The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a turn for the worse, with nearly 3 million lives lost to the deadly virus. While researchers debate about the origin of the SARS-COV-2 (SARS2) virus, two theories surfaced amidst the thin air of speculations.
One theory hypothesizes that the virus escaped the lab where researchers kept it under study, and the second theory claims that it jumped over from wildlife to people. But there is no foolproof evidence to support either of the two.
In December 2019, the Chinese authorities reported cases from the Wuhan meat market with speculations that the virus jumped here from wildlife onto humans just like SARS1 and MERS viruses. During the SARS1 epidemic of 2002, the virus first traveled from bats to civets (sold in the wet market) and later from civets to humans. A similar bat virus, MERS, jumped from bats to camels and then to humans.
SARS2 had a similar genome sequence as SARS1 and MERS viruses, which led to the postulation that this naturally occurring virus managed to jump from bats to another animal and ultimately to humans.
But several Covid cases emerged from parts that had no connection to the wet market of Wuhan, which gave rise to another theory regarding its escape from the lab. Wuhan is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a leading center for research on coronaviruses. They create and perform tests on dangerous viruses than those which naturally exist. The argument is that they can get ahead of nature and predict and prevent the spilling of viruses from animal hosts to humans. So, there was a possibility of it escaping the lab.
But such an allegation would have proved to be detrimental for the virologists across the globe. An MIT Technology Review editor, Antonio Regalado, in March 2020, said that “It would shatter the scientific edifice top to bottom.”
A group of virologists wrote in the Lancet on February 19, 2020, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”
Was it not too soon to determine anything about the virus?
Continue reading the full story to know in detail about theories surrounding the novel coronavirus.