No, the coronavirus was not genetically engineered in a Wuhan lab, scientists believe

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You could be forgiven for wondering how a disease as fast-moving and deadly as COVID-19 could just appear naturally, out of nowhere, seemingly overnight. President Trump expressed doubt, saying that “a lot of people” were looking at the possibility that a Chinese lab was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. …

But the truth is almost certainly not that salacious. Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Tulane University School of Medicine, said this dynamic is familiar. “Every time there’s an outbreak, people say, oh, there’s a lab close by.”…

According to a growing body of research, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is almost certainly a naturally occurring virus that initially circulated in bats then spilled into humans….

Related article:  Opinion: To reduce the likelihood of future pandemics, we need to rethink our relationship with wild animals and wild places

To genetically engineer a new virus, scientists can combine pieces of viruses they’ve seen before. In the case of a genetically engineered coronavirus that was designed to infect humans, the bulk of its genetic material — its “backbone” — would come from SARS or a close relative… . But the backbone doesn’t look like any disease-causing virus, and other key parts of the virus are new to science.

“I’ve been really lucky to know a lot of talented virologists, and they’re not clever enough to come up with a virus that’s quite this good at spreading,” [Garry said].

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