Could the novel coronavirus come from a research facility? Some people say this – that’s what top virologist Christian Drosten says about it.
Zurich / Berlin – “This is an industry with close contact with people where they can get infected”: The Berlin virologist Christian Drosten sees the path via the fur industry as the most plausible among the various hypotheses on the origin of Sars-CoV-2 *.
“I don’t have any evidence for this, other than the clearly established origin of Sars-1, and this is a virus of the same species. Viruses of the same species do the same things and often have the same origin, ”Drosten told the Swiss online magazine republic further. In 2002 and 2003, a wave of infections emanating from China resulted in around 800 deaths worldwide. The condition has been called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars). The Sars-CoV-2 pathogen, which was detected for the first time at the end of 2019, is very closely related to the virus at the time.
Drosten: The most plausible source for Corona is China’s fur industry
With the first Sars virus, the transitional hosts were raccoon dogs and crawling cats, said Drosten. “That is certain.” In China, raccoon dogs are still used extensively in the fur industry. Wild raccoon dogs that may have previously eaten bats – which are considered to be the most likely origin of Sars-CoV-2 – are repeatedly brought into the breeding farms. “Raccoon dogs and crawling cats are lively pulled over their ears,” explained the Charité virologist. They emit death screams and roar, and aerosols are created in the process. Humans can then become infected with the virus. “
For him it was surprising that this breeding would be considered again as a possible starting point for a pandemic * – until recently he lived “in the naive idea” that crawling cats and raccoon dogs, as known potential transitional hosts, are now being controlled. “It was a closed story for me. I thought that this type of pet trade had been stopped and that it would never come back. And now Sars has come back. “
There are no concrete indications that the transition to humans took place via fur farms – there are no studies in this area at all, at least none have become public. It is therefore completely unclear whether raccoon dogs in Chinese farms or other carnivores in such breeds – such as minks – carry Sars-CoV-2. “In 2003 and 2004 there were major studies that were done in China and that proved the connection to raccoon dogs and crawling cats for Sars-1.” This time – at least so far – apparently it did not happen.
Could Corona come from the laboratory? Drosten thinks that is unlikely
It may not make sense to take a closer look there now: “Of course, you have to realize that if you were to examine such stocks now, you might not find the virus that was there – possibly – a year and a half or two years ago. If there was a cull in between. Or if the virus died in some other way. “
Regarding the thesis that the virus * was accidentally or intentionally generated in a laboratory, Drosten said that, from a purely technical point of view, this is within the scope of what is possible, but: “If someone had developed Sars-2 in this way, then I would say he made it quite cumbersome. ”With the first Sars virus as a basis, one would have most likely only changed very specific areas for research purposes – but Sars-CoV-2 is full of deviations from the first virus.
“Let me explain it with a picture: To check, for example, whether adjustments make the virus more contagious, I would take an existing system, incorporate the change and then compare it with the old system,” the virologist explained. “If I want to know whether a new car radio improves the sound, I take an existing car and replace the radio there. Then I compare. I’m not building a completely new car for this. But that’s exactly how it was with Sars-2: The whole car is different. “
That is why the idea of a research accident is “extremely unlikely” for him. To the idea of malicious use of some secret service laboratory, one ultimately has to ask the secret services: “If anything, something like this would probably not come from the Wuhan Virology Institute. This is a serious academic institute. ” (dpa / frs)