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Is Covid Man-Made? Two Theories of Origin and Why It Matters Now?

COVID 19 illustration

Ever since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the questions such as, “Where did the virus come from?”, “Is Covid man-made?” have not been answered with the scientific temperament that one would expect. 

Between February and March 2020, our news feeds were filled with reports of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of Covid-19 being natural. This piece of information was considered absolute and anyone who argued otherwise was labelled as a conspiracy theorist. Thus, it resulted in the lack of proper discourse, which goes against the scientific spirit. 

However, people from the scientific community as well as world leaders are now looking into the origins of the virus based on logic and hard evidence, and are trying to piece together what happened.

How does a virus transmit from an animal to a human?

  1. Natural Occurrence: 

Many animals in the wild carry pathogens harmful to humans. SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-Cov are examples of such pathogens. These pathogens can sometimes transfer or ‘spillover’ to humans through ways such as working closely with infected livestock, or any other form of contact with infected wildlife, pets, etc. This is called zoonosis. 

However, in this kind of ‘spillover’, there is a source animal, where the virus or the pathogen originates, and an intermediary animal, that acts as a bridge between the source and humans. 

  1. Lab Leak:

In many virology labs, scientists study deadly viruses to understand them better and develop measures to counter them in case of an emergency, such as a pandemic. However, due to insufficient bio-safety measures or mismanagement, sometimes, these viruses escape or ‘leak’ from the labs and infect people. 

For example, the SARS1 virus leaked 4 times from the Chinese National Institute of Virology in Beijing. 

Flaws with the Natural Occurrence Theory

  1. Intermediary Animal Unknown

For viruses such as coronaviruses to jump from their source (i.e., Horseshoe Bats) to humans, there needs to be an intermediary animal. 

In the case of SARS1, the virus went from bats to farm civets, and then to humans as civets are consumed in China. This data was made available in just 4 months. Similarly, in the case of MERS, the virus jumped from bats to camels, and then to humans as camels are consumed in the Middle East. This data was again made available in just 9 months. 

But, in the case of SARS-CoV-2 (i.e. Covid-19), even after 15 months of being declared a pandemic, China has still not declared the intermediary animal. There are some speculations that the intermediary animal is a pangolin but that has not been 100% confirmed. 

  1. Conflict of Interest

In February 2020, a group of virologists wrote in the Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, that scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this [SARS-CoV-2] coronavirus originated in wildlife”. Any claim other than the virus being natural was called a “conspiracy theory”, and with this, this group of virologists quashed any voice that stated otherwise.

The Lancet letter solidified the ‘natural occurrence’ theory and shaped the perceptions of the public and the media in favour of it. However, upon a deeper look, we come to realise that the letter may have other motivations.

Nicholas Wade, a reputed science writer who has worked with Nature, Science, New York Times and many other prominent publications, published a paper called “The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?” in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists where he has critiqued the Lancet letter. 

Wade writes, “the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers.”

He further mentions, “Virologists like Daszak had much at stake in the assigning of blame for the pandemic. For 20 years, mostly beneath the public’s attention, they had been playing a dangerous game.” 

Evidence of Manipulation of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

A new research paper by British professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sorenson, which is going to be published in the scientific journal Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, claims that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has “no credible natural ancestor”, reported the Daily Mail. 

Furthermore, the paper claims that Chinese scientists took a natural coronavirus “backbone” found in Chinese cave bats and spliced it onto a new “spike”, thus turning it into a deadly and highly transmissible disease, essentially making Covid-19 man-made.

The paper also claims to have found “unique fingerprints” in the Covid-19 samples which the authors mention could have only arisen from manipulation done in a laboratory. 

Read the full paper here.


China has a history of restricting, suppressing and controlling information. In February 2021, a WHO commission visited China but the composition of the commission, as well as the access, was heavily controlled by the Chinese authorities, said Nicholas Wade in his paper.

Dr Li-Meng Yan, who was the first person to claim that the virus was manipulated in a lab said that the Chinese authorities “targeted” her and tried to make her “disappear”. 

We are still not sure about the origins of Covid-19, whether it is natural or man-made. There are a lot of clues but nothing definite. However, in light of these recent developments, both the US and UK have decided to examine the entire scenario meticulously. POTUS Joe Biden has asked the US intelligence to “redouble their efforts” and come to a conclusion on the origins of Covid-19 and report back to him within 90 days, and China needs to work together with global authorities with full transparency to solve this mystery.

This report was filed by Aman Kumar Vidyarthi.

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Aman Vidyarthi
Aman Vidyarthi is an aspiring journalist interested in tech, entertainment, and world news. He spends most of his time on the interwebs going through obscure and niche trends and topics.

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