Australian scientists at Flinders University in Adelaide and Latrobe University in Melbourne have studied how COVID-19 is transmitted among humans compared to other animals. Nikolai Petrovsky, Professor of Medicine at Flinders University, said the coronavirus is “almost perfectly human adapted” after the striking study found humans were the most susceptible to the virus compared to other animals; including bats.
Coronavirus has now infected more than five million people globally and killed more than 340,000 others.
The virus expert has insisted COVID-19 is like no other disease as it is “completely optimised from day one without the need to evolve”.
Professor Petrovsky has supported an inquiry into the origin of the virus – which is also backed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
China has come under increasing scrutiny over its handling of the pandemic amid growing claims the virus began in a Wuhan Laboratory – something Beijing has always denied.
The leading virologist has not ruled out the theory the disease was made in a lab but insisted it is also perfectly possible the virus began naturally.
He told Daily Mail Australia: “This is a new virus that has never been in humans before, but it has an extraordinarily high binding to human receptors, which is very surprising.
“It is almost perfectly human adapted, it couldn’t do any better.
“We have to ask how that happened. Was it a complete fluke? It can be as nature has many shots at goal and you only see the ones that land.
“Another possibility which still cannot be excluded is that SARS-CoV-2 was created by a recombination event that occurred inadvertently or consciously in a laboratory handling coronaviruses, with the new virus then accidentally released into the local human population.”
In the research project, the team examined the closest disease to COVID-19 – the BatCoV RaTG1 found in bats, that is 96 per cent similar to coronavirus.
The team concluded its potency would need significant adaptation to be able to infect humans at the rate of COVID-19.
Professor Petrovsky insisted an investigation into the cause of the virus should have already been launched and conceded we may never know how the virus began as evidence may already be lost.
He said: “There’s no smoking gun inside the virus as they evolve and pick up genetic material from everywhere, just studying the virus itself won’t tell us anything further.
“I don’t think we’ll have definitive proof either way, so we have to investigate to determine what is more probable.
“No one can say a laboratory leak is not a possibility.”
Published at Tue, 26 May 2020 23:03:00 +0000