Doctor Trevor Bedford from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington has rejected conspiracy theories claiming that the coronavirus was engineered in a lab to be used as a biological weapon.
“There’s no evidence whatsoever of genetic engineering that we can find. The evidence we have is that the mutations [in the virus] are completely consistent with natural evolution”, Bedford told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle earlier this week.
He insisted that there is nothing abnormal in the mutations seen in the coronavirus which look similar in various places throughout nature, “again and again throughout the tree of life”.
Bedford was echoed by Rutgers University expert Richard Ebright who told the Daily Mail that “there’s no reason to harbour suspicions” that the coronavirus had been made or changed in a lab.
This flew in the face of conspiracy theories alleging that the virus was released by accident from a secretive laboratory in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn has, meanwhile, confirmed the first fatal coronavirus case in Europe, referring to the death of an 80-year-old Chinese tourist in Paris.
The new strain of coronavirus – COVID-19 – was first detected in Wuhan, located in the province of Hubei, in December and has since spread to more than 25 countries. In mainland China, the disease has already claimed the lives of 1,523 people, with 66,492 more infected.