MOSCOW, August 5. /TASS/. The high death rates of the first strains of coronavirus, which were recorded in the early 2000s and in 2012, may indicate that it could have been developed and used as a potential bioweapons, Professor Konstantin Krutovsky, chair of the laboratory of genomic research at Siberian Federal University and Professor of Goettingen University, told TASS on Friday.
"It is hypothetically possible to develop a coronavirus as a potential biological weapon, as the mortality rates of the first strains of SARS-Cov-1 and MERS-Cov were very high. During the SARS-Cov-1 outbreak in 2002-2003, about 700 of about 8,000 infected patients died, which is 9%. Along with this, 800 patients died out of 2,500 infected people, which is already 32%," Krutovsky noted.
Nevertheless, the scientist pointed that the probability to create "military" viruses targeting certain ethnic groups or certain countries was "next to impossible."
"Despite the enormous genetic diversity of humans, the genetic differences between ethnic groups in metabolism, virus pathogenesis and fundamental physiological processes are small, as we all are the same species. Moreover, the populations of large countries are genetically and ethnically heterogeneous," he concluded.
On August 4, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it "is considering a possibility that the USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) is involved in the emergence of the novel coronavirus." According to the ministry, since 2009 the USAID has been funding the program to study novel coronaviruses and to capture bats. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Johns Hopkins University had conducted the Event 201 simulation exercise to train the response measures to the pandemic of a previously unknown coronavirus.