Scientists from the University of Cambridge found an insert in coronavirus that is identical to part of a human protein. The study is published on the website of the scientific journal eLife.
Using artificial intelligence, the specialists decided to find unique sequences in SARS-CoV-2 proteins. As a result, they were found where the possibility of entry of the coronavirus into the human cell is regulated. Comparison with SARS-CoV SARS strains and suspected zoonotic strains showed that SARS-CoV-2 acquired the insertion sequence at S1 / S2.
Of the more than 20 thousand human proteins, the RRARSVAS peptide is present in only one – ENaC-ɑ, scientists say. Its low activity on the surface of the respiratory tract leads to impaired fluid reabsorption. This pathology was seen in patients with COVID-19 with acute respiratory distress syndrome, the newspaper Izvestia emphasizes.
Cambridge experts suggested that the virus evolved specifically to mimic a human protease substrate. However, this theory does not confirm in any way the artificial origin of SARS-CoV-2, according to Mikhail Schelkanov, a specialist in coronaviruses.
At the same time, the geneticist Konstantin Krutovsky said that the probability of such a mutation is negligible, although possible. He admitted several other options: the coronavirus had an intermediate host, it already existed in a population of people for a long time, or that it was grown in a laboratory on human cells. He also did not exclude the possibility of an artificial origin of the insert.