Rumor Buster: Why is accusation that COVID-19 virus originates in lab false, wrong?

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-21 14:45:12|Editor: huaxia

BEIJING, April 21 (Xinhua) -- The accusations that the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic was created in the laboratory or in a laboratory in China's Wuhan are false and wrong, several French scientists have said recently.

Driven by a malicious intention of scapegoating China to cover up the lax U.S. response to COVID-19, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been repeatedly calling the novel coronavirus "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus" in public, largely accountable for the virus disinformation.

"What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China," said Pompeo in a comment requested by the Fox News. "The U.S. government is working diligently to figure it out."

Luc Montagnier, a French Nobel prize winning virologist in 2008, told French media last week that "there was manipulation around this virus ... It is not natural. It's the work of professionals, of molecular biologists."

In response, several French scientists have recently refuted the remarks by Montagnier.

The hypothesis that a virus was created in a lab in Wuhan sounded "a conspiracy vision that does not relate to the real science," said Jean-Francois Delfraissy, an immunologist and head of the scientific council that advises the French government on the COVID-19 pandemic, when interviewed by French television BFM TV.

"Everyone in the scientific community agrees that COVID-19 is a coronavirus. From time to time there are coronaviruses different from the others, as are SARS and MERS with a pathogenicity which has appeared," he added.

Both Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are caused by coronaviruses, and the COVID-19 virus is also known as SARS-CoV-2.

"The world of viruses is a world in perpetual evolution," Delfraissy noted.

According to Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity department of France's Pasteur Institute, studies have shown clearly that the novel coronavirus was not man-made in the laboratory.

"Professor Montagnier spreads whimsical theories," he told the French weekly L'Obs, previously known as Le Nouvel Observateur.

"Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, was not created in the laboratory. We see this by studying the genetic heritage of the virus, which has been sequenced by Chinese teams and then verified in many other laboratories, including the Pasteur Institute," said Schwartz.

"This virus is clearly part of the coronavirus family tree. It is close to Sars-CoV-1, with which it has 80 percent homology," he explained.

"Above all, the same virus is found in different animals, in particular the pangolin and the bat. And there, the percentage of similarities is greater than 95 percent. So, by drawing up the family tree of this virus, we know that it is derived from viruses that circulate in nature," he said. Enditem