The two most common theories regarding the origin of the coronavirus are the natural origin theory and the lab-leak theory. The former claims that the virus originated in wild animals and infected humans by zoonotic transfer. The latter claims that the coronavirus was being experimented upon in a lab and then leaked out into the public. (Related: From "conspiracy theory" to viable theory: Indy media was right again about COVID's lab origin.)
In the joint German-American study, titled "Endonuclease fingerprint indicates a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV-2," the three researchers who worked on this believe they have definitively proven the lab-leak theory to be true.
Dr. Alex Washburne, one of the researchers studying the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, compared it to previously discovered coronaviruses.
He and the two other researchers, Antonius VanDongen of Duke University and Valentin Bruttel of University Hospital Wurzburg in Germany, detected "peculiar patterns" in the genome sequence – which they concluded were the hallmarks of a virus that was manufactured instead of originating from the natural world. They described SARS-CoV-2's genome sequence as having a "synthetic fingerprint."
"We found that the virus has the restriction site fingerprint that is typical of synthetic viruses. The synthetic fingerprint of SARS-CoV-2 is anomalous in wild coronaviruses, and common in lab-assembled viruses," wrote the researchers. "The type of mutations … that differentiate the restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 are characteristic of engineering, and the concentration of these silent mutations in the restriction sites is extremely unlikely to have arisen by random evolution."
"Both the restriction site fingerprint and the pattern of mutations generating them are extremely unlikely in wild coronaviruses and nearly universal in synthetic viruses. Our findings strongly suggest a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV-2," they concluded.
Many scientists who have read through Washburne's study have lauded it and how it proved that the coronavirus came from a lab.
"Evidence that strongly suggests SARS-CoV-2 was engineered may have been hiding in plain sight all along," said Viscount Matt Ridley, a British science writer and former member of the House of Lords.
Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute of the University College London, said that the study was "the strongest piece of evidence to date against a simple scenario of strict zoonotic origin for SARS-CoV-2." Balloux added that the study "looks solid both conceptually and methodologically." He even said he was able to replicate the study's key findings, proving that the confirmed synthetic genomic patterns are genuine.
Indian physician and radiologist Dr. Pooja Toshniwal Paharia, writing for News Medical, said that the study findings showed that it was very probable SARS-CoV-2 originated synthetically "as an infectious clone assembled in vitro."
"The findings could aid policy-making and research to prevent future pandemics and encourage biosafety improvements worldwide," she added.
However, other scientists said Washburne's study is highly misleading, "very poorly controlled" and "cherry-picked." Some, like Benjamin Neuman, a professor of biology at Texas A&M University, even called it "tinfoil hat bonkers."
In response to the criticisms, Washburne invited his detractors to prove him and his colleagues wrong.
"I will celebrate their ingenuity and commitment to the truth, and if I am proven wrong, I will change my mind," he said. He added that science "can save lives and revolutionize our civilization, but only if scientists and our broader society remain honest, curious and open-minded."
Learn more about the coronavirus at Pandemic.news.
Watch this clip of Republican Rep. Jim Jordan on Fox News discussing how Dr. Anthony Fauci does not want the world to discover COVID-19's origins.