"Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV2 is a purposefully manipulated virus, it is now impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin", the scientists argued in the communication sent to the journal.
Josie Golding, PhD, epidemics lead at UK-based Wellcome Trust, said the findings by Andersen and his colleagues are "crucially important to bring an evidence-based view to the rumors that have been circulating about the origins of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19".
The study's title, "Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1", emphasizes that the study's authors compared the stability of the novel coronavirus to that of the original SARS virus.
The research was a collaborative, global effort: Andersen was joined by scientists from Columbia University in New York City, the University of Sydney in Australia, and Tulane University in New Orleans.
The new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, likely originated in nature according to the authors of a study questioning the idea it was manmade.
But Andersen's team believes their investigation proves otherwise.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging widely in severity.
While both of those epidemics died out, COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide.
According to the study, the RBD portion of the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins had evolved to effectively target a molecular feature on the outside of human cells called ACE2 - a receptor protein involved in regulating blood pressure. The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was so effective at binding the human cells, in fact, that the scientists concluded it was the result of natural selection and not the product of genetic engineering. Researchers have been working hard at figuring out the origin and the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since the outbreak.
"This indicates that differences in the epidemiological characteristics of these viruses probably arise from other factors, including high viral loads in the upper respiratory tract and the possibility that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 will clear and transmit the virus while they are asymptomatic, "the researchers wrote". They added that a non-pathogenic version of the virus may have jumped from an animal host into humans, and then evolved to its current disease-causing state within the human population. Instead, we propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: (i) natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer; and (ii) natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer.
Josie Golding directs epidemics research at the United Kingdom -based Wellcome Trust.
A new study from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University has found that the virus which causes COVID-19, or coronavirus, is stable for several hours on a variety of objects and in aerosols.
Josie Goulding, epidemics lead at Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom further endorsed this conclusion by stating "They conclude that the virus is the product of natural evolution".
So how did the virus now sweeping the globe emerge?
The genetic key, according to the scientists, would have been an evolutionary modification in the RBD cellular "hook" while the virus was still in another species. Once that happened, SARS-CoV-2 became instantly infectious once it jumped to infect people.
The virus is transmitted predominantly by respiratory droplets and is thus viable only seconds after a person coughs or sneezes. On copper, it took 4 hours for the virus to become inactivated.
Right now, it's tough to confirm which of the two scenarios is the correct one, Andersen's team said.