The lab leak theory was utterly discredited in the beginning but it gained traction and plausibility later on. In one of the quirks of power politics, when former president Donald Trump made the claim he was spurned but the theory got more attention when President Joe Biden ordered an intelligence probe into the possibility of the novel coronavirus strain having been made in a lab, possibly in China.
Now, clear scientific evidence has emerged that an element of lab engineering was behind the formation of the specific mutant of the virus that started killing humans at the end of 2019.
The virus causing COVID-19 is a man-made monster, optimized in a lab for catastrophic effect, two scientists have said in an article published on The Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Steven Quay and Richard Muller analyzed the 'double CGG sequence' that was found in the novel coronavirus. This sequence has never been found naturally among the entire group of coronaviruses, they observed.
But in a damning revelation, they found that this sequence was found in CoV-2, which spreads Covid-19.
They said that this undercuts the arguments of the proponents of zoonotic origin of the virus. China has long been championing this theory, while the World Health Organization made a similar finding, underscoring the Chinese side of the story.
"Proponents of zoonotic origin must explain why the novel coronavirus, when it mutated or recombined, happened to pick its least favorite combination, the double CGG," they wrote. "Why did it replicate the choice the lab's gain-of-function researchers would have made," the scientists ask.
This is where they relate the 'gain of function research' to the manipulation of the coronavirus strain. In gain-of-function research, microbiologists tweak a virus' genome to alter its properties. This is often done to make the virus more transmissible or more lethal.
Of the arginine amino acids that result in boosting a virus' lethality, the one most commonly used in gain-of-function research is CGG-CGG, or double CGG.
"That's because it is readily available and convenient, and scientists have a great deal of experience inserting it .... An additional advantage of the double CGG sequence compared with the other 35 possible choices: It creates a useful beacon that permits the scientists to track the insertion in the laboratory," they wrote.
The scientists underline the fact that 'double CGG sequence' is not naturally found in the entire group of coronaviruses.
However, they were stunned to see that the double CGG was found in CoV-2, which has wreaked havoc around the world.
So the conclusion is this -- either the virus was manipulated in a lab for ulterior motives or, in a strange coincidence, the coronavirus took the rare and unnatural combination used by human researchers.
While the second theory is technically plausible, the first seems more probable, pointing to the fact that the the pandemic was the direct result of the laboratory escape of the lethal virus.