Just another day in a cold Biotech War?
“The international team of researchers suggest the virus may have mutated to have a furin cleavage site during experiments on human cells in a lab.”
To put this in perspective the whole virus is essentially a code with 29,000 bases in a row, and this story is about a sequence of 19.
The code is in the same four letter “alphabet”, more or less, as all life on Earth — A, T*, C and G. But in this new discovery there are 19 particular bases (or nucleotides) in a row. These are the bases that were so useful that Moderna patented the sequence in 2016. Oddly, no other coronavirus has that sequence. Indeed, nothing else in a virus or animal cell does either.
The reason these 19 bases are so interesting is that they make up the critical point called the “Furin Cleavage Site”. Furin is an enzyme inside our cells that acts like a specialist scissor, cutting only certain proteins in an exact way. A number of nasty germs sneak in and use our Furin snippy tools too — like HIV and Ebola, and also influenza, dengue and now one coronavirus. The “Furin Cleavage Site” is the part of the virus spike that has a target painted on it for the Furin enzyme to find. It’s the exact right configuration to get “the snip”.And this snip or bit of pruning is “vital for human and ferret transmission”. It also seems to make the disease more severe.
h/t to OriginalSteve and Will
Now scientists find virus contains tiny chunk of DNA that matches sequence patented by Moderna THREE YEARS before pandemic began
Connor Boyd, DailyMail
It is the only coronavirus of its type to carry 12 unique letters that allow its spike protein to be activated by a common enzyme called furin, allowing it to spread between human cells with ease.
Twelve of the shared letters make up the structure of Covid’s furin cleavage site, with the rest being a match with nucleotides on a nearby part of the genome.
Writing in the paper, led by Dr Balamurali Ambati, from the University of Oregon, the researchers said the matching code may have originally been introduced to the Covid genome through infected human cells expressing the MSH3 gene.
The exactly 19 letters are CTCCTCGGCGGGCACGTAG, since you asked. The researchers write that this is “very rare in the NCBI BLAST database.“ (That’s the huge US government collection of gene sequences). Indeed, they say, it is absent “from any eukaryotic or viral genome” — Eukaryote being the word that describes any life on Earth more complicated than a bacteria.
So the exact 19 letter sequence is only found in the Moderna patent and SARS-2 which is, well… “odd”.
As an aside, in this story, the DailyMail is pushing the upper bounds of science communication. I’ve never seen a newspaper get this interested or this detailed in genetic codes — it’s all the more surprising given it is also the kind of newspaper which has several clickbait bikini-clad news stories every single day.
It’s a strange moment we are living in. I’m glad the DailyMail is looking.
But don’t forget that it’s the 12 nucleotides in the middle of the 19 that especially matter, because they are the new nucleotides that weren’t in SARS-1.
So, what are the odds of these bolded 12 new bases appearing. The paper tries to calculate and the authors estimate the odds of these occurring naturally are one-in-[thirty-one-billion**]. I never get too excited about declarations of that sort. But the paper authors feel this is ” highly unusual and requires further investigations” which is definitely true.
The DailyMail found some other experts who are not so sure at all — viruses are, after all, mutation machines, and an infected person might be making a trillion viruses per ml in their saliva, so even one-in-three-trillion odds can be all in a days work. Nonetheless, as The DailyMail recognises, those who do know what’s going on have lied about every part of this epidemic from the start.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, an eminent British expert who publicly denounced the theory as a ‘conspiracy’, admitted in a private email in February 2020 that a ‘likely explanation’ was that the virus was man-made.
The then-UK Government adviser said at the time he was ’70:30 or 60:40′ in favour of an accidental release versus natural origin.
In the email, sent to American health chiefs Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Francis Collins, Sir Jeremy said it was possible Covid had been evolved from a Sars-like virus in the lab.
He went on that this seemingly benign process may have ‘accidentally created a virus primed for rapid transmission between humans’.
But the British scientist was shut down by his counterparts in the US who warned further debate about the origins of the virus could damage ‘international harmony’.
And this is possibly the Crime of the Century, so we ought pay attention. If WWIII has bioweapons, the more of us that understand them, the better.
*Yes, in RNA the code letter T is really a U. That’s a long and interesting story for another day.
**Corrected from 3 trillion, which the Dailymail got wrong, and I carelessly copied. Thanks Robert and Leo. Not that “trillion” or “billion” matters much in the silly game of “what are the odds”.