Over the past few days, the mainstream press has vigorously pushed back against a theory about the origins of the coronavirus that has now infected as many as 70,000+ people in Wuhan alone (depending on whom you believe). The theory is that China obtained the coronavirus via a Canadian research program, and started molding it into a bioweapon at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan. Politifact pointed the finger at Zero Hedge, in particular, though the story was widely shared across independent-leaning media.
The theory is that the virus, which was developed by infectious disease experts to function as a bio-weapon, originated in the Wuhan-based lab of Dr. Peng Zhou, China’s preeminent researcher of bat immune systems, specifically in how their immune systems adapt to the presence of viruses like coronavirus and other destructive viruses. Somehow, the virus escaped from the lab, and the Hunan fish market where the virus supposedly originated is merely a ruse.
Now, a respected epidemiologist who recently caught flack for claiming in a twitter threat that the virus appeared to be much more contagious than initially believed is pointing out irregularities in the virus’s genome that suggests it might have been genetically engineered for the purposes of a weapon, and not just any weapon but the deadliest one of all.
In “Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag“, Indian researchers are baffled by segments of the virus’s RNA that have no relation to other coronaviruses like SARS, and instead appear to be closer to HIV. The virus even responds to treatment by HIV medications.
For those pressed for time, here are the key findings from the paper, which first focuses on the unique nature of 2019-nCoV, and then observe four amino acid sequences in the Wuhan Coronavirus which are homologous to amino acid sequences in HIV1:
Our phylogentic tree of full-length coronaviruses suggests that 2019-nCoV is closely related to SARS CoV [Fig1].
In addition, other recent studies have linked the 2019-nCoV to SARS CoV. We therefore compared the spike glycoprotein sequences of the 2019-nCoV to that of the SARS CoV (NCBI Accession number: AY390556.1). On careful examination of the sequence alignment we found that the 2019- nCoV spike glycoprotein contains 4 insertions [Fig.2]. To further investigate if these inserts are present in any other corona virus, we performed a multiple sequence alignment of the spike glycoprotein amino acid sequences of all available coronaviruses (n=55) [refer Table S.File1] in NCBI refseq (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) this includes one sequence of 2019-nCoV[Fig.S1]. We found that these 4 insertions [inserts 1, 2, 3 and 4] are unique to 2019-nCoV and are not present in other coronaviruses analyzed. Another group from China had documented three insertions comparing fewer spike glycoprotein sequences of coronaviruses . Another group from China had documented three insertions comparing fewer spike glycoprotein sequences of coronaviruses (Zhou et al., 2020).