As concerns about the Wuhan coronavirus continue to sweep the world, some are now circulating claims that the virus was patent by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, the World Health Organization or other entities. However, the coronavirus patents that are being shared online aren’t for the virus that started in Wuhan, China and has since spread. This is nothing but a hoax.
Coronavirus patents circulate online
One such coronavirus patent is this one, which was patented by the U.K.’s Pirbright Institute. However, other versions of the hoax claim that Bill Gates patent it and that the World Health Organization or U.S. officials have known about the virus for years but didn’t do anything about it.
The problem is that the coronavirus is a family of viruses rather than anyone particular pathogen. The virus family also includes the viruses responsible for the SARS and MERS outbreaks in past years. So far, about 650 people have been sickened and nearly 20 have died from the Wuhan coronavirus.
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Where did the hoax come from?
The rumor or hoax about the coronavirus patent has circulated through a few high-profile sources, such as QAnon conspiracy theorist YouTuber Jordan Sather. He warned his followers earlier this week that the illness is a “new fad disease” and claimed that its release had been “planned.” His thread about the alleged coronavirus patent spread like wildfire across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Sather shared the link to the coronavirus patent we linked above. He suggested that the government planned the release of the virus. However, one problem with his theory is that the Pirbright Institute works with animals, not humans. The coronavirus patent it filed was for a strain of the virus that infects birds. The patent also covers a strain that infects pigs. The other patents being shared as a claim that the coronavirus was patented was for SARS. Anti-vaccination activists seem to especially zone in on the claims.
The U. S. announced its first case earlier this week, and airports in the U.S. started screening for illness after the first patient was found to have it after arriving in the country form China. Chinese officials have quarantined several cities close to Wuhan, which is where the outbreak has been traced from. They shut down transportation and roads to prevent further spread of the illness.
Lab in Wuhan tasked with studying dangerous pathogens
Interestingly, ValueWalk also learned that a lab in Wuhan, China was actually close to being tasked with studying the most dangerous pathogens in the world a few years ago. An article in the journal Nature three years ago detailed the workings of the maximum-security biolab in Wuhan, which was part of a plan to build a network of such facilities across China.
Interestingly, the Nature article indicates that some outside China were worried about pathogens escaping from the lab. At the time it was written, the lab was on the cusp of securing clearance to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. It’s unclear where the lab in Wuhan stands now, but the fact that there is a lab that may handle dangerous pathogens in the city that was at the center of the outbreak is interesting.