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Saved Stories – None: Covid acting aggressively, defying normal virus features, says Apollo chief Prathap Reddy

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New Delhi: The coronavirus is a different kind of virus because it’s killing people in winter as well as summer, Apollo Hospitals founder-chairman Dr Prathap C. Reddy said Wednesday at the digital edition of ThePrint’s Off The Cuff. But he added that he couldn’t “speculate” if the virus came from a lab.

In conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, Reddy said, “This virus is killing people in the winter and summer. So, it is a different kind of virus which we need to watch carefully. But I can’t speculate that it came from a lab.”

“All I can say is that it is metamorphosing so fast that it is not an ordinary virus,” he added.

Reddy revealed that he has been “baffled” by the nature of this virus. “I remember when the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa which killed over 30 per cent of the patients. However, the moment the temperature went up, it became normal,” he said.

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He also recalled the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, where he had sent a team of people to assess the intensity of the outbreak. MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, killing almost 35 per cent people who contracted it. 

“The team I sent set up a process protocol and in five days the number of deaths dropped. It did so not just because of us but also because the temperature went up till 30 degrees,” said Reddy. 

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The coronavirus is acting “very aggressively and is defying the normal features of a virus”, Reddy said, adding that all the other viruses either lived or died but that this one changes its morphology rather quickly.

Also read: How decades of work on elusive HIV vaccine has given hope for a ‘quick’ Covid vaccine

How has China been coping

Asked about how the Chinese came to grips with the virus so quickly, Reddy said, “I think that should make us realise that there is something to it. Except the Wuhan region, the virus didn’t spread to any other part of China.” 

Covid-19 has spread to almost every village in India, said Reddy. “There were 21 cases in my district alone.”  

Asked how it’s possible that the virus is not spreading in China, Reddy said, “Maybe there’s some form of secrecy that they haven’t told the world.”

If not the medicine, Reddy hoped the Chinese would reveal how to control the virus at least. “I wish they were this large-hearted. They should care for humanity,” he said.  

The coronavirus-made-in-lab theory

Speculation over the origin of the virus continues as scientists try to determine where it came from and when and how it was transmitted to humans. The theory that the virus was man-made in a lab gained some currency but has since died down.

Asked for his views, Dr Reddy said, “I won’t definitively say it is a lab virus, I don’t have the proof to say it is.”

After the outbreak of coronavirus, many expressed fears that the virus was made in a lab. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that he had “enormous evidence” to prove that the virus had originated in a lab in China.

“I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories,” Pompeo said.

French virologist and Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier also made headlines when he claimed that Covid virus was “man-made”, and was a result of an attempt to make a vaccine against AIDS in a Chinese lab.

However, studies have shown that the virus couldn’t be man-made. 

“By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” said Kristian Andersen, Scripps Research, US, who is the co-author of one such study.

“All evidence so far points to the fact the Covid-19 virus is naturally derived and not man-made,” said Nigel McMillan, an immunologist from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Australia.

“If you were going to design it in a lab the sequence changes make no sense as all previous evidence would tell you it would make the virus worse. No system exists in the lab to make some of the changes found,” McMillan added.

Also read: Coronavirus infection transmitted from mother to foetus in France

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