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Weapons and escape from the laboratory: the most popular coronavirus conspiracy theories

Semen Yesilevsky, biophysicist, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences, leading researcher at the Institute of Physics of the National Academy of Sciences and the scholarship program named after Marie Curie at the University of Burgundy Franche-Comté, France, told why one should not trust the talk that the coronavirus was created artificially. Writes about it "Voice of America".

Photo: Shutterstock

According to the biophysicist, rumors that coronavirus could have been created artificially - rumors that were not confirmed by anything, should not be trusted.

“In order to say that it was created, there must be at least some evidence. Verbally, we can say anything, including the fact that the moon is made of cheese, but without evidence it costs nothing. To date, there is no evidence of scientific evidence that could withstand at least some scientific criticism. It's just a conspiracy theory in its purest form, ”says Yisilevsky.

But this theory has become very widespread only because people want to somehow control the situation.

“Conspiracy theories attract people because they give some semblance of control over the situation. Any person is uncomfortable in situations that he does not control. There are people in whom this discomfort results in the fact that they are trying to find some external force that controls everything in order to relieve themselves of responsibility. This psychologically calms people. The appearance of this during periods of upheaval, global cataclysms and stresses is amplified, therefore, naturally, conspiracy theories are also intensified, ”says the scientist.

There are two main “versions” of the origin of the coronavirus COVID-19: it was created artificially or it “escaped” from the laboratory.

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“If we talk about the" harsh "version - that this virus was created as a kind of biological weapon - then it is untenable, if only because this virus made a very bad weapon. Viruses that were used as biological weapons do not have the same lethality as coronavirus. Any person who does not even understand much in biology can simply google what anthrax is, for example, and be impressed with what this virus is, or what is, for example, pulmonary plague. These are viruses with a colossal lethality, which exceeds far beyond 50 percent. If the current strain was created as a weapon, then those who created it must be fired because it’s just hack, ”says Ysilevsky. - The second version is based on the fact that one of the co-authors of the work that created chimeric viruses in 2015 worked in Wuhan at a university in the very region where this coronavirus came from. But if you study bat viruses - and it was a work about the bat virus - then it’s quite logical to establish laboratories where, firstly, these bats are found not to be halfway around the world, and secondly, where These bats are expected to have some kind of problem. In China, this all coincides, because there bats breed in large numbers, they are eaten there, sold in markets, and there have already been cases of transmission of infection from bats to humans. Where else to establish a zoological laboratory for the study of bat viruses, if not there? And this version turns everything upside down. Like, once they were studied, then this is confirmation that the virus is from the laboratory. "

And the reason for the need to create a laboratory for the study of bat viruses exactly where there is a problem with them, in Wuhan, was that keeping bats in an artificial environment is quite difficult.

“The fact is that keeping bats in the laboratory is not easy. This is not an ordinary mouse, not a rat or a hamster. With them a lot of trouble. It is practically impossible to keep some types of bats in the laboratory, they must be caught somewhere, and it is advisable to be where they are easily caught and where there are so many of them. This explains everything, ”says Semyon.

In addition, the virus could not “escape” from the laboratory, it was necessary that someone infected them and infect others.

“In order for the virus to“ escape ”, it must find a carrier, since the virus is not a living creature, it’s just RNA in the envelope. It should get to the carrier. If the carrier is a person, then, naturally, it is necessary that the person becomes infected. It is possible that he will infect some animal. In virology laboratories of this class, third or fourth class of protection, which work with pathogenic human viruses, there are a number of protection solutions to prevent these viruses from escaping, the scientist says. - All material is disposed of. They worked, say, with a bat, she died - she is burned to the state of ash. No biomaterial gets out, everything dissolves. Everything is disinfected: at the entrance, at the exit, biosecurity suits, “astronauts,” as they are called. For each laboratory protection class, there are certain protocols by which all this must be done. No one excludes headaches, and one cannot say that it never can be, but this is very unlikely. ”

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Also, the use of any kind of virus as a biological weapon, as conceived by many conspiracy theories, is also impractical, since the spread of the virus cannot be controlled.

“The main problem of biological weapons is that it is not clear how to protect the one who uses it. This is either just the total genocide of all mankind, or it will not work normally, there is no third. In science fiction, you can find many options for resolving this issue, biosafety experts have also considered this. One option is to create viruses that, for example, selectively infect people with a particular type. For example, a certain race, a certain nationality, and so on. But this idea does not work, if only because the races are not so different from each other as to cause the selectivity of the virus, says Esilevsky, and, secondly, simply because there are almost no purebred people anywhere in the world, so to speak. Everything is somehow mixed up. In addition, no infection can be found in human history that selectively infects a single race. All infections affect everyone. ”

It is also impossible to create a vaccine that would completely and certainly protect against the virus.

“The simplest thing is to close in the bunker and wait for everyone to die, and then get out of there. From the logical options: inject yourself with an antidote that will not let you get sick, this is from the same area of ​​science fiction. You must understand that the virus mutates. The virus that you launch, after a while, will not be exactly the one you launched: it may hybridize with some regular bat virus, and you get something third. No one guarantees that your antidote, even if we created it by some miracle, will save you from this hybrid. It’s like opening a Pandora’s box and playing Russian roulette further, ”the scientist shares.

According to Ysilevsky, all the data so far discovered indicate that the virus appeared in Wuhan.

“According to the data that is, it seems that he really appeared there. Not a single case of infection can be traced before and it is not visible where it could have been imported from. Moreover, when the virus genome was analyzed, it most of all resembles the genome of Chinese bats, not some other animals and not from another country. From all this we can conclude that he appeared there, ”says Esilevsky.

The journal Nature recently published the results of a study according to which no signs of modification are noticeable in the coronavirus, indicating its natural origin. And according to the scientist, if this were not so, then it would certainly be visible.

“Imagine you are looking at a photographed picture and trying to prove that it is a fake. If you look at this picture pixel by pixel under a microscope, then if it is not done very well, you will notice interference. You can notice retouching, incorrectly lying shadows, blurry and so on. About the same thing happens when there are genetic modifications. To make a genetic modification of the virus so that the ears do not stick out that it is artificially made is quite difficult. Experts say this is almost impossible, ”says the scientist.

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That is, if this strain was artificially created, then it would be noticeable, since there is no evidence for this and since it is so similar to the bat virus, it means it appeared naturally.

“Yes, with high probability, this is the result of a natural process. There is such a maxim: you cannot prove that what is not, you cannot prove that this is not done artificially. Only a positive statement can be proved, not a negative one. But, as I said, if this was done artificially, the one who did it is a deuce, and get out of the class. It’s done carelessly, ”says Ysilevsky.

Educational program coronavirus Special Projects expert

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