The coronavirus pandemic has caused panic in the world population. As the disease emerged and spread very quickly, several conspiracy theories tried to explain the origin of Covid-19. One of the ones that circulated the most on social media – and on WhatsApp, of course – was that the disease would be an alien weapon to destroy humanity.
Who started this story was the astronomer and astrobiologist Chandra Wickamasinghe. Born in Sri Lanka in 1939, the guy swears that Covid-19 arrived on Earth in October 2019 next to an asteroid that would have crashed just in China. This would not be the first time that such an event would have occurred, with other pandemics allegedly having extraterrestrial origin.
The 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) also appeared in China and, according to Wickamasinghe, came from outside the Earth. He has a certain fascination with this belief, so much so that in the 1970s he wrote a book called “Space Diseases”, trying to prove how some of the most deadly diseases, like the flu, came from distant regions in the Universe.
The astrobiologist, however, does not know how to explain how the virus would have survived the radiation suffered throughout its journey here and how it would have infected humans after the shock with the Earth. Because of this, he is quite discredited within the international scientific community, but is successful among conspiracy theories fanatics.
Wickamasinghe’s theory is based on the idea that all terrestrial life, in fact, is extraterrestrial. That is: life around here would have arisen through microorganisms from space. Many scientists try to prove this theory, called panspermia. So far, they have not been successful.
Another very popular conspiracy theory regarding the coronavirus is that it was created in the laboratory to be a biochemical weapon. The United States and China accused each other of creating the virus that caused the pandemic. Even important people got into this fight, like the US senator Tom Cotton, who published a tweet in which he says that Wuhan, where Covid-19 started, is the only place in the country that has a super biosafety laboratory, trying to correlate the facts.
In fact, this place exists, but its security is so great that leakage of any pathogen would be impossible. Other similar facilities, of maximum security, exist in several places of the world, including in the United States.
Some Chinese representatives accuse Trump’s country of deliberately creating the Covid-19 in a laboratory and releasing it into its territory. Would it make sense for the United States to release a virus so contagious on Chinese soil that it would quickly return to North American territory? I wouldn’t, but there are people who firmly believe that.
After all, what is the origin?
According to researchers in the journal Nature Medicine, Covid-19 emerged through evolution. That is, an extremely terrestrial and natural event. Through the genetic mapping of the virus, it was possible to determine that it has no trace of laboratory manipulation, much less alien.
Coronaviruses are part of a family of viruses that can cause diseases with varying degrees of severity. SARS, for example, was caused by a type of coronavirus and infected 8,000 people, killing 800 of them. It is believed to have emerged in mutations within African civets – a species of wild cat – infected by bats. Later, when they were sold in markets, they ended up infecting man.
As the first patients by Covid-19 attended the same market as Wuhan, it is more likely that their origin is similar to that of SARS. It is not known, however, what the non-human hosts that originally caused the mutation that ended up reaching humans. Most likely, it again came from bats, since Covid-19’s genetic mapping is very similar to the coronaviruses found in these flying mammals.
Another possibility is that the coronavirus jumped from an animal host to humans to suffer the mutation that made it so contagious. Some more scientific research will still be needed to determine if one of these two theories is correct, but it will hardly be anything other than that.