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A team of researchers from Germany and the US have made the bombshell claim that COVID-19 was manufactured in a laboratory. They made their controversial case after identifying what they believe is an artificial pattern of “restriction sites” in the coronavirus genome. These sites, they explained, are used by scientists to assemble genomes from DNA building blocks — with such a manufacturing process leaving a distinctive fingerprint.
The study was undertaken by molecular immunologist Dr Valentin Bruttel of the University Clinics of Würzburg, computational biologist Dr Alex Washburne of Selva Analytics in Bozeman, Montana and biophysicist Prof. Antonius VanDongen of Duke University.
They wrote: “To prevent future pandemics, it is important that we understand whether SARS-CoV-2 spilled over directly from animals to people, or indirectly in a laboratory accident.”
The trio explain that, prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, various research teams were exploring how close naturally-occurring coronaviruses were to making the leap over into humans.
They added: “Such experiments require making infectious clones, which requires assembling a full-length viral DNA in vitro.
“This method utilises special enzymes called restriction enzymes to generate DNA building blocks that then can be “stitched” together in the correct order of the viral genome.
“To make a virus in the lab, researchers usually engineer the viral genome to add and remove stitching sites, called restriction sites. The ways researchers modify these sites can serve as fingerprints of in vitro genome assembly.
“In vitro genome assembly has been used to create reverse genetic systems for many coronaviruses, such as transmissible gastroenteritis virus. MERS, SARS, bat coronaviruses, and more.”
A team of researchers have made the bombshell claim that COVID-19 was manufactured in a laboratory
They wrote: “We find that SARS-CoV-2 is an anomaly, more likely a product of synthetic genome assembly than natural evolution.
“The restriction map of SARS-CoV-2 is consistent with many previously reported synthetic coronavirus genomes, meets all the criteria required for an efficient reverse genetic system, differs from closest relatives by a significantly higher rate of synonymous mutations in these synthetic-looking recognitions sites, and has a synthetic fingerprint unlikely to have evolved from its close relatives.
“Both the restriction site fingerprint and the pattern of mutations generating them are extremely unlikely in wild coronaviruses and nearly universal in synthetic viruses.”
There is, they concluded, “a high likelihood that SARSCoV-2 may have originated as an infectious clone assembled in vitro.”
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The findings of the study, however, have been met with extreme scepticism.
Virologist Dr Benjamin Neuman of the Texas A&M University said: “This study is the molecular equivalent of phrenology or numerology — very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus.
“It’s about as illuminating an approach as converting the genome to digits, adding up the digits, and comparing that to the ‘number of the Beast’.
“This isn’t really evidence for or against the discredited idea of a lab-origin virus.
“The study looks for patterns of nucleotides that people have found useful because they can be cleaved by restriction enzymes.
“Restriction enzymes naturally occur in bacteria, and were a useful tool in early microbiology labs. Most restriction enzymes look for 6–8 nucleotide patterns, which occur at random in any nucleotide sequence.
“Looking at the technology we use now to assemble the virus, it is quite different from the restriction enzyme heyday in the 90’s and early 2000’s.
“Essentially, this study looks at an irrelevant trait that would not be useful to either the virus or a person trying to assemble the virus using modern technology.”
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Dr Neuman continued: “The crux of the argument seems to be that since certain 6-8 nucleotide patterns occur near the start or end of genes, that is somehow proof of meddling.
“There is no reason a person assembling a genome would need to assemble the sequence in gene-sized chunks that start or end exactly at gene boundaries. It’s tinfoil-hat bonkers.
“The methodology is nonsense, as are the conclusions. There are thousands of different Coronavirus genomes now, and this study cherry-picks fewer than forty that make its point.
“There are something like a hundred restriction enzymes in common use, and they cherry-pick two that kind-of-sort-of make their point.
“Science doesn’t work like this and sensible analysis doesn’t work like this.”
Dr Neuman concluded: “The neatest thing is — look at the affiliations.
“We have someone who works at a gynaecology clinic, a business management efficiency analyst, and an Alzheimer’s researcher.
“As far as I can tell, none of these has ever worked with a virus before now, or studied virology, or been on a virology paper of any kind.
“This is more outsider art than science, and treating it as serious science would be a mistake.”
A preprint of the researchers’ article, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, can be read on the bioRxiv repository.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.