SARS conspiracy theory

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The SARS conspiracy theory began to emerge during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China in the spring of 2003, when Sergei Kolesnikov,[1] a Russian scientist and a member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, first publicized his claim that the SARS coronavirus is a synthesis of measles and mumps. According to Kolesnikov, this combination cannot be formed in the natural world and thus the SARS virus must have been produced under laboratory conditions. Another Russian scientist, Nikolai Filatov, head of Moscow's epidemiological services, had earlier commented that the SARS virus was probably man-made.[2][3]

However, independent labs concluded these claims to be premature since the SARS virus is a coronavirus,[4][5][6] whereas measles and mumps are paramyxoviruses.[7][8] The primary differences between a coronavirus and a paramyxovirus are in their structures and method of infection, thus making it implausible for a coronavirus to have been created from two paramyxoviruses.

The widespread reporting of claims by Kolesnokov and Filatov caused controversy in many Chinese internet discussion boards and chat rooms. Many Chinese believed that the SARS virus could be a biological weapon manufactured by the United States, which perceived China as a potential threat.[9] The failure to find the source of the SARS virus further convinced these people and many more that SARS was artificially synthesised and spread by some individuals and even governments. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the SARS virus crossed over to humans from Asian palm civets ("civet cats"), a type of animal that is often killed and eaten in Guangdong, where SARS was first discovered.[10][11]

Supporters of the conspiracy theory suggest that SARS caused the most serious harm in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, regions where most Chinese reside, while the United States, Europe and Japan were not affected as much. However, the highest mortality from SARS outside of China occurred in Canada where 43 died.[12][13] Conspiracists further take as evidence the idea that, although SARS has an average mortality rate of around 10% around the world, no one died in the United States from SARS. However, there were only 8 confirmed cases out of 27 probable cases in the US (10% of 8 people is less than 1 person).[14][15][16] Regarding reasons why SARS patients in the United States experienced a relatively mild illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has explained that anybody with fever and a respiratory symptom who had traveled to an affected area was included as a SARS patient in the U.S., even though many of these were found to have had other respiratory illnesses.[16][17]

Tong Zeng, an activist with no medical background, authored the book The Last Defense Line: Concerns About the Loss of Chinese Genes, published in 2003.[18] In the book, Zeng suggested researchers from the United States may have created SARS as an anti-Chinese bioweapon after taking blood samples in China for a longevity study in the 1990s.[18] The book's hypothesis was a front-page report in the Guangzhou newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily.[18]

Coronaviruses similar to SARS have been found in bats in China, suggesting they may be their natural reservoir.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SARS virus was created in weapons lab: Russian scientist". Rediff. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  2. ^ "SARS could be biological weapon: experts". ABC News. April 12, 2003. Archived from the original on 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  3. ^ "Sars biological weapon?". 11 April 2003. Archived from the original on 6 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  4. ^ Marco A Marra; Steven J M Jones; Caroline R Astell; et al. (1 May 2003). "The Genome sequence of the SARS-associated coronavirus". Science. 300 (5624): 1399–1404. Bibcode:2003Sci...300.1399M. doi:10.1126/SCIENCE.1085953. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 12730501. Wikidata Q29619007.
  5. ^ "Coronavirus belongs to same family as Sars". 18 February 2013. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Coronaviruses". Archived from the original on 24 May 2005. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Paramyxovirus Information". Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Measles". World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Speculation SARS leaked from bio-weapon program". Melbourne: May 1, 2003. Archived from the original on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  10. ^ "WHO: More evidence of civet cat-SARs link". CNN. January 17, 2004. Archived from the original on December 1, 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  11. ^ "China scientists say SARS-civet cat link proved". Reuters. 23 November 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-04-06. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  12. ^ "WHO - Summary of probable SARS cases with onset of illness from 1 November 2002 to 31 July 2003". Archived from the original on 24 June 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Cumulative Probable Deaths -". Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  14. ^ Al-Juhaishi, Atheer Majid Rashid; Aziz, Noor D. (2022-09-12). "Safety and Efficacy of antiviral drugs against covid-19 infection: an updated systemic review". Medical and Pharmaceutical Journal. 1 (2): 45–55. doi:10.55940/medphar20226. ISSN 2957-6067. S2CID 252960321. Archived from the original on 2023-02-20. Retrieved 2023-01-27.
  15. ^ "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Cumulative Probable Cases -". Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  16. ^ a b "Update: Outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome --- Worldwide, 2003". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control. April 4, 2003. Archived from the original on 2017-06-17. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  17. ^ "Why SARS Death Rate Lower In United States". April 3, 2003. Archived from the original on 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  18. ^ a b c Sheridan Prasso (16 February 2004). "Old Habits". The New Republic. Archived from the original on 2017-07-07. Retrieved 2007-08-16. (also see "The New Republic". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2008-09-12.)
  19. ^ "SARS-like coronavirus found in wild bats: scientists". The People's Daily. 11 September 2005. Archived from the original on 2011-05-12. Retrieved 2007-08-16.

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