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June 29, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Researchers from two Australian universities have published a paper demonstrating that COVID-19 is especially adept at infecting human cells and not those of bats, furthering speculation over the pathogen’s origin.

A team of scientists from Flinders University in South Australia, along with researchers at La Trobe University, Victoria, published a study June 24 on the ability of the molecule associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, the spike protein, to bind with ACE2 (angiotensin converting enzyme 2) proteins in a range of animal species. The team designed their study to focus on the most receptive species to COVID-19 infection with the hope that more might be known about cross-species transfer of the virus from an intermediary animal vector, as was proposed in the previously favored bat-origin thesis.

However, the researchers discovered that, in line with the lab-leak thesis, “[s]pike protein exhibited the highest binding to human (h)ACE2 of all the species tested,” including bats and a further eleven domestic and wild animal species, which means that the spike protein is more suited to attacking human cells than any other proposed origin species, they said. Typically, it is expected that the highest binding capacity of a viral protein to the cells of a particular species shows that species to be the most likely origin of the virus.

“[C]omputer modelling found the virus’s ability to bind to the bat ACE2 protein was poor relative to its ability to bind human cells. This argues against the virus being transmitted directly from bats to humans,” said Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, epidemiologist at Flinders University. As a result, “if the virus has a natural source, it could only have come to humans via an intermediary species which has yet to be found.”

David A. Winkler, biochemistry and genetics professor at La Trobe University, also on the research team, noted surprise that human ACE2 cells “showed the strongest spike binding,” especially if “an animal was the initial source of the infection in humans.” Winkler explained that pangolins, an anteater found in parts of Africa and southeast Asia, showed the highest binding strength of all the non-human animals tested, returning results markedly higher than bats but still less than humans.

Despite having the highest susceptibility of non-human animals, the researchers stressed that “nevertheless, no SARS-CoV-2-like virus has been found in pangolins, suggesting they were not the original source.” Petrovsky added that, “putting aside the intriguing pangolin ACE2 results, our study showed that the COVID-19 virus was very well adapted to infect humans.”

“Based on available genome sequence data, this study concluded that the current pandemic has been driven entirely by human-to-human transmission since at least December,” the researchers wrote.

“In summary, our study suggests that from the beginning of this pandemic the SARS-CoV-2 S [spike] protein already had very high, optimal binding to [human] hACE2. There is minimal early evidence of selection pressure to further optimise binding, in contrast to what has been seen with other zoonotic [cross-species] viruses at the time of their entry into the human population.”

In the meantime, support grows for the Wuhan lab-leak theory, whereby gain-of-function research on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology led to the first known instances of COVID-19 infections in the city of Wuhan, despite an initial pushback on the hypothesis from Big Tech and members of the scientific community, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci, who acts as the chief medical adviser to the president, was found to have sent funds through his National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) toward virus enhancement research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Fauci, as head of the NIAID, had authorized the funding to a group called the EcoHealth Alliance for five years, between 2014 and 2019. The group’s head, Dr. Peter Daszak, used the money to contract with Dr. Shi Zheng-li, a virologist in Wuhan, on gain-of-function experimentation.

After the coronavirus outbreak started to make headlines, Daszak organized a letter, published in The Lancet in February 2020, categorically dismissing “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” In January 2021, however, a spokesman for Daszak said that the British scientist had penned the letter to protect Chinese scientists who were receiving death threats at the time.

Daszak was invited to be part of a World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the virus that same month, acting as their sole American representative. The report returned an “extremely unlikely” verdict on the virus originating in the laboratory.

Following reports among mainstream media outlets like the Wall Street Journal giving credence to the lab-leak theory, Big Tech drastically changed its position on censorship of those who would give a platform to the thesis. Social media giant Facebook revised its “misinformation” policy to no longer include the Wuhan lab-leak in its intent to “remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19,” namely that “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured,” which they said was “debunked by public health experts” at the time.