A team of scientists say they have found evidence that the COVID-19 virus was man-made, fueling speculation and some previously debunked accounts to resurface.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus, is an infectious respiratory disease that spread rapidly across the world in early 2020 as part of a pandemic that caused the lockdown of much of the world.
“The results of our study show that this virus is 99.9% an artificially created copy of a natural virus,” Valentin Bruttel, scientist at University Hospital Würzburg and author of the article, told EuroNews Weekly. . Bruttel and his colleagues have published their findings in pre-print form, which has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community.
According to EuroNews Weekly, Bruttel said he noticed anomalies in the Sars-CoV-2 genome in 2021, and once he started studying the virus genome, he found patterns apparently consistent with engineered viruses.
There is, according to Bruttel, “a strong probability [Sars-Cov-2] could have appeared as an infectious clone collected in vitro”.
The claim quickly spread across social media, including Twitter and Reddit, but does it really change the scientific consensus on this topic?
The publication of the paper, the latest in a series of studies making similar claims, including some debunked, was met with caution and skepticism in the scientific community.
The first obvious point to note is that, being a pre-print, the paper has not been peer-reviewed and cannot topple any established thinking on the matter until it is did not. There are also other problems with this.
“There seem to be flaws in the logic of this article as to why one would assemble an entire genome piece by piece to make a virus,” said Hassan Vally, associate professor of epidemiology at Deakin University. . Newsweek.
“That makes no sense to me. If you did what the authors claim happened, you insert small amounts of engineered genetic material into a largely intact viral genome and there would be no need to reconstruct a genome. into small segments. does not make sense and points to a fundamental flaw in this article and the logic behind the interpretation.”
According to Vally, the logic of this article is not sound and the recurring patterns in the genome may not represent what the researchers say they represent.
Other scientists in the field responded to the online preprint, denying Bruttel and his colleagues’ claims.
Conspiracy theories along these lines emerged almost as soon as the virus did, and plagued the science behind treatment and vaccines throughout the pandemic.
“Biological weapons theories peaked twice. At the start of the pandemic, when people tried to link COVID-19 to biological weapons, and at the start of the active vaccination campaign, when people discussed the whether the vaccine was a bioweapon,” said researcher Dmitry Erokhin. assistant at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, which published an article on COVID-19 conspiracy theories, said Newsweek.
According to Erokhin, the researchers found that “fear and mistrust drive people to try to find a seemingly logical explanation for the emergence of the pandemic and to group together with like-minded people on different aspects of the pandemic, forming so-called “echo chambers” “including, for example, pro- and anti-vaccine groups.”
Conspiracy claims therefore require rigorous scientific testing to be debunked. The current scientific consensus is that Sars-CoV-2 was originally an animal disease that was transmitted to humans by bats somewhere in China.
“While it is important that all questions be asked and explored, some researchers display reasoned reasoning on this and a number of other issues and that is why these studies should be reviewed by objective and capable experts. to assess both the adequacy of the methodology and the adequacy of the conclusions drawn,” Valley said.
The scientific consensus is that there is very little evidence to suggest that Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, was man-made or created in a laboratory.
Once Bruttel and colleagues’ paper has been reviewed by other scientists in the field, and if it stands up to scrutiny, the consensus may change, but similar claims in the past have not. managed to move the issue forward.
FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK