FRANCE (APF) – Luc Montagnier, the French virologist and Nobel Prize winner for his work on HIV, said the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was created in a laboratory by inserting genes from HIV-1, the AIDS virus, into a coronavirus.
“We have concluded that this virus was created,” said the French scientist, during an interview with the French channel CNews.
In 2008 Montagnier won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the research that led to the discovery of the HIV,
According to Montagnier, “molecular biologists” inserted HIV DNA sequences into a coronavirus as part of their work to find an AIDS vaccine.
“There has been a manipulation of the virus: at least part of it, not all of it. There is one model, which is the classic virus, which comes mainly from bats, but to which HIV sequences have been added,” he said. “In any case, it’s not natural,” he continued. “It’s the work of professionals, of molecular biologists. Very meticulous work. For what purpose? I don’t know. One hypothesis is that they wanted to create an AIDS vaccine,” he said.
To back up his theory, Montagnier cited the study by a group of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, which found “an uncanny resemblance” and “little chance of coincidence” in the amino acid sequences of a SARS-CoV-2 and HIV-1 protein. The study, published on a website where scientists share ongoing analyses without waiting for expert verification, was later withdrawn by its authors.
Montagnier also predicted the imminent disappearance of the virus, because its supposedly artificial origin would be weakening it.
“One can do anything with nature, but if you make an artificial construction, it is unlikely to survive. Nature loves harmonious things; what is alien, like a virus coming from another virus, for example, is not well tolerated,” he said. For the scientist, the parts of the virus into which HIV was inserted are rapidly mutating, causing it to self-destruct.
“So what we’re seeing is that in the western United States, in Seattle, the sequences are destroyed, virtually non-existent. So if the pathogenic power of the coronavirus is linked to the insertion of these sequences, we can think that it’s going to disappear,” he said.
The scientific community questions Montagnier’s theories.
Montagnier has made a controversial statements before. Since 2010, the famous virologist began to spread a series of theories questioned by his colleagues, such as the supposed microbial origin of autism, for which he launched a crusade against vaccines (which in 2017 earned him a petition signed by a hundred doctors who called his statements “dangerous”).
After the interview, French experts again refuted Montagnier’s latest theory.
Jean-Francois Delfraissy, an immunologist and head of the scientific council advising the French government on the COVID-19 pandemic, said in an interview with France’s BFM TV that the hypothesis that a virus was created in a laboratory sounded like “a vision about a conspiracy that is not related to real science. Everyone in the scientific community agrees that COVID-19 is a coronavirus. There are different coronaviruses than others, just like SARS and MERS with emerging pathogenicity,” he added.
For Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity department at the Pasteur Institute in France, studies of the virus’ genes clearly show that it was not a virus produced by humans in a laboratory. “Professor Montagnier spreads whimsical theories,” he told the French weekly L’Obs. Schwartz said that “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, was not created in the laboratory. We see this by studying the genetic heritage of the virus, which has been sequenced by Chinese teams and then verified in many other laboratories, including the Pasteur Institute, which was the first in Europe to do so”.
According to several experts, the outbreak could have originated in the Wuhan wet market. But the truth is that the origin of the coronavirus remains a mystery.
Experts question the Indian study cited by Montagnier.
“The Indian team ended up withdrawing their manuscript. My personal opinion is that these Indian researchers had good faith from the beginning in their desire to analyze the genome of the virus, and realized their mistake later. But Professor Montagnier has accepted a whimsical theory,” Schwartz concluded.
For its part, the scientific community at Massive Science has already identified some 15 viruses that incorporate the same sequence common to HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, including a bee virus and a sweet potato virus. According to Gaetan Burgio, a geneticist at the Australian National University, interviewed by Le Monde newspaper, “the typical sequence is short. If there had been deliberate insertions of HIV sequences, they would have been much larger. It is a coincidence.
What is known about the origin of the virus
Theories about a possible human origin of the coronavirus were fueled after it became known that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating whether the virus may have accidentally left the Wuhan Virology Institute. The Virus Cultivation Center, Asia’s largest virus bank has more than 1,500 varieties preserved.
Fox News cited U.S. government sources and said the “patient zero” of the pandemic could have been infected by a virus strain from a bat being studied in the laboratory and then passed on to the population of Wuhan.
A study by a group of Chinese scientists, published in January in The Lancet, revealed that the first patient of COVID-19 had no connection to the Wuhan animal market, nor did 13 of the first 41 patients.
Shi Zhengli, one of China’s leading experts on bat coronavirus and deputy director of the Wuhan laboratory, was part of the team that published the first study suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 (the official name of the virus) came from bats.
In an interview with Scientific American, Shi said the SARS-CoV-2 genome does not match any of the bat coronaviruses his lab has studied so far.
According to Filippa Lentzos, a biosafety researcher at King’s College London, although there is no evidence for the accident theory in the lab, there is also no “real evidence” that the virus came from the market.
“For me, the origin of the pandemic is still an unanswered question,” she told AFP.