Covid origins: the tipping point lies in habitat destruction | Adamas University

Covid origins: the tipping point lies in habitat destruction

Covid-19

Covid origins: the tipping point lies in habitat destruction

There is a lot of controversies regarding the origin of corona virus. Until and unless the international community agrees upon a new consensus we are left with any other explanation but to accept that the virus began its spread from a wet market in Wuhan of Hubei province in China. There is a different claim that the virus is manmade and its genetic sequence has been fiddled with in a lab. This different and almost conspiracy theory like notion about its origin might well be true. Even in a scenario where the virus has been proven to have a manmade origin we need to take the wet market explanation very seriously and here is why: it is not just about Covid alone!

In our recorded history there have been a handful of epidemics and pandemics which left humanity at loss.  These epidemics and pandemics swept the world in waves after waves and have shown us their devastating capabilities. We as a species have fought it off, even after great loss, only to rise again, but this Covid is different in many aspect.

Firstly, this type of virus is not new- we have known corona-like virus for a long time. Only this time it has certain mutation which tuned it perfectly for human contagion. As any concerned person might infer that this virus were always present in bats. Then why didn’t it do any harm to them? Because bats have a biochemistry a little different than ours. Bats need a lot of energy in a very short span of time to fly- as a prerequisite for that to happen, their body is adapted to a lot more free radicals than human body can possibly handle. This is not very particularly unique to bats, every species harbours some virus that does not affect that particular species but is deadly to various other species. Even we humans act as safe house for various strains of influenza virus that doesn’t affect us at all.

The second question is why now? Why this mutation all of a sudden? Mutations can happen due to a lot of reasons- some of them are biochemical in nature, where as some are due to sudden changes in external factors like temperature fluctuation or exposure to radiation etc. the biochemical route of mutation is very well known and well managed through probabilistic balance in every nucleic acid strand that replicates. It is the external factors that jeopardizes the entire equilibrium.  In the list of external factors most deadly ones are the manmade ones like global warming, high radiation etc.

For instance let us consider the vast virus pool buried under the permafrost. When those viruses come out due to global warming they are bombarded with radiation of much higher level than they are adapted to; credit goes to disasters like Fukushima or Chernobyl. In the meantime earth has lost much of the ozone layer width than the world before the previous ice age when the permafrost was formed. Global warming is also present to hinder with their biochemistry. As a result the statistical rate of their mutation increases rapidly. Remember that all changes in genome sequence do not make the virus deadly some even work against the virus itself, but as a law of evolution only those mutations survive which benefit in the replication of the virus.

Thirdly we need to consider the paradox of so many viruses making humans their targets. All existing viruses have a natural host like bats or something else. These host animals have a natural habitat. If that habitat is squeezed the virus has a less number of host to infect and it looks out for another host. In most of the cases this jump to a new host is futile as biochemistry of these two host is quite different. But it is a statistical jump towards survival that is like a never ending process in evolution.

So there is increased rate of mutation from global warming and increasing radiations. Then there is habitat destruction of wild animals that forces them to be crammed up in very small jungle patches. The present form of corona virus has similarities with bat’s genome sequence and pangolin’s genome sequence. It is unimaginable how the virus hopped from bats to pangolins, then to bats again and to humans finally. The process is probabilistic, there is no doubt about that; but we also have our fair share of blame to accept in tipping the natural balance towards our doom.

If we survive this, and we hope we will, there is a message from Mother Nature that we need to take note of. The message is: if we do not restore climatic conditions, restrict our nuclear activities and begin new habitat regeneration for wildlife there will be grave consequences in the form of corona or other viruses again and again. We may not like it but the next virus might be deadlier than this one too. We need to remember that life on earth is precious, and we are not to plunder it rather we are part of it. If we do not share the resources with other life forms we will not be part of life any longer. Life will go on here on this planet, only we will be fossils.

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