Conspiracy theories have been appearing practically since the COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan. Immediate also the theory that the Coronavirus is a bioweapon.

But is this apocalyptic movie scenario really possible? What are the characteristics of a biological weapon? Could the coronavirus have been introduced into the environment and manipulated, in an effort to be used as a biological weapon?

One of these hypotheses involves the United States. The main reason is that it was the bitter enemy China that was affected. Just to remain in the obvious themes of bacteriological war between super-powers.
The first thing that should make us suspicious is that usually, the term “bacteriological weapon” is used (i.e. it uses bacteria, while COVID-19 is a virus, so it cannot be, by definition, a bacteriological weapon).

The seven characteristics of a biological weapon

Let’s assume-and-pretend, however, that it is a biological weapon, so let’s see what the characteristics of such a weapon should be (click here for more details).

VIRULENCE – that is, how much the pathogen is capable of causing the disease and inducing damage in the affected tissues. It must be elevated in order to incapacitate the person, but is not necessarily lethal.

INFECTIVENESS – even a small amount of pathogen must be enough to infect a large number of the population.

STABILITY – is the ability of the pathogen to stay alive for long periods outside the host until it finds another victim.

DEGREE OF NATURAL IMMUNITY – It must be low, in order to ensure the spread of the contagion.

AVAILABILITY OF VACCINES – for use by bioweapon users, so that they may save themselves from infection.

AVAILABILITY OF THERAPIES – few therapies that can reduce the damage of the pathogen must be available.

TRANSMISSIBILITY – the ease with which the disease spreads. It must be low enough to ensure that it affects the group of people who are the intended target of the biological weapon. In addition, the incubation time should be very low, in order to avoid the asymptomatic phase and specifically, in order to avoid the uncontrolled spread of the infection.

Now the question is: does COVID-19 respond to these characteristics?

Very little, in fact its virulence is about 15% to date, based on available data, so too little to make the target population completely defenseless.

On the contrary, the infectivity is quite high as it should be that of a biological weapon.

Stability at the moment is not calculable because survival times and conditions affecting the persistence of COVID-19 in the environment are not known. Some observations suggest that surfaces that may have come into contact with the virus should be carefully disinfected.

The degree of natural immunity is high; in fact, a good percentage of those infected is healing naturally and developing the antibodies necessary to stop being infected, at least by the coronavirus strain circulating at this time.

A vaccine does not exist and will not be formulated and made available for the next 12 to 18 months. In addition, the virus is now also present in the United States, more than 600 cases and 22 people have died.

Few therapies are available, however; some drugs already known (e.g. chloroquine, already used effectively on SARS) or being tested for other diseases are being used.

The transmissibility of COVID-19 is very high — too high to be defined as a biological weapon and higher than other coronaviruses such as MERS or Bird Flu (H5N1). Finally, the incubation time is too long.

Let’s sum up: biological weapon or not?

In conclusion, COVID-19 cannot be defined as a biological weapon, especially because of the absence of a vaccine, high transmissibility, low virulence and good natural immunity.

Even if it had been developed artificially for the purposes of targeting China, it is not proving effective, as cases in China are increasing very slowly, and containment strategies are working.

On the contrary, the coronavirus is quickly becoming a pandemic, which means that it is now present in almost every country on the planet, except one … Russia! A hypothesis obviously very pleasing to conspirators 🙂

This post is also available in: Italiano

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I've always been passionate about science and have a Degree in Biological Sciences and a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology. After six years of basic and applied research, I joined the company that provided the DNA sequencers that led Celera Genomics to complete the sequencing of the first human genome shortly before the same result was achieved by the "Human Genome Project" international public consortium. Subsequently, I became interested in human and animal diagnostics, and the development of molecular techniques from research-to-clinic. Science4Life represents the next stage of my personal journey, a stage in which I will make my experience and knowledge accessible to everyone.

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