In an exclusive deep-dive interview with National Geographic published Monday, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases “shot down the discussion that has been raging among politicians and pundits, calling it ‘a circular argument’.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”— Dr. Anthony Fauci in National Geographic, May 4, 2020
He also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory—”that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.” National Geographic linked to this story as evidence against this hypothesis, which explores the mutation path of the SARS-CoV-2 genome which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
First off, most of SARS-CoV-2’s underlying structure is unlike any of coronaviruses previously studied in a lab. The novel coronavirus also contains genetic features that suggest it encountered a living immune system rather than being cultivated in a petri dish.
Moreover, a bioweapon designer would want maximum impact and might rely on history to obtain it, but the novel coronavirus carries subtle flaws indicative of natural selection. For instance, coronaviruses use what are known as spike proteins, which look like heads of broccoli, to bind and access cellular “doorways” called receptors. It’s how the viruses infect animal cells. Experiments have shown that the novel coronavirus strongly binds with a human receptor called ACE2, but the interaction isn’t optimal, the authors explain.
“This isn’t what somebody who wanted to build the perfect virus would have picked,” Andersen says. Overall, their analysis suggests the virus jumped from an animal to humans sometime in November.– “How coronavirus mutations can track its spread—and disprove conspiracies,” National Geographic, March 26, 2020
Both stories are free to read but NatGeo does ask for your email. Click here to read the full story of the interview with Fauci.
In the new interview, Fauci also again warned that the struggles the U.S. faces with Covid-19 are only just starting.
Fauci is most concerned that the United States will be put to the test this fall and winter by a second wave of COVID-19 if the country does not blunt the infection rate by the summer.
“Shame on us if we don’t have enough tests by the time this so-called return might occur in the fall and winter,” he says, advising that the U.S. needs to make sure we not only have an adequate supply of tests available before a second wave hits, but also a system for getting those tests to the people who most need them.
“I don’t think there’s a chance that this virus is just going to disappear,” he says. “It’s going to be around, and if given the opportunity, it will resurge.” As such, Fauci says the U.S. should also focus this summer on properly reinforcing the nation’s health care system, ensuring the availability of hospital beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment for health care workers.
He also stressed the importance of continuing to social distance everywhere until the case counts start to fall in cities and states. The U.S. witnessed about 20,000 to 30,000 new cases every day in the month of April, suggesting the country is stuck in its peak.