There has been much argument about the origin of the virus that causes COVID-19. Concerns have focused on the potential that this virus was engineered by scientists in China or was in some way an accidental release of natural virus by the Wuhan Institute laboratory. The initial source of SARS-CoV-2 has yet to be identified, but the complexity of this virus is so great that it seems to challenge the concept of “human engineering.”
Human evolution of this virus is happening however and is the result of the infection of unvaccinated individuals. This evolution occurs as the virus infects and reproduces itself inside of people. All the while the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mutating to become more dangerous.
A recent paper in Science magazine details the SARS-CoV-2 evolution resulting from the infection of millions of unvaccinated people. Those infections serve as the perfect engineering platform to make this virus worse.
This paper examined the spike protein on the surface of the virus that mediates its binding to human cells. They found specific and unique changes in the protein that would have been hard to anticipate and that resulted in a more infectious virus that in some cases could outwit antibodies.
The SARS-CoV-2 variants this group studied had multiple spike mutations that enable increased infectivity in humans and the potential to resist immunity. This study used electron microscopy and assays that measured the binding to human cells.
Not surprising, all variants that evolved in humans showed increased angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor binding that improved the ability to infect people.
Much of this improvement came from an increased propensity for receptor binding domain (RBD) fragment of the spike protein to be in its active, extended or “up” state. This is the area that specifically binds to the ACE2 protein on human cells.
Once the virus becomes more infectious it can start to resist developing immunity in unvaccinated individuals. This was documented in the UK (B.1.1.7) variant spike protein which balanced stabilizing mutations (that improved infectivity) with destabilizing mutations (that help evade immunity). A destabilizing effect on the spike protein structure caused by another single amino acid substitution in the Brazil and South Africa virus variants (RBD E484K mutation) also led to resistance to neutralizing antibodies.
The only way to stop this evolution is to get everyone in the world vaccinated to SARS-CoV-2. This kills the virus before it has a chance to mutate and prevents the virus from using your body as a laboratory to improve itself!