Is coronavirus a biochemical weapon manufactured in China or the US?

As the coronavirus causes more than 20,000 deaths around the globe, a conspiracy theory gaining popularity is that the virus is in fact a biochemical weapon

Web Desk
The coronavirus as seen through a microscope. Photo by: Reuters

One of the advantages of the digital age is the fact that information is just a click away for millions across the globe. All you need is an internet connection to have a large platform and say whatever you want or inform yourself about any topic. The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to anxiety, panic, and trepidation across the globe. As a result, many conspiracy theories have emerged on the internet. One of these is that the coronavirus is a bioweapon manufactured in a laboratory.

The theory that the COVID-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) is a bioweapon has no credible evidence to back it. However, politicians in the US and China have both suggested that the virus could be made by humans. For instance, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) tweeted on January 30, 2020:

American social scientist and author Steve Mosher wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he suggested that the coronavirus could have leaked from a Chinese lab. The only ‘evidence’ that Mosher and the senator have is that there was a biosafety level BSL-4 lab in Wuhan, China. It is true that BSL-4 labs do work on complex and dangerous viruses such as Ebola, Lassa fever, and Marburg but to say that the virus is a biochemical weapon simply because of the existence of a single BSL-4 lab in Wuhan is a bit of a stretch.

For one, there are six BSL-4 labs in the US in Atlanta, GA, Frederick, MD, Galveston, TX, Hamilton, MT, and San Antonio, TX. Reports state seven others are planned to be constructed. A BSL-4 lab is a highly sensitive place and for a lab to be qualified as a BSL-4 one, it has to have proper ventilation systems in place, reinforced walls and security systems.

When US President Donald Trump was asked why he referred to the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus’ he said that it was in response to claims from China that the US military manufactured the virus.

A study published by a research team in Nature Medicine pointed out how the coronavirus is not a biochemical weapon. A research team (Kristian G. Andersen from The Scripps Research Institute, Andrew Rambaut from the University of Edinburgh, W. Ian Lipkin from the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, Edward C. Holmes from The University of Sydney and Robert F. Garry from Tulane University) showed that the protein spikes in the coronavirus were so effective in targeting human receptors that it doesn’t seem possible at all that the virus can be manufactured in a lab by human beings.

“The researchers then concluded that this feature and thus the new coronavirus could have in all likelihood only evolved over time naturally. You see humans can make useful stuff like ride-sharing apps but are still quite puny compared to nature when it comes to making stuff like viruses.

“In fact, the research team found that the SARS-CoV-2 structure in general is quite different from what humans would have likely concocted. If a human had wanted to create a viral weapon, he or she would have started with the structure of a virus that’s already known to cause illness in people,” read a few lines from a Forbes report on the same issue.

So, there you go. The conspiracy theory that the virus was manufactured in a lab somewhere either in China or the US is a far-fetched one. Also, it is most likely that the infection jumped from bats through an intermediary host to human beings as was suggested for the SARS infection.