A Japanese study published on 15 August April 2023 titled “Unnatural evolutionary processes of SARS-CoV-2 variants and possibility of deliberate natural selection” by A. Tanaka and T. Miyazawa has found that the evolution of the COVID variants is, figuratively, a bit fishy.
The paper is 25 pages long although much of it is references and figures. The main text is about nine pages. In addition, the raw data is available online.
The researchers focused on Omicron variants. From the abstract:
As a result, we concluded that the formation of a part of Omicron isolates BA.1, BA.1.1, and BA.2 was not the product of genome evolution, as is commonly observed in nature, such as the accumulation of mutations and homologous recombinations. Furthermore, the study of 35 recombinant isolates of Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.2 confirmed that Omicron variants were already present in 2020. The analysis showed that Omicron variants were formed by an entirely new mechanism that cannot be explained by previous biology, and knowing how the SARS-CoV-2 variants were formed prompts a reconsideration of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
The researchers hypothesize why they think these variants are unnatural. The below is stated in general terms but the paper does go into specifics.
Despite the accumulation of many mutations in the S protein of Omicron mutants, most of the mutations are non-synonymous, with only one synonymous mutation of c25000u, which is highly unnatural, leading to the hypothesis that the Omicron mutants were artificially synthesized. The following results presented in this study may support the hypothesis that the Omicron variants were artificially synthesized rather than naturally occurring: 1) the presence of Omicron variant-associated isolates with one mutation site being the Wuhan-type; 2) the almost complete absence of synonymous mutations in the S protein in these isolates; 3) the Omicron variant, which should have been first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24, 2021, was already endemic in Puerto Rico in 2020, and there were isolates that were recombinants between Omicron strains BA1 and BA2.
If Omicron variants “were artificially and systematically generated”, then there are other implications too.
In that case, we should suspect that the other variants (Alpha to Delta) were also artificially generated viruses. Indeed, the lack of findings to date that many of the various mutations seen, especially in the early variants, are indeed associated with increased viral infection supports the hypothesis that each variant was artificially synthesized to identify the amino acids of the S protein responsible for infectivity and pathogenicity. The possibility that the set of mutants was artificially generated to identify amino acids of the S protein involved in the infectivity and virulence is supported.
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