Unrecognized genome: could coronavirus be artificially created Scientists find out why this particular type of pathogen is suitable for manipulating the genome

The large genome of the “Chinese” coronavirus, its long incubation period, as well as the severe pulmonary edema caused by it, are factors that can be effectively used to create biological weapons. This "Izvestia" said experts in the field of virology. Their assumptions are also supported by a 2015 scientific article in the leading edition of Nature, which talks about the risky experiments of Chinese scientists who created a hybrid version of bat coronavirus. However, other researchers who analyzed the pathogen genome did not find traces of artificial inclusions and accelerated evolution in it. Izvestia sorted out how justified the assumptions about the laboratory origin of 2019-nCoV could be. The creation of an artificial virus that could be targeted at infecting certain races and ethnic groups may have been reported to Izvestia by an expert virologist who wanted to remain anonymous. “For example, the Ebola virus and the Marburg virus are actually the same hemorrhagic fever,” he explained. - Their pathogen is very similar. And suddenly, Ebola has a mortality rate of 86%, and Marburg - 35%. It is clear that the African continent differs from Europe in economic factors, but the point here is the ability to infect specific races. The genome of the virus, which was so hastily published by Chinese scientists, according to experts, does not make it possible to quickly identify within the nucleotide sequence the inclusions of foreign components. “It’s very difficult to understand something from the laid out genome,” Izvestia’s interlocutor confirmed. - Civil science does not yet have the ability to quickly determine something. Maybe some closed research is going on. Suspicions of misuse of the genome are also partially supported by a 2015 scientific article in the journal Nature. It discusses a designed bat coronavirus that can infect human cells. The material was published in Nature Medicine on November 19, 2015. Moreover, the 15 authors included 13 Americans and two Chinese scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located in the city, from which the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus began around the world.

The authors investigated the SHC014 virus, which was found in horseshoe bats in China. The experimenters created a “chimeric virus” consisting of the surface protein SHC014 and the backbone of the SARS virus, which was adapted for growth in mice and simulated human disease. The chimera infected the cells of the human respiratory tract - and this, according to the researchers, can be considered evidence that the surface protein SHC014 has the necessary structure to bind to the key receptor on the cells and infect them. “If the virus breaks out, no one can predict the path (spread),” said Simon Wayne-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He also noted that scientists were able to create a virus that "grows remarkably in human cells." An attempt to deal with the “viral constructor” was made by Indian scientists who put in a preprint (the scientific archive where the articles are posted before publication) their findings on the six HIV fragments allegedly found inside the 2019-nCoV nucleotide sequence. However, some time later this article was recalled, and the preprint was deleted. Scientific blogs say that the material was done very carelessly, and its conclusions are untrue. Izvestia turned to the country's leading virologists with the question of whether the coronavirus could be hypothetically chosen as some kind of biological weapon - after all, there are many viruses and bacteria that have a higher ability to become infected. “Coronavirus can very well be chosen as the object for creating the ideal construct for infection,” explained the Russian specialist in virus genetics, who also wished to remain anonymous. - The virus is respiratory, that is, it spreads effectively (only measles virus is more effective). Its genome has a large number of genes, which is convenient. It is very unpleasant with a special combination: the pathogen is respiratory and asymptomatic in the early stages. He has a long incubation period. This is the most dangerous combination that could be. As the specialist explained, coronavirus takes control of the first phases of the infection. He is able to suppress the immune response in the first stages. When the number of copies exceeds a certain level, immunity is triggered, but already in the form of a systemic immune response. This response is so strong that it causes lung damage.

By the time the onset of symptoms, the virus is already in almost all cells of the body. As a result, the immune system gives such a strong response that pulmonary edema is formed, their vital volume is reduced to a minimum, and those who are sick cannot breathe. However, so far no expert has clear indications that the virus was created artificially. Theories that the virus has a “man-made” origin arise during any epidemiological outbreaks. The likelihood of what happened to coronavirus infection is close to zero, said Galina Kozhevnikova, head of the department of infectious diseases with courses in epidemiology and phthisiology, told Izvestia. - Indeed, judging by research, this type of coronavirus more effectively infects precisely the inhabitants of China. However, it is highly doubtful that it was created artificially. In nature, there are too many natural pathogens of this disease, ”the expert believes. However, cases of the disease caused by the 2019-nCoV coronavirus have already been registered not only among people of the Mongoloid race, but also among Europeans and residents of the United States, Danila Konnov, head of the infectious diseases department of the University Hospital H-Clinic, told Izvestia. “Potentially, ethnic selectivity for viruses is also possible in nature,” he explained. - For example, if in the process of reproduction the virus will use cell structures that only representatives of a certain race have. So, it was suggested that to enter the cell, the virus uses a receptor on its surface and that people of the Mongoloid race have several times more such receptors than representatives of other nations. In this case, the chances of infection and more difficult to transfer the disease in people with such features are much greater. So far, this can be considered a quite clear explanation of why the majority of cases are Chinese, the expert noted. But, anyway, any of the theories of the origin of the new coronavirus raises a lot of questions from experts. Each of them requires confirmation, and so far scientists do not have them.