronavirus in the infection pathway and “has the added potency of using the packing mechanisms of other viruses such as HIV.” The Nankai Study had also indicated, “The infection mechanism of 2019-nCoV may be changed to being more similar to those of MHV (Mouse Hepatitis Virus), HIV, Ebola virus (EBoV) and some avian influenza viruses, other than those of most other Beta coronavirus (e.g.SARS coronavirus)”.
Some other reports revealed that patients who died from COVID-19 had suffered cellular damage similar to HIV and that SARS-CoV-2 attacks the immune system’s T lymphocytes just as HIV does. T lymphocytes, or T cells, are key for identifying and eliminating pathogens in the body. They work by identifying a cell infected by a pathogen and injecting it with toxic chemicals. A unique structure is that the Spike protein fuses the virus and T cell allowing the virus to enter the T cell, take over its behavior, switch off its normal pathogen-fighting functions, similar to the manner HIV replicates inside T cells.
It is no surprise therefore that HIV protease inhibitor Lopinavir-Ritonavir combination has proven to be effective in treating COVID-19 patients, though WHO for unknown reasons has not clarified the matter.
A second unique parameter of SARS-CoV-2 is that it attacks human cells by binding a 1000 times more efficiently with ACE2 receptors found on human cell membranes on account of a unique cleavage in its Spike protein, which allows the furin enzyme in human cells to bind efficiently.
2019-nCoV uses the same cell entry receptor, ACE2, to infect humans, as SARS-CoV. But ACE2 protein does not occur in large quantities in healthy people, and this partly helped to limit the scale of the SARS outbreak of 2002/2003 which infected close to 8,000 people globally. The key reason for doctors advising those with cardiac and blood pressure issues to be more careful is that both these diseases enhance the presence of ACE2 receptors in patients, hence making them prone to contracting SARS-COV2.
Research indicates that SARS-CoV2 is based on the ancestral bat strain RaTG13, in which the receptor binding motif (RBM) in its Spike protein is replaced by the RBM from an animal strain, and in addition, a small but very special stretch of 4 amino acids is inserted, which creates a furin cleavage site that, as virologists have previously established, significantly expands the “repertoire” of the virus in terms of whose cells it can penetrate.
Virologists have done many similar things in the past — both replacing the RBM in one type of virus by an RBM from another, or adding a new furin site that can provide a species-specific coronavirus with an ability to start using the same receptor (e.g. ACE2) in other species. In fact, scientists were creating chimeric viruses as far back as 2007 and as recently as 2017, when they created 8 new chimeric coronaviruses with various RBMs.
In 2019 such work was in full swing, as the Wuhan Institute was part of a $3.7 million NIH (USA’s National Institute of Health) grant titled ‘Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence’. Under its auspices, Shi Zhengli co-authored a 2019 paper that called for continued research into synthetic viruses and testing them.
A third unique feature of SARS-CoV2 is the fact that it appeared out of nowhere, unlike normal coronaviruses, which have animals as their natural hosts and then mutate over several years for zoonotic transmission to humans. In fact Australian scientists in May 2020, noted that there was no sign that the same virus was to be found in other animals. It stated, “SARS-CoV2 Spike protein had the highest overall binding energy for human ACE2, greater than all the other tested species including bat, the postulated source of the virus. This indicates that SARS-CoV2 is a highly adapted human pathogen. Of the species studied, the next highest binding affinity after human was pangolin, which is most likely explained by a process of convergent evolution. Binding of SARS-CoV2 for dog and cat ACE2 was similar to affinity for bat ACE2, all being lower than for human ACE2, and is consistent with only occasional observations of infections of these domestic animals. Overall, the data indicates that SARS-CoV2 is uniquely adapted to infect humans, raising questions as to whether it arose in nature by a rare chance event or whether its origins lie elsewhere.”
Another study by Canadian researchers in May 2020 revealed that, “SARS-CoV-2 appeared without peer in late 2019, suggesting that there was a single introduction of the human-adapted form of the virus into the human population. This has important implications regarding the risk of SARS-CoV-2 re-emergence in the near future and the severity of its consequences”.
The above three unique features in SARS-COV2, coupled with the fact that US and Chinese researchers had been conducting GOF research for several years, does indicate the higher probability of the source of the current pandemic to be laboratory-made or -modified.
Two of the above unique features were first pointed out in a study published on January 31, 2020 by a group of researchers at IIT Delhi and Delhi University, titled ‘Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag.’ Oddly, the study was withdrawn by the authors on the count that it hadn’t been peer-reviewed. However, the server on which it was published, biorxiv.org, is by definition meant for non-peer reviewed papers, which invite peers to review. It is known that these researchers were harassed by hundreds of emails from unknown persons critiquing them for a hasty conclusion.
However, subsequent research from various universities, including those discussed in this piece, have confirmed the presence of four unique inserts in the Spike protein as well as similarities with the HIV genome, thereby proving that the Delhi research had shown the right direction to COVID-19 science and that too, one day prior to WHO declaring the outbreak to be a pandemic. The Study had concluded, “This uncanny similarity of novel inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag is unlikely to be fortuitous in nature.”
The abundant body of scientific research on Gain of Function and creation of chimeric viruses appears to be a neglected section of academic work in India. Lab-engineered viruses are a serious new concern for national security. While India does have the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act 2005 to deal with biological agents, security agencies would do well to associate with scientific establishments and understand this new threat. The fact that Shi Zhengli, the Bat Woman, had co-authored research on bats in Nagaland, as recently as 2019, should have been a red flag and prompted heightened oversight.
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