The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses, performed by Scripps Research Institute from the US, showed that there was no evidence that the virus was engineered in a laboratory.
The study says that the Chinese coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan last year is the product of natural evolution. The findings of the research were published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The researchers found that the RBD (receptor-binding domain) portion of the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins had evolved to effectively target a molecular feature on the outside of human cells ACE2, a receptor involved in regulating blood pressure.
The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was so effective at binding the human cells that the scientists concluded it was the result of natural selection and not the product of genetic engineering.
Kristian Andersen, Ph.D., an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research and corresponding author on the paper, says: “By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes.”