A tweet posted on June 22 indicated that an old news story from 2013 confirms coronaviruses can be human-made. It includes images of a news article with the headline in Chinese, translated in English, “Evolved novel coronavirus can infect humans now.”
The user wrote in Chinese, “Is the virus made by humans? Who made it? You will know the answer by reading the old news! Now we know who is.” The post gained over 600 likes and has been retweeted about 400 times.
Comments show that some users believe the coronavirus mentioned in the old news article refers to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Some users retweeted it and said, “I have never doubted the fact that novel coronavirus was created by the CCP” with hashtags in English “#COVID19” and in Chinese “#超限生物武器 [ultimatebioweapon]”
However, the claim is misleading.
The old news report was not referring to SARS-CoV-2, but to HCoV-EMC, the novel coronavirus at the time that caused Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The study mentioned in the article also said that HCoV-EMC is “of zoonotic origin and closely related to bat coronaviruses.”
There was nothing in the article that indicates the possibility of the coronavirus being human-made anywhere.
Annie Lab found the article in question published on Feb. 21, 2013 by Jinan Times (济南时报) on WiseSearch, a database that stores news reports from different media organizations.
The HCoV-EMC the original article mentions emerged in late 2012 in the Middle East, causing worldwide public health concerns at that time.
The article reads, “On [Feb.] 19, European researchers said the novel coronavirus similar to the one causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) may come from an animal host. It has ‘evolved and can infect humans.”
It was a news report on a research paper titled “Efficient Replication of the Novel Human Betacoronavirus EMC on Primary Human Epithelium Highlights Its Zoonotic Potential” written by researchers from the Institute of Immunobiology, Kantonal Hospital, St. Gallen, Switzerland.
On May 28 of the same year, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially named HCoV-EMC as MERS-CoV, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.
According to WHO, MERS-CoV is a coronavirus transmitted between animals and people, with the virus transferred from infected dromedary camels in particular.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many countries have called for an investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2. In the G7 Summit held in June this year, the world leaders also pushed for a faster, more transparent investigation, following allegations that it could have been leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.