In this article, I will finally blog a bit about the Lab Leak Theory of COVID-19 origins. Personally, I think that this theory is the one which makes most sense given the available evidence. But because then US-President Donald Trump and other fascists in USA usurped the lab leak theory with glee, it was denounced as an anti-Chinese and anti-science conspiracy by almost all scientists as well as by most of the media: only right-wing outlets covered it, at least initially.
Things changed now, many scientists and media outlets now openly discuss lab leak as a serious possibility in urgent need of investigation. Others quietly prepare themselves to change position. I tried to interview Germany’s most prominent virologist Christian Drosten in this regard, because Drosten once co-authored an open letter dismissing lab leak speculations as a “conspiracy theories”; but due to a failed follow-up, Drosten’s replies appear inconclusive in the given context.
There are many articles on the topic of lab leak theory in the media these days, here are some particularly informative ones (do tell me if I forgot some):
- September 2020: Rowan Jacobsen (citing Alina Chan) in Boston
- September 2020: Aksel Fridstrøm in Minerva
- December 2020: investigative reports from China by BBC and by AP
- January 2021: Nicholson Baker in New York Magazine
- March 2021: Ian Birell in Mail on Sunday
- March 2021: Matt Ridley and Alina Chan in The Telegraph
- April 2021: Ian Birrell in Unherd
- June 2021: Rowan Jacobsen in Newsweek
- June 2021: Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair
And otherwise, do follow Alina Chan on Twitter!
Now, there are oodles of explainers around these days (eg, here in New York Times), and the story is way too complex. Here my own:
A virus which came from nowhere
A zoonotic origin of COVID-19, i.e directly from bats or via another intermediate animal host, is scientifically the most logical theory. Problem is, that despite all these investigations, no clues in this regard were found. The virus appeared as if from nowhere, already perfectly adapted to humans, sometime on November 2019 in the 11-million megacity of Wuhan, hundreds of kilometres from any bats who were anyway hibernating at that time of the year. All searches of Wuhan’s “wet markets” where live animals poached from the wild are sold, delivered exactly nothing. No animal host, no traces of SARS-CoV2 antibodies anywhere in the blood, animal or human, prior to November/December 2019. And according to Alina Chan (Zhan et al 2020), the SARS-CoV2 genome didn’t mutate at all when the pandemic began, while its naturally emerged bat virus relatives SARS and MERS (which intermediate hosts were quickly determined to be civets and camels, respectively) wildly mutated when they first hit people. Meaning: SARS-CoV2 was already perfectly trained on human, but where? Which mysterious animal was the intermediate host?
Earlier in the pandemic, Chinese government flouted the pangolin theory, claiming to have found SARS-CoV2 antibodies in poached pangolins sold on Chinese markets. Alina Chan and her colleague proved that research was shoddy at best: the exact same pangolin virus genome was published by various papers as independent isolations. None of these Chinese papers was retracted, but Chan’s work remains available only as preprint (Chan & Zhan bioRxiv 2020), no serious journal wants to take it, probably due to her activism for the lab leak theory.
Frozen Red Herring
What other theories are worth considering? Well, the WHO team (which was actual a 50/50 WHO-China team, all foreign members were vetted and approved by Chinese authorities) decided that a “cold chain” theory is quite possible. This postulates that SARS-CoV2 arrived to Wuhan from abroad via frozen or refrigerated food, like meat or fish. A frozen red herring theory which Chinese Communist Party embraced already before the WHO mission started, demanding investigations of COVID-19 origins in Europe and USA instead of at home. Assuming that it is scientifically possible that the virus travelled via frozen food from Europe and caused a mass infection in a mega-city (which never happened before in the entire human history), what does it actually imply?
It implies that COVID-19 must have started in Europe in 2019, spreading among the population for months until it reached the fish and chickens destined for China. Utterly undetected? No way, unless there is a massive masonic Illuminati cover-up in the EU, with everyone involved, Angela Merkel and all. Alternatively, the Europeans must have designed the virus in their secret bioweapon labs to stealthily attack China via tainted frozen red herrings. Both models are of course stupid conspiracy theories, even a theory of outer space origins of COVID-19-infected aliens coughing out of UFOs would be more reasonable. And yet this frozen red herring model is what the WHO mission to China found perfectly reasonable, while a lab leak in Wuhan was deemed as “extremely unlikely“, a fact-free conspiracy theory really.
Unlike with the frozen red herring theory, there is more than enough circumstantial evidence and experiences from the past to warrant an investigation into a possible lab leak. But such a discovery would be extremely consequential in many aspects, for virology and for politics, so it must be a conspiracy theory then!
Gain of function
Now, that WHO team deployed to China in early 2021 was officially led by a certain Peter Daszak, a British zoologist with keen interest in virology. Daszak had a conflict of interest the size of a planet: his EcoHealth Alliance was for years channelling US funding money from NIH and Pentagon to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) for the purpose of coronavirus research. Specifically, the gain of function research, where naturally occurring coronaviruses were manipulated in the lab to make them more pathogenic for humans, the idea being to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine. WIV was doing viral experiments like state-of-the-art genetic manipulation and virus passaging in human cell culture or in genetically manipulated (“humanized”) mice, all to make the coronaviruses more pathogenic to humans. We know all that also because Daszak himself was openly boasting about the WIV achievements just before the pandemic erupted, talking about inserting the spike protein “into a backbone of another virus” followed up by “some work in the lab“. The idea was to be prepared to save the world when the next coronavirus emerges from the wild to start an epidemic.
Another leader of the WHO-China team was Feng Zijian, deputy head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who in February 2020 ordered China’s scientists “not to share any data, documents or specimens relating to the epidemic and to “prioritise the interests of the country”” as Unherd reported.
So the WHO team was quasi-led by a money-giver and personal friend of WIV virologists, in particular of the “Bat Woman”, Shi Zhangli (Daszak), and the Chinese official whose official job was to cover up things (Feng). All other members, Chinese and foreign, were hand-picked by the Chinese Communist Party also.
DRASTIC Citizen Science
The WIV also had a huge virus database, which unfortunately went offline in September 2019 and remains secret until today. Daszak insists that he knows the database and that it contains nothing interesting. Yet one of the viruses it stored, as internet sleuths of DRASTIC found out, was RaTG13, a bat coronavirus with 96% similarity to SARS-CoV2, extracted from bat in a Yunnan mine shafts in 2012. A rather deadly virus: back then, this bat pathogen or one of its relatives infected several men sent to these mine shafts to shovel bat guano, 3 of the men died. DRASTIC found that out by searching online available information, including Chinese dissertations databases. Here a Twitter thread by Alina Chan about DRASTIC sleuthing:
There is also a good account of DRASTIC investigations by Newsweek. The team members are the anonymous “The Seeker” and “Billy Bostickson“, Rossana Segreto, Yuri Deigin, Francisco de Asis de Ribera, Mona Rahalkar, Gilles Demaneuf, Rodolphe de Maistre and others. Until very recently, DRASTIC members were routinely denounced by esteemed academics as conspiracy theorists, science-denialists, Trumpsters, anti-Chinese racists, and worse. Some of these academics now quietly change positions. Some suspected a lab leak from the beginning while fighting the theory tooth and nail in public. Some sign up to calls for lab leak investigation while they keep kicking:
Now, if you were Chinese science and health authorities or military, keen to be prevent another SARS outbreak, would you not be interested in that lethal new coronavirus from Yunnan? Wouldn’t you study it, check for its mutation potential, to be prepared if it jumps species again? Officially: the answer is no, the RaTG13 virus was never used in WIV (it was even sequenced in 2018, as record prove). But then again, officially WIV also never kept any live bats, while DRASTIC investigators discovered WIV patents for bat breeding cages and finger tourniquets for bat bites.
Oh, and how weird is that, from Wall Street Journal citing US intelligence sources:
“Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report”
The 3 WIV researchers fell ill “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.” The Chinese authorities say it’s all lies. The WHO-China COVID-19 origins mission member Marion Koopmans, virology professor at Erasmus University in Netherlands, described the incidents as “occasional illnesses because that’s normal. […] certainly not a big, big thing“. In any case, her investigative mission was never allowed to actually investigate anything, all they got from their visit to WIV was a guided tour and some PowerPoint lectures. Including a visit to a propaganda exhibition celebrating China’s victory over the virus.
So without any clues so far to a natural or intermediate host of SARS-CoV2, and with the frozen red herring theory being bunk, what other theories could one pursue, if one were a serious scientist?
Well, a lab leak. Those are actually not as rare as experts used to teach you in 2020. For example, SARS (which originally emerged naturally) escaped from Chinese labs at least 4 times since. Lab infections and pathogen leaks are quite common, even in USA, some escaped viruses even caused local epidemics, like the 1977 flu in USSR and China. It’s just that a lab leak causing a global pandemic was not observed before, but there is no logical reason why it shouldn’t be possible. And WIV’s BSL-4 lab had a history of shoddiness and safety shortcomings, as anxiously reported by US embassy already in 2018. Plus, some gain-of-function coronavirus research used to be performed in other Wuhan institutions in BSL-3 and even BSL-2 labs.
Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance funding to WIV was temporarily suspended in 2018 exactly because of the fear of an unintentional pathogen escape, but then all scientific societies in USA and 77 Nobel Prize winners protested, and the money started to flow again. Prior to that, in 2014, advances in gene engineering and virology panicked many scientists and the politicians who imposed a moratorium on gain-of-function coronavirus research, it was lifted in 2017 because other scientists protested.
Now tell me if this sounds prescient, in an article from 2017:
“I am not persuaded that the work is of greater potential benefit than potential harm,” said molecular biologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, who has argued that U.S. labs working with dangerous pathogens regularly suffer serious biosafety lapses. Experiments to create enhanced viruses, he and others argue, could lead to the pathogens’ accidental release, most likely by a lab worker becoming infected unknowingly and then walking out the door.
“A human is better at spreading viruses than an aerosol” that might breach a lab’s physical containment, said epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who has calculated that the risk of a lab-acquired infection sparking a pandemic is greater than recognized. “The engineering is not what I’m worried about. Accident after accident has been the result of human mistakes.”
Condemn conspiracy theories
Soon after the SARS-CoV2 pandemic started, world’s top virologists and other science leaders issued in February 2020 a statement in The Lancet:
Charles Calisher, Dennis Carroll, Rita Colwell, Ronald B Corley, Peter Daszak, Christian Drosten, Luis Enjuanes, Jeremy Farrar, Hume Field, Josie Golding, Alexander Gorbalenya, Bart Haagmans, James M Hughes, William B Karesh, Gerald T Keusch, Sai Kit Lam, Juan Lubroth, John S Mackenzie, Larry Madoff, Jonna Mazet, Peter Palese, Stanley Perlman, Leo Poon, Bernard Roizman, Linda Saif, Kanta Subbarao, Mike Turner Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19 The Lancet (2020) doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30418-9
The statement went, highlight mine:
“The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2),1 and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 as have so many other emerging pathogens.11, 12 This is further supported by a letter from the presidents of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine13 and by the scientific communities they represent. Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.”
You may have noticed that Daszak, the man whose EcoHealth Alliance channelled US money to WIV for coronavirus gain-of-function research, is one of the Open Letter’s authors, while declaring “no competing interests“. The investigative journalists of US Right to Know obtained emails which proved that it was Daszak who masterminded the Lancet article and organised the signatures (here and here).
Daszak was also a member of two investigative teams deployed to find the COVID-19 origins, one by The Lancet, and another by WHO, the China-approved and controlled investigation mentioned above. Daszak’s team colleague and WHO scientist Peter Ben Embarek declared already at the February 2021 press conference that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely”. Fittingly, the Lancet Open Letter from February 2020 also implored:
So you see, and now even WHO decreed lab leak theory of COVID-19 origins was a conspiracy and must not be pursued! Well, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not agree with the stance:
““As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table. This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” said Dr Tedros. “Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers.””
Oh. That was embarrassing.
Investigate the origins of COVID-19
And now look at the names of quite respectable scientists who demanded in May 2021 that the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origins from a Wuhan lab to be taken seriously. And look which journal agreed to publish their Open Letter: Science.
Jesse D. Bloom, Yujia Alina Chan, Ralph S. Baric, Pamela J. Bjorkman, Sarah Cobey, Benjamin E. Deverman, David N. Fisman, Ravindra Gupta, Akiko Iwasaki, Marc Lipsitch, Ruslan Medzhitov, Richard A. Neher, Rasmus Nielsen, Nick Patterson, Tim Stearns, Erik van Nimwegen, Michael Worobey, David A. Relman Investigate the origins of COVID-19 Science (2021) doi: 10.1126/science.abj0016
The statement went:
“In May 2020, the World Health Assembly requested that the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general work closely with partners to determine the origins of SARS-CoV-2 (2). In November, the Terms of Reference for a China–WHO joint study were released (3). The information, data, and samples for the study’s first phase were collected and summarized by the Chinese half of the team; the rest of the team built on this analysis. Although there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or a lab accident, the team assessed a zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host as “likely to very likely,” and a laboratory incident as “extremely unlikely” [(4), p. 9]. Furthermore, the two theories were not given balanced consideration. Only 4 of the 313 pages of the report and its annexes addressed the possibility of a laboratory accident (4). Notably, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus commented that the report’s consideration of evidence supporting a laboratory accident was insufficient and offered to provide additional resources to fully evaluate the possibility (5).
As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general (5), the United States and 13 other countries (6), and the European Union (7) that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve. We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data. A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest. Public health agencies and research laboratories alike need to open their records to the public. Investigators should document the veracity and provenance of data from which analyses are conducted and conclusions drawn, so that analyses are reproducible by independent experts.”
Now, you may have noticed that one of the authors of this Open Letter in Science is a certain Ralph Baric, virology professor at the University of North Carolina, USA. Who published in 2015, together with the “Bat Woman” Zhengli Shi of Wuhan Institute of Virology, a paper in Nature about their joint gain-of-function and genetic engineering research with coronaviruses, Menachery et al, A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence, Nature 2015. The Baric-Shi paper is decorated since March 2020 with:
“Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this article is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.”
Baric was also, next to Daszak, one of the organisers of that Calisher et al Lancet 2020 open letter from February 2020, as US Right to Know uncovered. As Shi’s research collaborator, Baric did not sign it back then exactly because Daszak wanted to avoid any direct connection to WIV which would hint at conflicts of interests. So now Baric signed another open letter which demands exactly the opposite.
“Given the political explosiveness of the lab-leak hypothesis, and its embrace by people with an anti-China agenda, do we really need to pursue the possibility of a laboratory accident? For me — a scholar who specializes in infectious diseases, human-microbe relationships and biosecurity — the answer is yes. I first made that case in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last fall, and more recently helped to organize a letter in Science calling for a proper investigation of covid-19’s origins, co-signed by 17 other eminent scientists working in the trenches to better understand and counter this virus.
The bottom line is that we have failed to discover SARS-CoV-2 anywhere other than in cases of human disease, and we have failed to find the immediate viral ancestors anywhere. One might argue that we don’t need to know anything more to take both hypotheses seriously and to work to reduce the chances of either kind of spillover in the future.
I think this view is overly rosy. If we scientists are not forced to confront the issues of laboratory safety and risky research in a serious and sustained manner, history suggests that we will not do so. “
Christian Drosten: “currently no reliable information that would suggest a non-natural origin of COVID-19 “
Seeing that so many scientists, including Baric, changed their position in public, I tried to interview one of the signatories of The Lancet Open Letter from February 2020: Germany’s top virologist Christian Drosten, professor at the Charite Medical School in Berlin, Germany. In January 2020, Drosten’s team developed the first SARS-CoV2 PCR detection method which was adopted by WHO. Since then, he lead Germany’s and EU’s COVID-19 response, constantly attacked and maligned by covidiots of various degrees of ignorance and nastiness. I wondered if Drosten’s views on COVID-19 origins were, given the recent statements by his colleagues.
These were my questions (in bold), and Drosten’s replies which a Charite spokesperson forwarded to me on 5 June 2021 and which I present in English translation:
- You surely know the current state of knowledge about the Lab Leak Hypothesis. Do you still stand by your earlier statement with Peter Daszak: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30418-9/fulltext
Drosten: “It is not clear from your question to which “current state of knowledge” you are referring. Against this background, your question is too general to be able to respond.
Regardless of this, I will explain the background to the statement published in “The Lancet” on February 19, 2020: At the time the statement was published, serious accusations against Chinese scientists were rampant in public. They were assumed to be actively involved in covering up a supposedly unnatural origin of COVID-19. There was no valid evidence or reliable evidence for this serious allegation. I thought the public statement was suitable to document my solidarity with these scientists.
Nothing has changed in my scientific assessment of the situation. At the moment, I have no evidence or reliable evidence that would support the allegations against the scientists explained above. If you have any contrary information or findings, I ask you to confront me with it so that I can comment on it.“
- Do you agree with the decision of the WHO Mission on COVID-19 Origins (to which Mr Daszak was such a prominent member) that a COVID-19 origin from the laboratory is actually “extremely unlikely“?
Drosten: “To the best of my knowledge, there is currently no reliable information that would suggest a non-natural origin of COVID-19. If you have any contrary information or findings, I would ask you to confront me with it so that I can comment on it.“
I wrote back right away, explaining that the accusations of a cover-up were (as far as I know) never aimed at his Chinese peers, but at the Communist Party and the Chinese authorities who exert pressure on the scientists. I also sent Drosten the above discussed Bloom et al Science 2021 statement which I understood he must have missed, the WHO statement rejecting the conclusions of the WHO-China team, a recent Vanity Fair article detailing the DRASTIC investigation and a WSJ article reporting US intelligence that several WIV lab employees fell ill with COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019.
I also emailed the US Right To Know reports about Daszak’s role in organising that Lancet Open Letter from February 2020 which Drosten signed as co-author. So far, no follow-up messages, neither from Drosten nor from Charite.
Finally, I asked Drosten about his own very recent interview and posted my questions in this regard. The interview appeared in German in a Swiss newspaper on 5 June 2021, Drosten stated that in his view the most plausible origin of COVID-19 was the Chinese fur industry, “carnivores” and specifically the raccoon dogs bred for that purpose which could have served as an intermediate host reservoir for a bat virus before it jumped into humans. In this regard, Drosten however admitted:
“I have no evidence for this, except for the clearly proven origin of Sars-1, and this is a virus of the same species. Viruses of the same species do the same things and often come from the same source. In Sars-1, this is scientifically documented, the transitional hosts were raccoon dogs and civets“.
Problem is in my view, the Chinese authorities have no evidence for that SARS-CoV2 origin theory either, and they did search everywhere ever since December 2019. They screened 69 different animal species already in the first week of December 2019 and found no traces of COVID-19. And the pangolin trace was proven to be fake. Hence their frozen red herring theory.
About the lab leak theory, Drosten stated in that interview:
“So, let’s imagine someone wanted to see what happens when they fit this coronavirus with a furin cleavage site that we know from the influenza viruses: does it make it more aggressive? For this I would take the Sars-1 virus, in a form that I can also change in the laboratory. […] So if you had wanted to develop a kind of Sars-2 in the laboratory, you would have changes, for example this furin site, inserted into such a Sars-1 clone. To find out, does this adaptation make the Sars virus more contagious? But that was not the case here. The whole backbone of the virus is different: Sars-2 is full of deviations from the original Sars-1 virus.
[…] This idea of a research accident is extremely unlikely to me because it would be far too cumbersome. The idea of a malicious use by some secret service laboratory somewhere: if anything, something like that would probably not come from the Wuhan Virology Institute. This is a reputable academic institute.“
I asked Drosten about alternative backbones, like that of the RaTG13 bat coronavirus or it possible relatives, stored and even used in WIV, as DRASTIC investigators have uncovered. Useful backbones also, with much more novelty and potential impact than SARS1. Pointed Drosten even to Shi’s own paper Zhou et al Nature 2015, which declared in a November 2002 addendum:
“In 2020, we compared the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 with our unpublished bat coronavirus sequences and found that it shared a 96.2% identity with RaTG13.”
No reply so far.
Charité spokesperson replied this morning:
“We refer you again to the statement by Prof. Drosten, which we sent you on May 5th. In the last NDR podcast, Prof. Drosten also provided further information on the questions you raised in the context of your e-mails. Regardless of this, it is not Prof. Drosten’s job to view and comment on the URLs you have provided. Thank you for your understanding.“
This is the mentioned NDR podcast, Drosten says there his Lancet piece with Daszak was “merely a solidarity statement“, to defend Chinese colleagues form accusations of “malicious acting“. I wonder how Drosten can form an opinion on “conspiracy theories” and what the accusations actually are if his job description doesn’t include reading even the relevant papers by his peers and WHO. But wait, he read it all, it’s just Charité being rude to me. Further in the podcast Drosten says about the Bloom et al Science 2021 open letter:
“And I totally agree with that. I would also criticize the current work of the WHO with this mission. Not only for this reason of bias, but for other reasons as well.“
He then demands an urgent investigation of the Chinese fur industry and slams the “bad journalism” which reports a Chinese PhD thesis as evidence. But regarding WIV, Drosten expects respectable communication between scientists on an academic level instead of an investigation which barges in and “tries to rummage though drawers“, presumably for the deleted virus database. Drosten also says that “It could be that Chinese scientists are not allowed to [disprove the lab leak] because they might not want to see it from the political side” and then says elsewhere “we basically do not consider Chinese scientists to be influenced“. But RaTG13 is never mentioned in the entire long podcast.
In USA, any debate about a possible lab leak as COVID-19 origin was suppressed because it would have served the fascist Trump regime. Vanity Fair uncovered:
“A months long Vanity Fair investigation, interviews with more than 40 people, and a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents, including internal memos, meeting minutes, and email correspondence, found that conflicts of interest, stemming in part from large government grants supporting controversial virology research, hampered the U.S. investigation into COVID-19’s origin at every step. In one State Department meeting, officials seeking to demand transparency from the Chinese government say they were explicitly told by colleagues not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it.”
But now that Trump is gone, it is not just his appointees, the former FDA head Scott Gottlieb or the former CDC director Robert Redfield who demand for the lab leak theory to be taken seriously. Similar calls for an investigation are being made by Biden’s new CDC director Rochelle Walensky, and even by Anthony Fauci himself. Fauci was quoted in FT:
“I would like to see the medical records of the three people who are reported to have got sick in 2019,” Fauci said. “Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with? “The same with the miners who got ill years ago . . . What do the medical records of those people say? Was there [a] virus in those people? What was it? It is entirely conceivable that the origins of Sars-Cov-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab.”
Because of that, China turned on Fauci and started to call him liar as well.
Fauci is both a great scientist and a great diplomat. He managed to protect USA from the worst excesses of Trump’s death cult because Fauci simply knows how to achieve things without going public. He also knows what can be spoken out, when, and to whom.
But now even the apolitical and gullible NIH director Francis Collins now takes lab leak as a possibility and demands a “thorough, expert-driven, and objective investigation, with full access to all information about events in Wuhan in the fall of 2019“.
How things changed! In an email to Fauci from April 2020 (obtained under Freedom of Information by Buzzfeed), Collins referred to the lab leak theory as “conspiracy gains momentum”. Fauci’s response to that email is entirely blacked out, strange.
The same email stash revealed that the Scripps virology professor Kristian Andersen, one of the fiercest public critics of the lab leak theory and its proponents, discussed with Fauci in February 2020 if SARS-CoV2 was “engineered“:
“The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.
We have a good team lined up to look very critically at this, so we should know much more at the end of the weekend. I should mention that after discussions earlier today, Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory“
Andersen tweeted on 1 June 2021 (he deleted his account afterwards), referencing the above tweet by Jimmy Tobias:
“As I have said many times, we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility. However, significant new data, extensive analyses, and many discussions led to the conclusions in our paper. What the email shows, is a clear example of the scientific process“
Attached was a link to Andersen et al Nature 2020 where the Scripps virologist and his colleagues declared in March 2020:
“It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. As noted above, the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution different from those previously predicted7,11. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used19. However, the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone20. Instead, we propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: (i) natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer; and (ii) natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer. We also discuss whether selection during passage could have given rise to SARS-CoV-2.“
Now even Daszak seems to poise himself to change his position, quoted in May 2021:
““There are plenty of reasons to question China’s openness and transparency on a whole range of issues including early reporting of the pandemic,” he told KHN. “You can never definitively say that what China is telling us is correct.””
Meanwhile, the gain of function experiments continue because a lab leak is still officially “extremely unlikely”. Will we soon get a 1918-style flu pandemic next because exactly same thing is being done with flu viruses, until 2019 on a much bigger scale than with coronaviruses? Or did some clever-clogs already design an airborne Ebola? Sure, trust the experts, pathogen leaks never happen because of safety and security etc.
In 1979, a secret Soviet bioweapon plant near Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) accidentality released live weapon-grade anthrax, by an accident of human error and typical Soviet sloppiness. Luckily, the winds did not blow in the direction of the city. From Wikipedia:
“The incident was reported to military command, but local and city officials were not immediately informed. Boris Yeltsin, a local Communist Party official at this time, helped cover up the accident.
All workers of a ceramic plant across the street fell ill during the next few days. Almost all of them died within a week. The death toll is reported to be at least 66, but the exact number is unknown, as all hospital records and much other evidence were destroyed by the KGB, according to former Biopreparat deputy director Ken Alibek.
In 1986, Professor Matthew Meselson of Harvard University was granted approval by Soviet authorities for a four-day trip to Moscow where he interviewed several senior Soviet health officials about the outbreak. He later issued a report which agreed with the Soviet assessment that the outbreak was caused by a contaminated meat processing plant, concluding the Soviets’ official explanation was completely “plausible and consistent with what is known from medical literature and recorded human experiences with anthrax”.
Following an admission by President Boris Yeltsin that “our military development was the cause,” Sverdlovsk’s Communist Party chief in 1979, of the true nature of the anthrax outbreak, Wall Street Journal reporter Peter Gumbel traveled to Sverdlovsk where he interviewed families affected by the outbreak, hospital workers, and various officials, confirming Yeltsin’s comments. Based on these reports a team of Western inspectors led by Meselson gained access to the region in 1992. […] The military facility remains closed to inspection. Meselson’s original contention for many years had been that the outbreak was a natural one and that the Soviet authorities were not lying when they disclaimed having an active offensive bio-warfare program“
Why does it all sound so familiar? History repeating itself, first as tragedy, then as an even bigger tragedy. Replace anthrax with SARS-CoV2, USSR with China, and Matthew Meselson with Peter Daszak, and the similarities are uncanny. It’s not like today’s Communist China is not similarly oppressive, militarised, secretive and paranoid as the Soviet Union was.
Bioengineered Nature paper?
Sure, even if SARS-CoV2 escaped from a Wuhan lab it was never meant as a bioweapon. But the Chinese military has a high interest to defend the nation by preventing the next SARS outbreak, and the way there, according to scientists, is a pan-coronavirus vaccine. And the way to such a vaccine, again according to same scientists, is the gain-of-function research with the natural coronaviruses sampled in the wild, preferably in bats. This is what WIV was doing intensively, sampling bats all over China, sequencing, culturing and modifying the viruses, making them more infectuous so we can have this vaccine.
What if SARS-CoV2 was a bioengineered Nature paper?
What if WIV aimed to modify those Yunnan bat viruses like RaTG13 by gain-of-function research, in order to publish the next paper in Nature about dangers of coronaviruses and the need for more funding for vaccine research? What if they really aimed to boost its human pathogenicity and transmissibility and even inserted the furin cleavage site to prove their point? It would have been a great Nature paper, all the world would be talking about it. China, USA, and every other nation would pump billions into coronavirus research so the next epidemic from a zoonotic spill-over can be prevented.
It looks like the experiment was slightly more successful than intended. And where is the vaccine it was meant to deliver? Wasn’t a pan-coronavirus vaccine the whole reason that gain-of-function research was allowed and heavily sponsored? Hello? Whom is science serving here – society, or commercial journal publishers? Was the part about the pan-coronavirus vaccine too difficult to achieve, so the scientists focussed on the much easier part of creating dangerous pathogens to claim Nature papers and millions in funding?
Or is this a conspiracy theory?
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