French virologist Luc Montagnier, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work on HIV and a highly controversial figure in the scientific community, said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 was created in a laboratory by inserting genes into a coronavirus of HIV-1, the AIDS virus.
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“We have come to the conclusion that this virus was created,” said the French scientist, who was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his participation in the research that led to the discovery of the HIV virus, during an interview with the French channel CNews.
According to Montagnier, “molecular biologists” inserted HIV DNA sequences into a coronavirus as part of their work to find an AIDS vaccine.
“There has been a manipulation of the virus: at least part, not all. There is a model, which is the classic virus, that comes mainly from bats, but to which HIV sequences have been added,” he said.
“In any case, it is not natural,” he continued. “It is the work of professionals, of molecular biologists. Very meticulous work. For what purpose? I do not know. One hypothesis is that they wanted to create an AIDS vaccine, ” he said.
To support his theory, Montagnier cited the study by a group of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, who found “a strange resemblance” and “has little chance of being fortuitous” in the amino acid sequences of a SARS protein. -CoV-2 and HIV-1. The study, published on a website where scientists share ongoing analyzes without waiting for expert verification, was later withdrawn by its authors.
Montagnier also predicted the imminent disappearance of the virus , because its supposed artificial origin would be weakening it.
“You can do anything with nature, but if you do artificial construction, it is unlikely to survive. Nature loves harmonious things; what is foreign, like a virus that comes from another virus, for example, is not well tolerated,” he assured. For the scientist, the parts of the virus into which HIV was inserted are rapidly mutating, causing its self-destruction.
“So what we see is that in the western United States, in Seattle, the sequences are destroyed, practically non-existent. So if the pathogenic power of the coronavirus is linked to the insertion of these sequences, we can think that it will disappear,” he said.
Jean-Francois Delfraissy, immunologist and head of the scientific council that advises the French government on the COVID-19 pandemic, said in an interview with the BFM TV in France that the hypothesis that a virus was created in a laboratory sounded like “a vision of a conspiracy that is unrelated to real science. “
“Everyone in the scientific community agrees that COVID-19 is a coronavirus. Occasionally there are coronaviruses different from the others, like SARS and MERS with a pathogenicity that has appeared,” he added.
For Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity department at the Pasteur Institute in France, studies on the virus’s genes clearly show that it was not a virus produced by humans in a laboratory.
“Professor Montagnier spreads whimsical theories, ” he told the French weekly L’Obs. Schwartz explained that “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes 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, which was the first in Europe to do so.”
Theories about a possible human origin of the coronavirus were fueled after it emerged that US intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus could have accidentally come out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology , which houses the Virus Culture Center, a lab that stores Asia’s most important virus where more than 1,500 varieties are preserved.
When asked about this hypothesis, US President Donald Trump said that “we are increasingly hearing this story” and that the United States was conducting an “in-depth investigation.”
However, scientists believe the virus appeared in a bat and passed to man through an intermediate species, probably the pangolin.
But the truth is that the origin of the virus is still shrouded in mystery.
A study by a group of Chinese scientists, published in January in The Lancet, revealed that the first COVID-19 patient had no connection to the Wuhan animal market, nor did 13 of the first 41 patients.
Shi Zhengli, a leading Chinese expert on bat coronavirus and deputy director of the Wuhan Laboratory, was part of the team that published the first study suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’s official name) came from bats.
In an interview with Scientific American magazine, Shi said that the SARS-CoV-2 genome does not match any of the bat coronaviruses that his laboratory studied so far.
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According to Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity researcher at King’s College London, although there is no evidence on the theory of the accident in the laboratory, there is also no “real evidence” that the virus came from the market.
“For me, the origin of the pandemic is still an unanswered question,” he told AFP.