A team of Australian researchers have published a scientific paper proving that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus appears to be best adapted to attack human cells, raising even more questions about the pandemic’s origins.
The scientists from Flinders University and La Trobe used powerful computers to model the protein receptors in a number of animal species to see how the coronavirus’s spike protein attached itself to them.
The theory was that if the coronavirus attached itself readily to an animal like a bat or a pangolin, it would have likely been the species that the bug used to make its leap into the human population.
However, the modelling found that the coronavirus’s spike protein was best suited to attacking protein receptors in humans.
“The computer modelling found the virus’s ability to bind to the bat ACE2 protein was poor relative to its ability to bind human cells,” said Flinders University epidemiologist and vaccine researcher Professor Nikolai Petrovsky.
“This argues against the virus being transmitted directly from bats to humans.
“Hence, if the virus has a natural source, it could only have come to humans via an intermediary species which has yet to be found,” he said.
While the researchers also found that the coronavirus could attach relatively easily to pangolins, as well as domestic animals like cats and dogs, the findings will add weight to the increasingly repeated charge that the coronavirus escaped the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology in an accident involving “gain of function” research.