A theory put forward by French professor Luc Montagnier — award-winning co-discoverer of the AIDS virus but also mocked by some colleagues for some outrageous theories — has sparked a scientific firestorm.
According to the Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, a man used to controversy, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the result of an attempt to manufacture a vaccine against the AIDS virus, Agence France Presse reported.
Montagnier says the presence of elements of HIV in the genome of the new virus and even elements of the “germ of malaria” are highly suspect, the report said. Interviewed on the French CNews channel, he said the characteristics of the new coronavirus could not have arisen naturally.
The “industrial” accident was said to have taken place in the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, he added.
“The Wuhan city laboratory has specialized in these coronaviruses since the early 2000s,” he claimed. “They have expertise in this area.”
He also proposes to rid the virus of these foreign elements “with waves” — a theory which has attracted mockery in the past.
“That does not make sense. These are very small elements that we find in other viruses of the same family, other coronaviruses in nature,” virologist Étienne Simon-Lorière of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, explained to AFP.
“These are pieces of the genome that actually look like lots of sequences in the genetic material of bacteria, viruses and plants,” he says.
“If we take a word from a book and it looks like another word, can we say that one has copied from the other? This is absurd!”
Simon-Lorière is manager of the evolutionary genomic structure of RNA viruses at the Institut Pasteur, the report said.
The alleged modifications of the virus — which would seek to get rid of foreign elements (genetic pieces of HIV) — are undoubtedly false, adds Simon-Lorière, who abstained from any comment on Montagnier’s “waves” theory.
The theory that the Covid-19 originated from genetic manipulation has been circulating in social media and has already been discounted by in-depth, professional analyses of the genome of the virus communicated by the Chinese, the report said.
In fact, researchers around the world have since been able to isolate and analyze them — including samples taken from patients in their own country, the report said.
Professor Montagnier, a former member of the Institut Pasteur, was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the identification of the virus responsible for AIDS, with his colleague at the time, professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, the report said.
In addition to his theories on the electromagnetic waves emitted by DNA and on the benefits of papaya, which attracted mockery, he appeared in 2017 alongside professor Henri Joyeux, figurehead of anti-vaccines.
Montagnier helped to denounce the dangerousness of vaccines and compulsory vaccination, believing that there was a risk “with good will at the start, of poisoning the entire population little by little.”
According to Nature.com, the Wuhan lab was designed and constructed with French assistance as part of a 2004 cooperative agreement on the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases.
But the complexity of the project, China’s lack of experience, difficulty in maintaining funding and long government approval procedures meant that construction wasn’t finished until the end of 2014.