No, the coronavirus was not created from HIV

First of all …

Pr. Luc MONTAGNIER

The words of Luc Montagnier, Nobel Prize winner in medicine in 2008 and now controversial doctor , according to which the Covid-19 was created from a sequence of HIV, are very much taken up. But his claim is “completely false and has no biological meaning,” say specialists  

  1. The coronavirus was created in a laboratory in Wuhan by scientists who were looking to create an HIV vaccine, according to a theory relayed by Professor Luc Montagnier. 
  2. 2008 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, he claims to have achieved this result with the help of a mathematician friend, Jean-Claude Perez, who analyzed the genome of Covid-19. But this genome does not contain an HIV sequence, as several specialists explain to us . 
  3. 20 Minutes also returns to the way in which Professor Luc Montagnier and Jean-Claude Perez proceeded to advance these assertions.  

” A bomb “, ” a pavement in the pond ” … this is how the words of Professor. Luc Montagnier were qualified , Nobel Prize in Medicine in -2008-  with Professor.Françoise Barré- Sinoussi – for their work on the discovery of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus responsible for AIDS , in 1983.            

Professor Emeritus James

And for good reason : according to the declarations of Professor Emeritus of the Pasteur Institute – decried in 2017 by part of the scientific community for his “ dangerous messages for health ” and without “ ethical ” foundation concerning vaccines -, the Sars-CoV-2, the scientific name for Covid-19 , was accidentally created in a laboratory in Wuhan – the capital of Hubei, the province of China where the epidemic started – by researchers who were trying to create a vaccine for HIV.          

Dr. Jean-François LEMOINE

Doctor Jean-François Lemoine, about the ” incomplete decryption ” which would have been done of Sars-CoV-2, Luc Montagnier explains thus beforehand : ” The laboratory of the city of Wuhan s’ has specialized in this type of coronavirus for a very long time […]. They have expertise in this area, which prompted me to take a close look at the description of the genome – that is to say, the sequence – of the nucleic acid […] of this virus. This is the beginning of an analysis which was made not only by me but also and above all by my mathematician colleague, who is called Jean-Claude Perez. ”      

Before continuing :      

“ He did delve into the smallest details of the sequence. We were not the first since a group of Indian researchers published – finally, tried to publish – an analysis which showed that the complete genome of this coronavirus had sequences of another virus, and ô surprise for me , HIV, the virus [responsible] for AIDS. This was first published by the Indian group, it was forced [to] retract because there is enormous pressure for all of this, to bring the truth out. “

Dr. JF LEMOINE

” The most reasonable hypothesis is to think that they wanted to make an HIV vaccine and use a coronavirus which, in principle, can attenuate and not give disease “, finally adds Luc Montagnier defending himself, in response to a question from Jean-François Lemoine, of any ” conspiracy “. 

But by specifying in passing the role it could play in the face of the coronavirus : “ Me, I have proposals to make but I need a lot of means. I think that with waves, interfering waves, with the waves behind these RNA sequences, we could perhaps eliminate, even in patients, these sequences by waves. ”           

So many elements advanced over the broadcast of ten minutes, in the preamble of which the presenter recognized, however, that this ” substantiated argument ” remained ” impossible to verify [at his level] “. Unsurprisingly, the statements have had a very significant impact since they have since been taken up by many Internet users and personalities, such as the sociologist Edgar Morin .       

Dr. Monsef Benkirane

But these are clearly contradicted by the latest research on Covid-19 as confirmed by Monsef Benkirane , CNRS researcher and director of the Institute of Human Genetics : ” No, the genome of the coronavirus absolutely does not contain HIV sequence. Two articles published, one in the journal Nature , the other in Cell , denied the possibility that SARS-Cov-2 was designed in a laboratory. This statement has no biological meaning and is completely false. Another researcher specializing in the subject abounds : ” This story of HIV sequence is completely wrong and made the scientific community scream. ”              

We must separate the true from the false

The assumption that the Covid-19 was created in a Wuhan laboratory – either voluntarily or by accident – is not new. As we explained at the end of January , this theory was already circulating on social networks without any concrete element going in this direction. And it has seen a revival in recent days thanks to various articles indicating that the American intelligence services are seriously studying this possibility among others, although there is no evidence to support this hypothesis at this stage.   

“ We know very well the mutations acquired by the virus, at what level they took place and how they allowed it to cross the species barrier. There is no doubt that this virus was not made in the laboratory, ”

Dr. M BENKIRANE

explains Monsef Benkirane about SARS-CoV-2, whose genome is made up of RNA, a nucleic acid.  

“ Nucleic acid is a succession of words composed from four letters, in this case, A, U, C and G for the RNA virus. If we look for short sequences of two or three letters in different genomes, we will necessarily find them, but that does not mean that the two genomes are the same or that one comes from the other. Take the two sentences “I watch TV” and “I read a book” : they share the same word, “I”, but they are not the same either. We inevitably find identical words in completely different texts , ”explains the specialist.    

” No reason to link it to HIV ”  

Clearly, if certain successions of words in the genome of SARS-CoV-2 are found in that of HIV, they are also found in many different viruses, without having any probative value or that they can be associated to one particular virus rather than another. 

This is already explained by Trevor Bedford, an English-speaking specialist in viruses, in early February, in reaction to the “Indian study” today quoted by Professor Luc Montagnier, who argued that the presence of four specific regions in the SARS-CoV-2 – and absent from other viruses in this family – originated from HIV.  

“ These brief insertions do exist […] but a simple [search for similar regions between several sequences] on such short sequences corresponds to an enormous variety of organisms. There is no reason to link it to HIV, ”

Trevor Bedford
Pr. Olivier Schwartz

Olivier Schwartz, head of the “ virus and immunity ” unit at the Pasteur Institute, also returned to this study at the beginning of March for France Culture (from 0’44 below) : “ A team of researchers has shown sequence homologies between this coronavirus and HIV. But in fact, it has no meaning. The virus sequence is a sequence of nucleic acids […]. It’s 30,000 different letters that follow each other. 30,000 letters is about 30 pages of a book. And they compared these 30 pages of book to 30 pages of another book, the HIV book, and they found that there were groups of 3 or 4 letters in common. […] Statistically, there are inevitably homologies but that has no value, it is due to chance. ”      

In addition, the “ Indian study ” was put online on January 31 , 2020 on the bioRxiv site in a “ pre-print ” version, without being re-read by the scientific community – a process that allows scientific experts in the field to ensure its reliability and verify its methodology, which generally takes several months.       

In this case, faced with an outcry from the scientific community, which had denounced the lack of seriousness of their method and the results they had drawn from it, its authors had finally withdrawn it , explaining that it did not ” want to feed theories conspiracies and defend themselves against any claim of this kind “, and by promising to rework their study before publishing it again. Contacted by 20 Minutes , they did not respond to our requests before the publication of this article.      

” How is it that you are all alone on this subject ?” 

If we have not been able to reach Luc Montagnier either, Doctor Gérard Guillaume, doctor specializing in rheumatology, explains to us how the professor came to share his theory in ” Why doctor ” : ” I work with the professor Luc Montagnier for ten years, I have been part of his informal working group made up of fifteen doctors from different disciplines, whose ambition is to reflect – by studying scientific literature in particular – on cold infections and their role in chronic diseases. ”      

“ We have been aware of his work on the coronavirus since March : he has carried out 88 genome sequencing and has found the HIV sequence 87 times. During a videoconference working meeting on April 11 , Professor Montagnier told us about his latest advances on the virus and I told him “How is it that you are all alone on this subject ?”, before telling him that his duty was to speak to the media if they did not come to him. So I contacted Jean-François Lemoine, who had interviewed me a few years ago, “continues Gérard Guillaume, specifying : ” Professor Montagnier expected to undergo missile fire for sharing his theory but he told me said : “I am 87 years old, my future is behind me, I fear nothing” “.            

For his part, Jean-Claude Perez, the mathematician friend quoted by Luc Montagnier as co-author of the study, explains to us that he has studied ” for thirty years the biomathematics of DNA “, after having worked as a ” researcher at IBM “. “ We have been working with Luc Montagnier since August on other subjects, and we looked at the coronavirus after its appearance. Thanks to a tool I have to check the genomes, we looked at it and we discovered that it was evolving a lot compared to previous SARS. Then we came across the publication of an American, on the Web, who claimed that a region of SARS-CoV-2 was not found in other SARS and by removing it we increased its integrity instead of reducing it “, He says.      

A complete study ” soon to be published ”  

“ We then found in this region three very small pieces of HIV-1, then six, and we published a pre- print article – without validation by other scientists – which was widely followed before being deleted for obscure reasons [then republished here] and we learned later that it had been the same for the Indian study, “he continues. While disputing the “ reasoning according to which the short sequences show no convincing link between the genomes ” of HIV and SARS-CoV-2 because “ the numerous regions observed are side by side on the genome, it is not nature who can do that, we are sure that there has been human manipulation ”.        

” There was a counter-attack coming from China to say that the virus emanated from the bat, it is difficult to explain but there is other evidence in the article which shows that the manipulation was done at last moment to bind the virus to the bat. The Indian study represents perhaps 10 % of what we found in ours, we almost finished it, we will soon publish it, we will try to do it in a large review with validation from other scientists but it’s going to be complicated. ”

Jean-Claude Perez

” With all due respect to Professor Montagnier, he has moved away from scientific research in recent years. It is perhaps less up to date, “underlines Monsef Benkirane , while Le Monde told two years ago, in an interview with Luc Montagnier, how he had” had to promise by email not to be in the hands of pharmaceutical companies or medical lobbies, swear not to distort his words “to be able to meet him.        

 The scenarios of a deliberately manipulated human coronavirus: have to be refuted? 

Lucie Etienne, CNRS researcher in virology and evolutionary biology at the International Center for Research in Infectiology (CIRI, in Lyon), finally recalls in turn the conclusions – and the methodology – of the study published in the renowned journal Nature : ” The genome of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing Covid-19 does not contain an HIV sequence. […] This information could be demonstrated by phylogenic analyzes of these viruses, that is to say analyzes which retrace the history of viruses, much like a family tree based on data from the genetic code of viruses. These analyzes are widely used to study the origin of viruses in general. ”     

“ Independent researchers from different countries have been able to publish these analyzes, which have also been validated by other independent researchers. Thus, the scenarios of a deliberately manipulated human coronavirus have been refuted, as have those of a coronavirus with inserted HIV sequences , ”she adds.  

Contacted by 20 Minutes , Sidaction, the association for the fight against HIV, said : “ To date, we do not fund research on Covid-19 and none of the researchers we are funding on HIV have reports on the presence of HIV elements in the Covid-19 sequence. ”     

” The unknown, at this stage, it is the origin of the virus, we do not know if it comes from the bat or the pangolin,” recalls Moncef Benkirane . We also have to learn everything about how it replicates, how it defeats the immune system, why this virus is highly pathogenic in some people and not at all in others, etc., in order to be able to develop therapeutic strategies effective including the development of a vaccine. “And to conclude : ” But the best example is HIV : thanks to our knowledge of the virus, we now have around thirty antiviral molecules which, combined in triple therapy, allow us to no longer dies of HIV. ”