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There are two things that I’ve learned about antivaccine activists, an aspect of their movement that has remained and continues to remain very consistent. The first is that to them it is always, always, always about the vaccines. To them, no matter what the disease or health condition, vaccines cause or exacerbate it. I’ve long recognized this aspect of antivaxxers. A recent example occurred when antivaxxers tried to blame the vaccine strain of measles for the deadly measles outbreak in Samoa late last year.

The second is that they are conspiracy theorists par excellence. This observation should not be surprising given that antivaccine views are strongly grounded in conspiracy theories, particularly what I like to call the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement, namely that “they” (the CDC, big pharma, doctors, etc.) “know” that vaccines cause autism and all the adverse health effects falsely attributed to them by antivaxxers but are covering up the studies and data showing that vaccines are harmful and don’t work. For instance, in 2005, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. first promulgated a version this “they knew but are covering it up” conspiracy theory with his take on the CDC Simpsonwood conference. Indeed, the entire “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory is a variant of “‘they’ know but cover it up,” as was Del Bigtree’s recent dishonest cherry-picking of quotes from the World Health Organization Vaccine Safety Summit a couple of months ago. Second, to antivaxxers, it’s always, always, always the vaccines. This brings me to the coronavirus outbreak.

Not surprisingly, any time there’s an outbreak, antivaxxers find a way to blame it on vaccines or to spin it as a conspiracy on the part of big pharma to force a new vaccines on an unsuspecting population. They did that during the H1N1 pandemic ten years ago, and again during the Ebola virus outbreaks a few years ago. So it’s no surprise that it’s happening now that there is a large outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that can cause severe disease. Coronaviruses are very common, and most cause relatively mild upper respiratory infections, but there have been coronavirus strains that cause severe disease, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which caused a major outbreak 18 years ago in Asia, and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which was even more lethal (a greater than 30% case fatality rate), which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The current outbreak due to newly identified 2019-nCoV strain began in Wuhan, China and has since spread throughout China (and beyond) and killed over 800 so far and sickened tens of thousands (at least that are known). So it’s not surprising that the conspiracy theories popping up about the 2019-nCoV outbreak are heavily tainted with antivaccine spin.

Let’s take a look at one such conspiracy theory that, although nonsensical from a scientific viewpoint, is not the sort of nonsense that even most lay people can spot as ridiculous, like the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates created 2019-nCoV in order to push vaccines or that the virus is being pushed out by shadowy forces in order to impose “harmful” 5G technology and radiation on an unsuspecting populace. The following conspiracy theory relies on misinterpreting science in a manner that could sound very plausible to the lay public, because it relies on the misuse of the tools of molecular biology in order to blame the 2019-nCoV outbreak on, in essence, an attempt to make a vaccine against the SARS coronavirus 15 years ago.

James Lyons-Weiler: 2019-nCoV was due to a failed attempt at a coronavirus vaccine

This conspiracy theory blew up last week after it had been featured on the antivaccine YouTube show The HighWire With Del Bigtree that was first released on January 31, followed by press releases last Monday that really drove the show viral:

The basic idea that I’ll discuss in more detail in a moment, comes to us courtesy of James Lyons-Weiler. We’ve met him once before on this blog, when he attacked a study that found that autism is primarily genetic. In brief, he’s a former scientist. (I say “former” because he has abandoned good science in favor of antivaccine pseudoscience and no longer rates that title in my estimation, given the sorts of antivaccine pseudoscience he’s published lately.) Unfortunately, this conspiracy theory has blown up to the point where Lyons-Weiler is bragging that he’s gotten over 200,000 unique visits to his website over the week since Del Bigtree featured him on his show.

The conspiracy theory begins in this post, “On the Origins of the 2019-nCoV Virus, Wuhan, China“, in which he goes to great lengths to convince you that his conspiracy theory is reasonable by first “considering,” seemingly very carefully, alternate explanations for the phenomenon being “explained” by their conspiracy theory. Thus, Lyons-Weiler tries to knock down three alternate explanations before coming to the fourth:

  1. 2019-nCoV is related to bat coronaviruses and not a recombined virus.
  2. 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a recombined virus that naturally picked up a SARS-like spike protein in it N-terminus (3′ end) of the viral genome.
  3. 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a recombined virus made in a laboratory for the purpose of creating a bioweapon.
  4. 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a recombined virus made in a laboratory for the purpose of creating a vaccine.

Of course, most scientists have already rejected #1 and consider #2 the most likely origin of the new strain, as I will discuss at the end of this section. #3, of course, is a conspiracy theory that crops up every time there’s an outbreak caused by a dangerous new pathogen, and it doesn’t help that there’s supposedly a high security biolab around 30 miles away from Wuhan, whose proximity to the city led the conspiracy theories to write themselves.

So on what basis does Lyons-Weiler base his claim that 2019-nCoV is a recombined virus made for the purpose of creating a vaccine? The long version is in the post to which I linked above. The short version is in this press release:

Dr. Lyons-Weiler, of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge, showed and explained how the coronavirus’s genetic sequence–which has been publicly released by China– contains a unique “middle fragment” encoding a SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) spike protein that appears, according to his genomic analysis, to have been inserted into the 2019-nCoV virus using “pShuttle” technology. This technique can only be done in a lab, as it has never occurred naturally in nature.

Dr. Lyons-Weiler buttresses his point with the following facts:

  • The sequence similarity of nCoV middle fragment to other coronavirus genome sequences is lower to its most similar sequences in any coronavirus than the rest of the genome;
  • The high sequence similarity of the fragment to a SARS spike protein;
  • The significant sequence similarity of the 2019-nCoV genome middle fragment to a pShuttle vector that was in use in the late 1980’s in China to create a more immunogenic coronavirus
  • Other scientists have ruled out a natural recombination origin of 2019-nCoV but no one has provided any other explanation for the novel middle fragment.

“This isn’t a ‘conspiracy theory,’ it is a scientific, medical theory,” says Del Bigtree, the Emmy-winning producer and founder of non-profit Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN). “Its foundation is based on sound science, logic, and research, and the mainstream media needs to be asked whether it is going to pursue this link to SARS instead of trying to censor anyone who is trying to pursue truth via scientific fact.”

No, it’s a conspiracy theory. Lyons-Weiler rejects possibilities #1 and #2 without good reason. Indeed, he rejects #2 in particular as a “speculative hypothesis” by drawing upon a single paper that proposed that 2019-nCoV came about as a result of a recombination event between a strain of bat coronavirus (which 2019-nCoV most resembles in its RNA sequence, its being an RNA virus) and a SARS-like spike protein from a snake virus. The authors based their conclusion on their observation that the codon bias of the insert was most like that of snakes. (A codon is the three nucleotide “word” that codes for a given amino acid in the protein into which the nucleotide sequence is translated in the cell. The genetic code is redundant, meaning that a given amino acid is coded for by more than one three-nucleotide codon, and different species have different “biases” in which specific codon is used to specify a given amino acid.) The problem is that paper was not very good and was widely criticized by scientists as not having examined a wide enough range of species to conclude that the insert found in 2019-nCoV exhibited a codon bias for snakes. In his original post, though, Lyons-Weiler presented that paper as though it were the only evidence for a recombination event between a bat coronavirus strain and that infecting a different animal.

Which brings us to Lyons-Weiler’s claim that this virus is due to a vaccine strain that escaped:

IPAK researchers found a sequence similarity between a pShuttle-SN recombination vector sequence and INS1378. Here’s a shot of the alignment and the DOT Plot. Here’s the nucleotide sequence at NCBI’s Nucleotide database. Here’s a patent for its use in recombination virology. The pShuttle-SN vector was among many described in a 1998 paper by Bert Vogelstein et al; here is a company where one can purchase the pShuttle-SN vector.

Before I go any further, I did some BLAST searches for the “INS1378” sequence helpfully provided by Lyons-Weiler. (BLAST stands for Basic Local Alignment Search Tool; it’s an algorithm used to find similarities in nucleotide sequences in DNA and RNA. I’ve used it since I was a graduate student in the 1990s, and there’s a handy website with the tool maintained by the NIH that anyone can use.) Here is the result:

Not surprisingly, it’s all sequences related to the Wuhan market outbreak, although there is one short 361 nucleotide segment that closely resembles (78% identity) the bat sequence. I decided to try to replicate it by aligning the “INS1378” sequence with the pShuttle-SN sequence using the BLAST tool. My analysis found a sequence 1,182 nucleotides long with 68% identity (which, let me tell you, is not very high, particularly with all the gaps). Here’s a map of the pShuttle vector:

The molecular biologists will note that, like many vectors, pShuttle has a gene for neomycin resistance, allowing the selection of cells that take up the vector, and sequences known as “right arm” and “left arm” plus two ITR (inverted terminal repeats) that are used in transfer plasmids used to insert genes into adenovirus vectors because they facilitate recombination of the insert into the adenovirus. Basically, the “right arm” contains Ad5 (Adenovirus 5) nucleotides 3,534–5,790, which mediate homologous recombination with pAdEasy vectors used to insert genes into adenovirus to be used to infect cells and make the protein of interest. (For you molecular biology geeks, here’s the paper in which the construction of pShuttle was originally reported.)

Now here is the paper in which construction of pShuttle-SN was reported. It was indeed an attempt to make a vaccine against the SARS coronavirus, and, for you molecular biology geeks out there, here is how the vector was constructed, using an insert for the SARS coronavirus spike protein cloned into Xho4 and Kpn1 restriction enzyme sites:

And here are the results of my BLAST alignment:
pShuttle-SN versus INS1378

This is pretty good alignment, but certainly nowhere near slam dunk evidence for the origin of 2019-nCoV being the SARS-like spike protein coding sequence inserted into pShuttle-SN, especially when it’s almost certainly more likely that this sequence could have arisen naturally, given how many coronaviruses have SARS-like sequences in them. If this particular sequence in 2019-nCoV actually did come from the vector and the version of the SARS spike protein gene that was inserted into pShuttle to make pShuttle-SN, there should be large swaths of 100% match, if not 100% match.

Indeed, an actual expert pointed out on Twitter that the match should be close to 100% for the entire sequence:

I’m starting to think I know why Lyons-Weiler no longer runs a bioinformatics core.

Lyons-Weiler doesn’t stop there: Immunogenicity and SARS vaccines

Lyons-Weiler, not content just to point to his rather unconvincing sequence alignments and BLAST searches, has to find other reasons to justify his conspiracy theory, which is why he pivots straight to another leap of “logic”:

The very researchers conducting studies on SARS vaccines have cautioned repeatedly against human trials;

“An early concern for application of a SARS-CoV vaccine was the experience with other coronavirus infections which induced enhanced disease and immunopathology in animals when challenged with infectious virus [31], a concern reinforced by the report that animals given an alum adjuvanted SARS vaccine and subsequently challenged with SARS-CoV exhibited an immunopathologic lung reaction reminiscent of that described for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and in animal models given RSV vaccine and challenged naturally (infants) or artificially (animals) with RSV [32], [33]. We and others described a similar immunopathologic reaction in mice vaccinated with a SARS-CoV vaccine and subsequently challenged with SARS-CoV [18], [20], [21], [28]. It has been proposed that the nucleocapsid protein of SARS-CoV is the antigen to which the immunopathologic reaction is directed [18], [21]. Thus, concern for proceeding to humans with candidate SARS-CoV vaccines emerged from these various observations.” – Tseng et al.,

The disease progression in of 2019-nCoV is consistent with those seen in animals and humans vaccinated against SARS and then challenged with re-infection. Thus, the hypothesis that 2019-nCoV is an experimental vaccine type must be seriously considered.

This doesn’t even make sense. Yes, in animal models, animals vaccinated with a SARS vaccine then challenged with the SARS coronavirus developed severe disease due to an excessive immune reaction to the virus primed by the vaccine. That is indeed a reason to be very cautious moving to clinical trials of vaccines against SARS, MERS, or 2019-nCoV. It is quite a stretch to think that this observation strongly suggests that 2019-nCoV is likely to have come from a strain made in order to produce a coronavirus vaccine. Even Lyons-Weiler seems to realize this, characterizing the sequence homology (match) between INS1378 and pShuttle as low, but adding “but highly significant” in parentheses, going on to point that RNA viruses can mutate quickly, which is true but irrelevant to whether this low homology match between the insert found in 2019-nCoV and pShuttle means that 2019-nCoV came from a failed Chinese effort to make a vaccine against SARS. Seriously. Lyons-Weiler used to do genomics for a living before he turned to pseudoscience. Surely, at some level deep down, he must know what thin gruel he’s cooking up.

None of this stops him from fear mongering about 2019-nCoV:

The implications are clear: if China sensitized their population via a SARS vaccine, and this escaped from a lab, the rest of world has a serious humanitarian urgency to help China, but may not expect as serious an epidemic as might otherwise be expected.

In the worst-case scenario, if the vaccination strain is more highly contagious and lethal, 2019-nCoV could become the worst example of vaccine-derived contagious disease in human history. With an uncharacteristic aysmptomatic prodromal period of 5-7 days, individuals returning from China to other countries must be forthright and cooperative in their now-prescribed 2-week quarantine.

Yes, Lyons-Weiler is actually suggesting that the Chinese sensitized their population with a SARS vaccine (which, he implies, was created using pShuttle-SN) and that the vaccine strain of virus escaped from the lab. He then seems to realize that that possibility would mean that this outbreak would likely be short and quickly contained, as there is no evidence that China ever conducted a mass vaccination program against SARS, which would leave very few “sensitized” individuals. There is, after all, as yet no approved vaccine for SARS. So he has to add that bit about the “worst case scenario” in which 2019-nCoV is more contagious and lethal. The problem is that we already know that it’s definitely not more lethal than MERS (not even close, given that MERS is 34% fatal) and likely not more lethal than SARS. He’s just pulling these speculations out of his nether regions. Whatever the origin of 2019-nCoV, Institut Pasteur has not only isolated and sequenced the responsible strain, but figured out how to grow large amounts of it in culture, paving the way to studies to determine the mechanism for its pathogenicity and to develop an effective vaccine.

James Lyons-Weiler takes his conspiracy theory and runs with it

Lyons-Weiler is clearly very pleased with the attention his conspiracy theory is getting and the traffic to his website it’s generating, because since that first post, it’s been close to all coronavirus all the time on his blog. For instance, in a follow-up post, he is wildly speculating based on a variety of papers that the SARS-like spike protein did not come from a natural recombination event. In one passage, he dismisses speculation by scientists about a natural recombination event in which 2019-nCoV and SARS or a SARS-like coronavirus share a common ancestor because there are genomic differences between 2019-nCoV and the most recent common ancestry of the 2019-nCoV, the bat coronavirus strain HKU9-1, writing:

We can say with certainty that 2019-nCoV has at least two ancestors: the ancestry of the entire genome, and the ancestry of the SARS spike protein.

I discount the wild recombination idea because natural selection would likely remove individual animals if the recombination occurred in nature due to high mortality. So recombination in the wild is purely speculative.

Actually, recombination in the wild is far more plausible than Lyons-Weiler’s hare-brained extrapolation from a low homology match between the SARS spike protein sequence in pShuttle-SN and the SARS-like spike protein sequence in 2019-nCoV. Also, mortality of the infected animal would have to be incredibly high before it would impact natural selection. Why? Because natural selection would be working on the virus, not the animal infected with the virus. Seriously, how does Lyons-Weiler not know how evolution works?

Particularly amusing is how in the comments a real scientist who has worked extensively on coronaviruses including SARS coronaviruses, Marc Wathelet, schools Lyons-Weiler on his misinterpretation of data. I encourage every one of you to read the exchange. I love reading how little Lyons-Weiler understands about coronaviruses:

I am sorry, I am a scientist and worked on the SARS-CoV for more than ten years, you can pubmed me if you don’t believe it. I commented on your other article too, I am afraid you are not understanding the issues. I must be doing a terrible job of explaining it, though.

Go download all the bat coronaviruses and align their spike sequences to that of SARS-CoV and you will see tremendous levels of homology, thus all bat coronaviruses have a SARS-like spike protein, this is very well established. Of course it is not exactly conserved, but there is also variations in spike among human isolates; these are RNA viruses and their sequences are constantly drifting as expected.

You will noticed that with all the criticisms and the interesting conspiracy theories, no scientist has expressed surprise to find a SARS-like spike protein in a virus like 2019-nCoV that belongs to the SARS family, because the surprise would indeed be to NOT have a SARS-like spike protein in this new 2019-nCoV that is so homologous elsewhere to the SARS-CoV genome!

Exactly. What Lyons-Weiler is characterizing as an oddity so odd that it must indicate the possibility of a laboratory origin of 2019-nCoV is nothing odd at all. Virologists are utterly unsurprised at this finding because it is utterly unsurprising to those who study these particular viruses.

In answer to a challenge by Lyons-Weiler to “show me any example of a bat coronavirus that has a recognizably SARS-like spike protein other than the one from the Chinese military”:

Again, I am confused: I had run blastp with the spike sequence of CZ45, the other military sequence, and I got 43 other bat coronavirus spike sequences, including a dozen or so from the very reputable HongKong University, all with very high homology. And of course all the SARS-CoV human isolates come up as well. Don’t know what to tell you but to go back and rerun you’re analyses with the spike protein of the 2019-nCoV and blastp it on the nr database of Genbank and you should get the same results as I did.

BLASTP does alignment searches for protein sequences, rather than nucleotide sequences, while BLASTN does nucleotide searches.

The criticism from real scientists must finally be registering, though, because in one of his most recent posts, Lyons-Weiler is reduced to JAQing off, as he does here:

Before we look at the evolutionary trees, I want to stress that I have published and will repeat that given the mass casualities [sic] in China and the prospect of such events around the world, keeping the possibility of one or more recombination events on the table, or even a laboratory origin of nCoV2019 is important specifically and exclusively for scientific and humanitarian purposes.

Again, I suspect that, at some level, even Lyons-Weiler knows that he’s peddling the molecular biology/bioinformatics equivalent of snake oil. He’s also reduced to further conspiracy theory generation, based on being contacted by a person who evidently knew about a “natural” bat coronavirus isolated in July 2013 at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China “who pointed us to a sequence available NCBI’s Nucleotide database but that had been uploaded only in January, 2020”:

The oddities in the behavior of the sequence data “updates” deserve further scrutiny [sic]. Why would two peer-reviewed publications, one from China, mention a middle fragment that could not be aligned? These questions require transparency.

He’s also denying that he ever said that the similarity he found between the SARS spike protein in pShuttle-SN and in 2019-nCoV implied a laboratory origin of 2019-nCoV when he did, although he obscures it by saying:

The data do not support a 1:1 relationship with pShuttle-SN (as published in 2005) and the SARS-like spike protein in 2019-nCoV, and I never posited that relationship. I merely pointed out it was similar to it, when no one else could match the middle fragment to anything But the pShuttle-SN has ALSO been evolving in the lab, no doubt, and I would like to see a newly deposited sequence in NCBI’s Nucleotide database. Other vector tech has no doubt been used by other labs putting the SARS spike protein.

No, he didn’t claim a 1:1 relationship between the pShuttle-SN sequence and the SARS-like spike protein of 2019-nCoV (no one said he did), but he sure implied that the SARS-like spike protein from the sequence in pShuttle-SN was the origin of the similar sequence in 2019-nCoV. Amusingly, he’s also now denying that he ever concluded that a bioweapon, that favorite conspiracy theory that rears its ugly head during every major outbreak of a new pathogen, is not a distinct possibility. I also note that on Del Bigtree’s show, he explicitly said that this particular virus has a laboratory origin (starting around 26:14). Watch the show if you don’t believe me and can stand to watch Del Bigtree bloviate, mock, and pontificate.

A pangolin

Did 2019-nCoV jump to humans via pangolins in the Wuhan seafood market?

Unfortunately for Lyons-Weiler, it appears that the mystery of how the SARS-like spike sequence got into a bat coronavirus to produce the 2019-nCoV strain might be getting close to being solved. One can never know for certain, but one can assign probabilities, and we’re seeing science that strongly suggests a couple of likely possibilities that don’t involve vaccines (or bioweapons). It was recently reported that nCoV-2019 shares 96.3% overall genome sequence identity to the bat RaTG13 coronavirus genome. If true, this is just one more bit of evidence that 2019-nCoV arose from a naturally occurring bat coronavirus strain.

Muddling the issue even more, though, is a more recent finding, not yet published in the peer-reviewed biomedical literature, that was reported Friday in Nature:

Researchers in Guangzhou, China, have suggested that pangolins — long-snouted, ant-eating mammals often used in traditional Chinese medicine — are the probable animal source of the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 30,000 people and is wreaking havoc worldwide.

Scientists say that the suggestion, based on a genetic analysis, seems plausible — but caution that the researchers’ work is yet to be published in full. “This is an extremely interesting observation. Although we need to see more details, it does make sense as there are now some other data emerging that pangolins carry viruses that are closely related to 2019-nCoV,” says Edward Holmes, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Sydney, Australia.

The identity of the animal source of the coronavirus, named nCoV-2019, has been one of the key questions that researchers have been racing to answer. Coronaviruses are known to circulate in mammals and birds, and scientists have already suggested that nCoV-2019 originally came from bats, a proposal based on the similarity of its genetic sequence to those of other known coronaviruses. But the virus was probably transmitted to humans by another animal.

This observation has not been published in the peer-reviewed biomedical literature yet. It came from a university press release from South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, which announced on Friday that two of its researchers, Shen Yongyi and Xiao Lihua, have identified the pangolin as the potential source of nCoV-2019 on the basis of a genetic comparison of coronaviruses taken from the animals and from humans infected in the outbreak and other findings. According to Yongyi and Lihua, the sequences are 99% similar.

If this observation turns out to be accurate, and the animal that initially transmitted 2019-nCoV to humans really is the pangolin, it implies yet another adverse effect from traditional Chinese medicine other than torture of bears for their bile, poisoning from heavy metals in herbs, and extinction of endangered species whose various body parts are used in TCM. It implies that TCM could facilitate outbreaks of new strains of pathogens. Of course, for a variety of reasons this observation, even if correct, might not indicate that 2019-nCoV jumped species from bat to human via pangolin. (I never thought I’d type a sentence like that.) It could be a contaminant, for instance. Also, without knowing the prevalence of this strain found in pangolins, particularly in the Wuhan fish market, where the outbreak originated, it’s hard to conclude with any degree of certainty that pangolins were the source of this strain.

What is not hard to conclude is that Lyons-Weiler is full of it.

The danger of science-y sounding conspiracy theories

In the end, what we have here is a classic case of antivaccine “logic” applied to science. Lyons-Weiler started out looking for a reason to blame the 2019-nCoV outbreak on vaccines or a bioweapon, and he used his knowledge of molecular biology to find a reason to do it that appears plausible to those who don’t know anything about molecular biology and virology. Of course there was some homology between the SARS-like spike protein sequence in the 2019-nCoV strain and the SARS-like spike protein sequence in an vector made to generate protein to to use to develop an experimental SARS vaccine! As Marc Wathelet pointed out, it would have been surprising if there weren’t a SARS-like sequence in 2019-nCoV, because such sequences are what make virulent coronavirus strains as virulent as they are. The problem is that Lyons-Weiler’s particular conspiracy theory will sound plausible to those without a lot of background in molecular biology, bioinformatics, and virology, and it will take a lot of explaining to shoot it down, if we can even ever shoot it down. (Just look how long this post ended up being. I was going to discuss several other coronavirus conspiracy theories, but ended up deciding not to because this post had already grown more than long enough.) After all, if there’s one thing about antivaccine tropes, it’s that they never die. Ever. They always rise again. The same is true of antivaccine conspiracy theories.

These conspiracy theories mutate, too. Lyons-Weiler is already backpedaling, reshuffling, and moving to other laboratory sources, such as biological warfare labs under the—shall we say?—selective pressure of scientists telling him his pShuttle-SN hypothesis is nonsense.

ADDENDUM: In a post published yesterday that I didn’t see when I was writing this, James Lyons-Weiler finally admitted that he was full of crap without actually giving up his conspiracy mongering. The all caps nature of this announcement is his:

UPDATE – 2/9/2020 – IPAK HAS CONDUCTED FURTHER, IN-DEPTH STUDIES OF THE GENOMIC AN PROTEIN SEQUENCES OF THE 2019-nCoV CORONAVIRUSES AND THEIR RELATIVES AND HAVE COMPELLING RESULTS OF A KEY SIGNATURE USEFUL FOR IDENTIFYING A PARTICULARLY PATHOGENIC CORONAVIRUSES LINEAGE. GIVEN THAT WE HAVE FOUND THIS SIGNATURE, A FUNCTIONAL MOTIF FINGERPRINT, PRESENT IN THE HK-3 CoV FROM 2005, WE BELIEVE THIS EXONERATES RECOMBINATION IN THE LAB AS A SOURCE OF THE VIRUS. THIS DOES NOT EXONERATE ACCIDENTAL RELEASE, HOWEVER. WE ARE WORKING TO PUBLISH OUR FINDINGS.

IN THE INTEREST OF TRANSPARITY, WE ARE KEEPING THE ARTICLE BELOW AS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FOR POSTERITY AND PROVENANCE. – JLW

The “article below,” I presume, is the original article that I discussed above. One wonders if Del Bigtree will have Lyons-Weiler on his show again to retract the rather explicit claim he made a week and a half ago that the SARS-like spike protein sequence in 2019-nCoV has an origin in the laboratory. Somehow, I doubt it.

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Posted by David Gorski

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