The death toll caused by the COVID-19 virus will soon reach three million people globally based on recent tally. Despite several vaccines created to stop the spread of the virus, people are still unsure of its origin. Different coronavirus origin theory emerged including its possible escape from a lab in Wuhan.

There are two Coronavirus origin theories. One is that, like the SARS1 outbreak in 2002, it spread spontaneously from bats to humans. The other is that it leaked from an experiment at China's leading bat-virus research institute, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Last year, Donald Trump claimed that he had seen evidence that would link the coronavirus to a lab in Wuhan City, China. However, he didn't offer any proof.

The natural-emergence hypothesis has long had the upper hand, thanks in part to early comments from virology experts.

According to an article in NY Post, virologists are interested in the origin debate because they have been increasing the risk of natural viruses in their laboratories for years.

The reason being is that by figuring out the few tweaks that will then allow an animal virus to infect humans, they will get ahead of nature. They said that knowing this information would aid in the prediction and prevention of pandemics.

If one of these mutated viruses is to blame for the COVID-19 pandemic, virologists all over the world, not just in China, will have a lot to explain. In March 2020, MIT Technology Review editor Antonio Regalado said, "It would shatter the scientific edifice top to bottom."

Bat Lady and her Role to the COVID-19 Origin Theory

Virologists at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology were conducting exactly these experiments. Dr. Zheng-li Shi, dubbed "Bat Lady" in China for her keen interest in bat viruses, was in charge of the program.

Dr. Shi had collected many coronaviruses, including SARS2, from caves in Yunnan, China. Her study centered on the spike proteins that stud the virus's surface and bind to its target cells.

The spike proteins' actual existence decides the animal species the virus will infect. Shi was putting spike protein genes from various viruses into a series of viral backbones to find the best combination for attacking humans.

She studied her viruses on cultures of human cells and humanized mice, which have been genetically modified to carry the human protein that SARS-type viruses target in the cells of their airways.

Shi, unfortunately, was on the verge of creating viruses that were much more infectious than she knew, like SARS2.

Read Also: Coronavirus Origin: Is It Really a Bio-weapon Created in a Wuhan Laboratory?

According to Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University and a leading authority on biosafety, it is clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology systematically constructed novel chimeric coronaviruses and tested their capacity to infect human cells and human-ACE2-expressing mice.

Shi was developing harmful viruses and arguably in unhealthy settings, mentioned in the NY Post article.

Despite the several pictures of Shi seen working in a bubble suit in the high-level safety lab, Shi has stated that all of her coronavirus work was performed at lower safety levels, including one known as BSL2. 

Testing the Theories of COVID-19 Virus Origin

Natural emergence proponents contend that the virus may have gotten the insert from human cells after it jumped to humans.

However, no one has yet discovered a human population in which the virus may have developed in this manner. Arginine codons, which are customary in humans but not in coronaviruses like SARS2, are also found in the insert.

The insert is simple to explain in the lab-escape case. The virology group has known since 1992 that giving a virus a furin cleavage site is the one sure way to make it deadlier. This is according to Dr. Steven Quay, a biotech entrepreneur interested in the roots of SARS2. At least 11 such studies have been reported, one of which was conducted by Dr. Shi.

Dr. Shi and her colleagues are first in line. If proven true, they were creating harmful viruses in dangerous environments. They were following the same international guidelines that virologists use all over the world. They should, however, have assessed the risks they were taking on their own.

Related Article: True Origins of COVID-19: Chinese Miners First Infected With Virus in 2012