The novel coronavirus that is currently causing a worldwide pandemic was not artificially engineered in a laboratory, nor did it originate in a Wuhan, China fish market, according to a new scientific study. As ABC News reports, these findings put to rest misconceptions about the origin of the deadly pandemic.
An analysis of the genetic makeup of the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2 as it's scientifically known, was published this week in the scientific journal Nature Medicine. In the study, researchers concluded that there is no evidence that the pathogen was created from whole cloth or artificially manipulated into its current form.
Specifically, researchers concluded that the virus doesn't share any "previously used virus backbone." Likely, it arose from a recombination of viruses normally found in bats and in pangolins, a relative of the anteater.
This information puts to rest a conspiracy, which has gained traction in recent weeks, that the virus was engineered in a laboratory and possibly released on the world by interests hostile to the United States, such as North Korea.
The notion that the novel coronavirus is an engineered bio-weapon has gained the attention of some powerful individuals of late. For example, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently suggested that North Korea was responsible for the virus.Dr. Robert Garry, a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study, didn't name any names, but did concede that more than one powerful individual has drawn the wrong conclusion about the virus's supposed artificial origins.
"There's a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories that went to a pretty high level," Garry said.
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, reviewed the study and agreed that it demonstrates pretty clearly that the virus wasn't engineered in a lab.
"This study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19," Collins said.
Another misconception about the virus is that it originated in a Wuhan, China fish market. Garry says that the research doesn't support that conclusion.
"Our analyses, and others too, point to an earlier origin than that. There were definitely cases there, but that wasn't the origin of the virus," Garry said.
As of this writing, COVID-19, the respiratory illness that derives from the novel coronavirus, has claimed over 25,000 lives worldwide, according to Worldometers. In the U.S., which is now the epicenter of the virus, the disease has claimed more than 1,100 lives and is confirmed in 86,000 cases nationwide.