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What do we know about COVID-19 spike glycoproteins and their relationship to the HIV virus?

This article was published on
January 4, 2021

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Glycoproteins, which are a type of molecule made up of proteins and carbohydrates (like sugar), can be found in many viruses. They serve as a way to assist the viruses with entering and binding to the human body. Glycoproteins are found in viruses including SARS (SARS-CoV-1), chikungunya, dengue virus, hepatitis C, ebola, influenza, and more. HIV and COVID-19 have glycoproteins, including spike-like glycoproteins that push out from the virus's surface to attach to cells. However, both COVID-19 and HIV also have distinct genetic codes and different ways of infecting and impacting the people they infect. A recent retracted and debunked study implied that four pieces of genetic code in the COVID-19 virus have striking similarities to genetic sequences found in HIV strains from Thailand, Kenya and India. The research team noted that, similar to those HIV strains, some of the four pieces of code in COVID-19 were found on the spike part of a glycoprotein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The debunked study suggested it was likely that scientists manually placed the four genetic chunks into COVID-19 samples from the HIV-1 genome, or in other words, that the virus was created in a laboratory. This study was taken down from its pre-print host site and has been widely debunked for numerous reasons. Though both COVID-19 and HIV have similar spike proteins, with surfaces that are covered by a coat of sugar molecules ( which is how the viruses latch onto and enter human cells) they are not unique to these two viruses by any means. The four DNA protein sequences that the study highlighted are found in many different organisms, including the ones that cause cryptosporidiosis and malaria, in addition to SARS-CoV-2 and HIV. Additionally, the sample of genetic code used in the study was so short and thus not unique, that the code could easily be found in a number of other viruses. A paper rejecting the original study's findings noted that, after a genetic analysis using a more detailed database of genetic sequencing codes, scientists found not just similarities between COVID-19 and HIV, but also at least 100 identical or highly similar codes in genes from mammals, insects, bacteria, and others and in a large number of viruses caused by many different reasons. The paper showed that the genetic codes were not essential for HIV's functions, as they were highly varied and could include many moderations, further disproving the link between HIV being a potential source for SARS-CoV-2's genetic code. Finally, the paper demonstrated that several of the four genetic code insertions were found in bats in 2013 and 2018, so they existed in nature before COVID-19 was even identified, let alone genetically sequenced. Though there are several similarities between HIV and COVID-19 including spike glycoproteins and some similar genetic codes, the scientific community has disproven the idea that genetic codes from HIV could have been altered and substituted into SARS-CoV-2 to cause the COVID-19 virus.

Glycoproteins, which are a type of molecule made up of proteins and carbohydrates (like sugar), can be found in many viruses. They serve as a way to assist the viruses with entering and binding to the human body. Glycoproteins are found in viruses including SARS (SARS-CoV-1), chikungunya, dengue virus, hepatitis C, ebola, influenza, and more. HIV and COVID-19 have glycoproteins, including spike-like glycoproteins that push out from the virus's surface to attach to cells. However, both COVID-19 and HIV also have distinct genetic codes and different ways of infecting and impacting the people they infect. A recent retracted and debunked study implied that four pieces of genetic code in the COVID-19 virus have striking similarities to genetic sequences found in HIV strains from Thailand, Kenya and India. The research team noted that, similar to those HIV strains, some of the four pieces of code in COVID-19 were found on the spike part of a glycoprotein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The debunked study suggested it was likely that scientists manually placed the four genetic chunks into COVID-19 samples from the HIV-1 genome, or in other words, that the virus was created in a laboratory. This study was taken down from its pre-print host site and has been widely debunked for numerous reasons. Though both COVID-19 and HIV have similar spike proteins, with surfaces that are covered by a coat of sugar molecules ( which is how the viruses latch onto and enter human cells) they are not unique to these two viruses by any means. The four DNA protein sequences that the study highlighted are found in many different organisms, including the ones that cause cryptosporidiosis and malaria, in addition to SARS-CoV-2 and HIV. Additionally, the sample of genetic code used in the study was so short and thus not unique, that the code could easily be found in a number of other viruses. A paper rejecting the original study's findings noted that, after a genetic analysis using a more detailed database of genetic sequencing codes, scientists found not just similarities between COVID-19 and HIV, but also at least 100 identical or highly similar codes in genes from mammals, insects, bacteria, and others and in a large number of viruses caused by many different reasons. The paper showed that the genetic codes were not essential for HIV's functions, as they were highly varied and could include many moderations, further disproving the link between HIV being a potential source for SARS-CoV-2's genetic code. Finally, the paper demonstrated that several of the four genetic code insertions were found in bats in 2013 and 2018, so they existed in nature before COVID-19 was even identified, let alone genetically sequenced. Though there are several similarities between HIV and COVID-19 including spike glycoproteins and some similar genetic codes, the scientific community has disproven the idea that genetic codes from HIV could have been altered and substituted into SARS-CoV-2 to cause the COVID-19 virus.

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Glycoproteins, which are a type of molecule made up of proteins and carbohydrates (like sugar), can be found in many viruses. They serve as a way to assist the viruses with entering and binding to the human body. Glycoproteins are found in viruses including SARS (SARS-CoV-1), chikungunya, dengue virus, hepatitis C, ebola, influenza, and more.

HIV and COVID-19 have glycoproteins, including spike-like glycoproteins that push out from the virus's surface to attach to cells. However, both COVID-19 and HIV also have distinct genetic codes and different ways of infecting and impacting the people they infect.

A recent retracted and debunked study implied that four pieces of genetic code in the COVID-19 virus have striking similarities to genetic sequences found in HIV strains from Thailand, Kenya and India. The research team noted that, similar to those HIV strains, some of the four pieces of code in COVID-19 were found on the spike part of a glycoprotein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The debunked study suggested it was likely that scientists manually placed the four genetic chunks into COVID-19 samples from the HIV-1 genome, or in other words, that the virus was created in a laboratory. This study was taken down from its pre-print host site and has been widely debunked for numerous reasons.

Though both COVID-19 and HIV have similar spike proteins, with surfaces that are covered by a coat of sugar molecules ( which is how the viruses latch onto and enter human cells) they are not unique to these two viruses by any means. The four DNA protein sequences that the study highlighted are found in many different organisms, including the ones that cause cryptosporidiosis and malaria, in addition to SARS-CoV-2 and HIV.

Additionally, the sample of genetic code used in the study was so short and thus not unique, that the code could easily be found in a number of other viruses. A paper rejecting the original study's findings noted that, after a genetic analysis using a more detailed database of genetic sequencing codes, scientists found not just similarities between COVID-19 and HIV, but also at least 100 identical or highly similar codes in genes from mammals, insects, bacteria, and others and in a large number of viruses caused by many different reasons.

The paper showed that the genetic codes were not essential for HIV's functions, as they were highly varied and could include many moderations, further disproving the link between HIV being a potential source for SARS-CoV-2's genetic code. Finally, the paper demonstrated that several of the four genetic code insertions were found in bats in 2013 and 2018, so they existed in nature before COVID-19 was even identified, let alone genetically sequenced.

Though there are several similarities between HIV and COVID-19 including spike glycoproteins and some similar genetic codes, the scientific community has disproven the idea that genetic codes from HIV could have been altered and substituted into SARS-CoV-2 to cause the COVID-19 virus.

Context and background

As scientists and researchers continue to debate the origins of COVID-19, many early assumptions have been posed, including the link between HIV and SARS-CoV-2. However, this theory has been heavily criticized and retracted from its publisher after its early findings in January 2020, around the time most research teams were learning about SARS-CoV-2's recently sequenced genetic code.

Since then, several origins of the virus have been posited, including horseshoe bats, civets, and raccoon dogs. The World Health Organization began research work on October 30, 2020 to further their understanding of the virus's roots.

One aspect of COVID-19 that has intrigued research teams is its spike proteins and glycoproteins, which it has in common with HIV. Through further evaluation, though, it has been shown that these proteins are not unique to coronaviruses and are a common source of viral biology in a huge number of ailments caused by a variety of actors.

Resources

  1. Viral glycoproteins: biological role and application in diagnosis (Virusdisease)
  2. Variations in Spike Glycoprotein Gene of MERS-CoV, South Korea, 2015 (U.S. CDC Stacks)
  3. Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier inaccurately claims that the novel coronavirus is man-made and contains genetic material from HIV (Health Feedback)
  4. Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag (bioRxiv)
  5. Hybrid Gene Origination Creates Human-Virus Chimeric Proteins during Infection (Cell)
  6. The Structure and Dynamics of HIV Surface Spikes (U.S. NIH)
  7. The not-so-sweet side of SARS-CoV-2 sugars (eLife)
  8. The SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein Biosynthesis, Structure, Function, and Antigenicity: Implications for the Design of Spike-Based Vaccine Immunogens (FI)
  9. HIV-1 did not contribute to the 2019-nCoV genome (EMI)
  10. Where did COVID come from? WHO investigation begins but faces challenges (Nature)

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