Lab leak theory, once ‘political dynamite,’ gains credibility in the new study
Alexander Nazaryan·National Correspondent
Sat, July 3, 2021, 2:13 AM·15 min read
The rejections kept coming. The coronavirus was a topic of intense scientific fascination, yet the four Australian researchers challenging conventional wisdom about how the pandemic originated couldn’t find a publisher for their study.
“We were quite stunned,” recalls one of that study’s authors, Dr. Nikolai Petrovsky, an endocrinologist at Flinders University in Australia who is also developing a coronavirus vaccine. The work he and his group had done only received what he called “blanket rejections.”
That finally changed late last month, when Nature Scientific Reports published their paper, “In silico comparison of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-ACE2 binding affinities across species and implications for virus origin.” The journal is part of the prestigious Nature family of publications. Acceptance there has given greater credibility to a theory that until recently was taboo: that the coronavirus could have emerged from a laboratory.
Some wonder why the study’s publication took so long. “It’s definitely concerning that the paper took over one year to be accepted for publication,” says Pat Fidopiastis, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University. “It’s important to continue asking questions and demand honest answers.”
The Australians’ findings were scientific but had major political ramifications. Using computer models, Petrovsky and his co-authors set out to learn which animal the virus may have originated from before infecting humans. Proponents of the zoonotic spillover hypothesis believed that the pathogen known as SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats and then made the leap to humans, possibly through an unknown intermediate species.