Imagine a world where the Omicron strain was revealed to be man-made.
In a gripping video, Professor Takayuki Miyazawa, a distinguished virologist and associate professor at Kyoto University, stands amidst a bustling Japanese street, urgently trying to capture the attention of passersby. This Japanese language clip, featuring Professor Miyazawa’s warning, has garnered over 10 million views on X as of the time of writing.
He asserts, “There are things that cannot be said on TV, YouTube, or Twitter. Only researchers have the capacity to discern the truth. We can directly obtain and analyze data, uncovering invaluable insights. However, relaying that information is a challenge. So, I’m uncertain about Japan’s approach.”
Professor Miyazawa, who boasts a portfolio of over 250 academic papers in virology, disease, veterinary medicine, and microbial ecology, has recently published a paper that has set the world abuzz. His decision to speak out comes at the potential cost of his longstanding position at the esteemed Kyoto University.
The swift and perplexing emergence of the Omicron variant of SARAS-CoV-2 in November 2021 left researchers and virologists worldwide puzzled. It stood out, defying explanation, and veering dramatically from the trajectory of other lineages. A conspicuous, unnatural spike, distinct from the natural course of virus evolution. What transpired?
Professors Miyazawa and Tanaka embarked on a year-long investigation to unearth answers.
Their groundbreaking paper, titled “Unnatural Evolutionary Processes of SARS-CoV-2 Variants and Possibility of Deliberate Natural Selection,” published in September 2023, potentially presented a seismic revelation. Del Bigtree discussed the paper here.
Using the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) program, the duo scrutinized nearly 400 Omicron-related variants to identify similarities in protein or nucleotide sequences, shedding light on the sequence of mutations leading to their formation.
Their findings led them to a startling conclusion: a portion of Omicron isolates, namely BA.1, BA.1.1, and BA.2, did not result from natural genome evolution. They emphasize:
This study aims to point out that SARS-CoV-2 has undergone unthinkable mutations based on conventional coronavirus mutation mechanisms, and we hope that the possibility of artificial creation is included in serious discussions on the formation of SARS-CoV-2 variants.”
The visual representation of the variants revealed a systematic, incremental ordering, a phenomenon foreign to nature. Natural mutations are random, and once they occur, they do not revert. However, Professors Miyazawa and Tanaka observed a deliberate toggling off and on of mutations, step by step down the evolutionary ladder.
An additional analysis of their findings remarked:
The perfect reversion of mutations on this scale is entirely implausible through any natural process. The variants they found could best be described as a ‘panel’ of reversion mutations. This is precisely what a researcher might create to systematically test different elements of a virus’s activity.”
Viruses undergo only two types of mutations: functionally silent and evolutionarily neutral synonymous mutations, and non-synonymous mutations that drive changes in function and abilities. In natural evolution, the prevalence of synonymous mutations always outweighs the rarer non-synonymous mutations.
However, when it came to the spike protein, the focal point of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the researchers note:
Regarding the genetic variation in the S protein of these variants, most of the mutations were non-synonymous. There were no synonymous mutations in the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Mu variants, but only one each in the Lambda and Omicron variants.”
While the paper awaits peer review, this delay does not reflect the research’s quality.
According to one of the authors, a journal’s response to their submission was, “During our initial checks, some issues were identified regarding potential inflammatory language in the manuscript. The authors have not amended this in line with the suggestions to make the text more objective. This prevents the manuscript from proceeding further into review.”
The fate of this data and the impassioned plea by one of the authors remains uncertain.
In a world where the origins of the virus remain enigmatic to many in the medical and research communities, the compelling evolutionary evidence presented by this Japanese researcher should, at the very least, ignite further investigation and profound discussion regarding the very real possibility of a lab-engineered variant.
Watch the comprehensive report on the study at The HighWire.