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Op-Ed: ‘Fake News’ spreading over coronavirus patents on social media

The January 22 post on the Facebook page reads: “So.. patent on this “new” Coronavirus expired on the 22nd, today.. We have a sudden outbreak. There’s magically already a vaccine available.. And NOW fear-mongering spread by the media about quarantine. Ask yourselves this: What is in the vaccine that they want people to get so bad?”

Also included in the post is a CNN headline that appears to contradict the Facebook user’s post that reads: “Vaccine for new Chinese coronavirus in the works,” and a South China Morning Post headline that says: “China grants emergency quarantine powers to stop spread of Wuhan virus,” according to

It should be noted that the post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed.

The truth about the coronavirus patents
Yes, there have been patents created for viruses, including coronaviruses, that included one for avian infectious bronchitis virus, and another for SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, a coronavirus.

A number of viruses have been patented, and are used for diagnostic tests and for vaccines against diseases. That is why gene sequencing is so important in identifying a disease and where it originates.

The SARS outbreak led to a global epidemic in 2003 that affected more than 8,000 people globally and killed more than 770. As this writer and other journalists have tried to explain to our readers, “coronavirus” is the name for a family of viruses that includes the common cold, but different coronaviruses can also be found in bats, camels, and other animals.

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The virus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface. There are a total of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans, the CDC says. Other well-known coronaviruses include SARS and MERS. The new coronavirus is officially called “2019-nCoV.”

Social media users are actually sharing information pertaining to the separate patents for avian infectious bronchitis virus and SARS. In 2015, according to Justia, a legal information database, the Pirbright Institute filed for the patent related to the avian infectious bronchitis virus, which infects poultry.

The patent also covered the porcine delta-coronavirus, which infects pigs. is reporting that according to the Associated Press, “Pirbright confirmed that the patent is not for the new virus and that the research institute in Surrey, England, does not currently work with human coronaviruses.”

Dr. Erica Bickerton, who is the head of coronavirus research at Pirbright, said the patent identifies the mutations of the avian virus in the hopes of making a vaccine.

If people would just not go off half-cocked and use their brains and intelligence, they would read the facts about something instead of looking at a distorted headline and assuming the worst. The point I’m trying to make is simple – Don’t ever assume a sensationalized news story is real until you check the source.

I had a boss, years ago tell me why we must never assume anything. Mr. Harrington said, “Karen, if you break down the letters in the word” ASSUME,” you will see that it will make an “ASS of U and ME.” I have never forgotten that bit of wisdom.

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