PETALING JAYA: Several social media posts are spreading bogus conspiracy theory in regards to the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV), allegedly claiming that the virus was patented, with its vaccine readily available.
The posts claimed that there was a patent for the coronavirus which was filed in 2015 and granted in 2018. Some even suggested that it was made in a lab along with its vaccine.
According to a report on FactCheck.org — one of several organisations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media — these claims are not true as the referred patents pertain to different viruses.
The report highlighted that all of the posts linked to patents that are related to two different viruses in the coronavirus family.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on its website, explains that coronaviruses are a group of viruses that tend to cause respiratory illnesses in humans and a variety of other illnesses in animals.
The name comes from the crown, or corona-like appearance of infective viruses when seen under a microscope.
One patent is for a genetic sequence of the virus that causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, a disease that spread to dozens of countries in 2003.
Matthew Frieman, a coronavirus researcher at the University of Maryland, was quoted saying that “the sequencing was done at the CDC during the SARS outbreak and they were the ones that filed the patent.”
The other supposedly related patent is for a mutated form of avian infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which infects poultry, but not people. The patent was filed by the Pirbright Institute, a research institute in the UK that aims to prevent and control “viral diseases of livestock.”
“Neither of these has anything to do with the new 2019-nCoV virus, ” said Frieman. “This is clearly a bogus theory that this virus was created in a lab, patented and has a vaccine already made to it.”
At press time, neither the patent related to the new virus nor a vaccine is currently available for the new coronavirus as researchers are still working to understand the origin, spread and severity of the Wuhan virus.
As of Saturday (Jan 25), the Health Ministry has so far confirmed four cases of novel coronavirus infection in Malaysia.