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Given all the comments circulating about COVID-19 and/or the so-called vaccines in relation to “gain-of-function” research, AIDS-like symptoms and HIV segments, I thought it appropriate to post this reminder.

Even in early 2020, at least some scientists made and published some unusual observations regarding the virus itself. I am not saying they were right or wrong, just that these observations were made. Merely two examples are mentioned below.

A paper published on 27 January 2020 titled “Full-genome evolutionary analysis of the novel corona virus (2019-nCoV) rejects the hypothesis of emergence as a result of a recent recombination event” by D. Paraskevis et al basically states that the virus cannot be entirely natural.

Our study rejects the hypothesis of emergence as a result of a recent recombination event. Notably, the new coronavirus provides a new lineage for almost half of its genome, with no close genetic relationships to other viruses within the subgenus of sarbecovirus. This genomic part comprises also half of the spike region encoding a multifunctional protein responsible also for virus entry into host cells.

A more “controversial” paper was published on 2 February 2020 titled “Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag” by P. Pradhan et al that was subsequently “withdrawn by its authors”. I wonder why. The conclusion is reproduced below:

Our analysis of the spike glycoprotein of 2019-nCoV revealed several interesting findings: First, we identified 4 unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike glycoprotein that are not present in any other coronavirus reported till date. To our surprise, all the 4 inserts in the 2019-nCoV mapped to short segments of amino acids in the HIV-1 gp120 and Gag among all annotated virus proteins in the NCBI database. This uncanny similarity of novel inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag is unlikely to be fortuitous. Further, 3D modelling suggests that at least 3 of the unique inserts which are non-contiguous in the primary protein sequence of the 2019-nCoV spike glycoprotein converge to constitute the key components of the receptor binding site. Of note, all the 4 inserts have pI values of around 10 that may facilitate virus-host interactions. Taken together, our findings suggest unconventional evolution of 2019-nCoV that warrants further investigation. Our work highlights novel evolutionary aspects of the 2019-nCoV and has implications on the pathogenesis and diagnosis of this virus.

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