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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, talk that the coronavirus could have been created artificially - unconfirmed rumors, should not be believed.

“In order to say that it was created, there must be at least some evidence. Literally, we can say anything, including that the moon is made of cheese, but without proof, this is worthless. To date, there is no scientific evidence that would withstand at least some scientific criticism. It's just a conspiracy theory in its purest form, ”says Esilevsky.

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

“Conspiracy theories attract people because they give some kind of semblance of control over the situation. Anyone is uncomfortable in situations that they have no control over. There are people for whom this discomfort translates into the fact that they are trying to find some kind of external force that controls everything in order to relieve themselves of responsibility. It calms people down psychologically. The appearance of this during periods of shocks, global cataclysms and stresses is intensifying, therefore, naturally, conspiracy theories are also strengthening, ”the scientist says.

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 turned out to be a very bad weapon. Viruses that have been used as biological weapons do not have the same lethality as the coronavirus. Anyone, even with little understanding of biology, can simply google what, for example, anthrax is, and be impressed with what this virus is, or what, for example, pneumonic plague is. These are viruses with colossal lethality, which exceeds 50 percent. If the current strain is created as a weapon, then those who created it should be fired, because this is just hack, says Esilevsky. - The second version is based on the fact that one of the co-authors of the work, which created chimeric viruses in 2015, worked in Wuhan at a university in the same region where this coronavirus came from. But if you are researching the viruses of bats - and this was work on the virus of bats - then it is quite logical to establish laboratories where, firstly, these bats are found, so that not half the world, but, secondly, where from these bats are in for some trouble. 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 people. Where else to establish a zoological laboratory for the study of bat viruses, if not there? And this version turns everything upside down. They say that since they have been studied, it means that it 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 it is not easy to keep bats under laboratory conditions. This is not an ordinary mouse, not a rat or hamsters. There is a lot of trouble with them. It is almost impossible to keep some species of bats in the laboratory, they need to be caught somewhere, and it is desirable to be located where they are easy to catch 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 a virus to 'escape', it must find a carrier, since a virus is not a living being, it is just RNA in an envelope. He must get to the carrier. If the carrier is a person, then, of course, it is necessary for the person to become infected. It is possible that he will infect some animal. In virological laboratories of this class, the third or fourth class of protection, which work with pathogenic human viruses, there are a number of protection solutions so that these viruses cannot "escape", says the scientist. - All material is disposed of. We worked with, say, a bat, it died - it is burned to the state of ash. No biomaterial gets outside, everything dissolves. Everything is disinfected: at the entrance, at the exit, biosecurity suits, "cosmonauts", as they are called. For each protection class of the laboratory there are certain protocols according to which all this should be done. Nobody rules out bugginess, and one cannot say that this can never happen, but it 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 with biological weapons is that it is not clear how to protect whoever uses them. This is either just a total genocide of all mankind, or it will not work normally, there is no third way. In fiction, you can find many options for resolving this issue, biosafety experts have considered this too. One option is to create viruses that, for example, selectively infect people with a certain 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 purebred people, so to speak, are practically nowhere in the world. All are mixed in one way or another. In addition, no infection in human history can be found that selectively affects one 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 lock yourself in a bunker and wait until everyone is dead, and then get out of there. From logical options: injecting yourself with an antidote that will prevent you from getting sick, this is from the same field of science fiction. You have to understand that the virus is mutating. The virus that you launch after a while will no longer be exactly the one that you launched: some hybridization of it with some next virus of bats may occur, and something else will turn out. No one can guarantee that your antidote, even if we miraculously created it, will save you from this hybrid. It's like opening Pandora's box and continuing to play Russian roulette, ”says the scientist.

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

“According to the available data, it seems that he really appeared there. Not a single case of infection has been traced before and it is not clear where it could have been brought from. Moreover, when the genome of the virus was analyzed, it most of all resembles the genome of Chinese bats, not some other animals or 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 photoshopped 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, blurred, and so on. The same thing happens when there are genetic modifications. It is quite difficult to make a genetic modification of the virus so that the ears of the fact that this is artificially done do not stick out. Experts say that 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 a high probability, this is the result of a natural process. There is such a maxim: you cannot prove what is not, you cannot prove that it was not done artificially. You can only prove a positive statement, not a negative one. But, as I said, if it is done artificially, the person who did it gets a deuce, and get out of the class. It was done carelessly, ”says Esilevsky.

Educational program coronavirus Special Projects expert

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