Was It a Lab Leak? The Mysterious Origin of COVID-19

The virus that has changed the world came from where?

Long-term, it was believed that the spread of disease began with wild animals, which were sold in China’s Wuhan wet markets.

Botao and Xiao were the first to question the official narrative. They published in February 2020 a preprint paper that argued “the killer coronavirus likely originated from a Wuhan laboratory.”

According to the author, there is no proof that vendors selling bat meat at Wuhan’s wet market were actually selling it. However, the author pointed out that there was no evidence to suggest that vendors at Wuhan’s wet market sold bat meat. These wereTwo research laboratories studying bat-borne coronaviruses were located in Wuhan. They found that a virus might have infected employees and spread the disease among the public. Xiao retracted the paper 2 weeks later after Chinese authorities said that the lab leak theory was not valid.

China’s government began to crack down on virus research and closed down a laboratory that shared its genetic sequence with scientists. It also ordered the destruction of all viral material from the laboratory.

To this day, the Chinese government won’t allow outside researchers to test blood drawn from employees of the Wuhan Institute of Virology who, according to a U.S. intelligence report, were hospitalized for a flu-like illness in November 2019—weeks before the first documented human-to-human transmission. Chinese officials cited privacy concerns in requesting the samples from the World Health Organization team.

The virus did not originate in a laboratory, so there is no evidence to support this. However, there is no direct evidence that the virus originated in a laboratory. unimpeachable factEarly in the pandemic.

A group of scientists signed an indisputable statement on February 20, 2020. The LancetDenouncing the speculation of possible nonnatural origins for the virus as conspiracy theories.

It was only after the leak of emails that it became clear who the scientist responsible for bringing his co-signers together made the mistake. LancetPeter Daszak is the chief of EcoHealth Alliance. He secured U.S. funding for controversial research about bat-borne coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Daszak assured co-signers that EcoHealth’s logo would not be on the letter. He also wrote that he was trying to avoid making a political statement.

Daszak was also a co-author of a June 2020 Op-Ed. The Guardian headlined “Ignore the Conspiracy Theories: Scientists Know COVID-19 Wasn’t Created in a Lab” without disclosing a potential conflict of interest.

After publication, media coverage LancetLetter overwhelmingly described the debate on the lab leak hypothesis as “conspiracy theories,” often connecting it to President Donald Trump, after both he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had made statements in support of the idea.

Spokesman: “This episode doesn’t reflect well upon scientists.”Matt Ridley (cience writer), is the co-author for this new book Viral: Searching for the Origin of COVID-19

Ridley claims that White House COVID-19 advisor Anthony Fauci’s emails were publicized through Freedom of Information Act requests. They show that scientists had been taking lab-leak theory very seriously.

Ridley said that a number of top virologists had been talking to each others and that they thought this could look “a little like a virus engineered in the lab.” He was referring to an January 31, 2020 email where Kristian G. Andersen, researcher, stated that one must look at the sequences in order to determine if some features are engineered. Fauci replied a day later: “Thanks Kristian.” Please talk soon over the phone.

“And all of them did a rapid response at the conclusion of that telephone call.” volte-face,Ridley refers to an article Andersen and colleagues wrote in which he “started writing articles almost instantly”. Nature February 17, 2020. He stated, “our analyses clearly demonstrate that SARS–CoV-2 [is not] a laboratory construct nor a purposely manipulated virus.” Fauci was contacted by Andersen, who informed him via email that the paper had been published. Fauci replied “Nice job with the paper.”

Ridley claims it is Daszak’s attempt to conceal his connections with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, while simultaneously publishing attacks on the Lab-Leak Hypothesis that make this most concerning.

“It raises very serious concerns that Dr. Ridley says Daszak must answer. Ridley says that he has tried numerous times to contact him. I’ve never yet had a response…I never said anything rude about him, but he blocked me on Twitter. “So I have no way to get any answers from him.” 

Daszak didn’t reply ReasonSend an interview request to

Ridley’s new book’s author is Alina Chan of Harvard’s Broad Institute of MIT. Alina Chan was one of the most vocal and prominent public skeptics of Natural-Origin Hypothesis. According to her, Ridley didn’t know about the preprint paper she published with colleagues questioning the consensus. Lancet Daszak organized the letter. Daszak said that she believed it might have been a significant chilling factor in scientific discourse during those early days.

Chan states that they were saying that any person claiming that the virus was not a natural phenomenon is a conspirator. Other people may have thought that the virus might have originated in a laboratory when they saw this letter. 

Chan, who is a molecular biologist and a researcher in genetics, stated that SARS-CoV-2 had been so adaptable to human beings that there was no reason for doubt that the virus was recently derived from an animal. It would be expected to rapidly evolve in humans if the virus was recently derived from bats and pangolins.

Chan partly attributes this insight to the experience she had in 2003’s severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak (SARS), which Chan lived with in Singapore.

Chan reports that the virus quickly acquired dozens of mutations during that epidemic and in that particular situation. Comparatively, SARS-CoV-2 had very few mutations. It seems to me, therefore, that the virus has many beneficial mutations to infect and transmit humans before its detection in December 2019.

The other major difference is that in 2003, the authorities found SARS infection cases among animals and they were sold on south China’s markets within two months. SARS-CoV-2 is not like that, even though initial suspicions were that there was a problem with the wet markets.

Chan says, “Even though there was a first group of confirmed cases at the seafood markets,” but they didn’t find any evidence that animals were infected with the virus.So far there has been no animal sign. [in Wuhan]It was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and it then passed the virus on to people.”

Daszak, the only American on the WHO team that investigated the origins of the virus in January 2021 was included. Before WHO leadership backtracked, Daszak was the only American member of the team that rejected the laboratory-leak hypothesis.

Daszak gave an interview 60 minutesFollowing that Wuhan trip, he suggested that it was likely that the culprits were farm animals.

Now, we need to go visit those farms and do some research. Talk to farmers. You can also talk to the relatives. They should be tested. “See if spikes in virus were there first,” Daszak said.” 60 Minutes. However, no farm animals were identified yet as hosts.

A detail emerged following the 60 minutesRidley wanted Daszak, to clarify: Recent leaked documents have shown that EcoHealth Alliance applied to a research grant to study inserting a furin site into SARS like coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 may have been made so infective by this furin cleavage area. It is what differentiates it from other SARS-like coronaviruses. It was turned down. The grant was denied. However, did Wuhan’s laboratory conduct this research even though it didn’t receive funding through the grant? Daszak could be able help with this inquiry.

Ridley states that “the fact that the virus is sufficiently infectious to cause a pandemic is likely that that feature is what makes it so important.” “So you would think that a scientist who knew that he had put in a grant application in 2018 to put furin cleavage sites into SARS-like viruses…would volunteer that information early in the pandemic.”

Ridley and Chan also find it suspicious that when China’s premier bat coronavirus expert—and Daszak’s collaborator in Wuhan—published her complete analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, she neglected to mention this highly unusual furin cleavage site.

After you have completed the 60 minutes interview, more leaked documents showed that EcoHealth Alliance worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to make several bat-borne SARS-like coronaviruses—and even Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)—more infectious to human cells.

Chan and Ridley stated that at the time they wrote the book, they had no strong opinions about the theory. But recent revelations have led to a shift in their views towards the lab-leak hypothesis.

“In view of grant proposals, reports and other information released within the past two months,” Chan wrote on TwitterWe know that novel SARS-like viruses are being created and engineered on an unprecedented scale,” he said.

I was completely changed by the fact that 2018 actually had a plan and a process for accomplishing this work. Chan says that genetic engineering now seems very real to him. If it was done in a laboratory, [the likelihood is] close to a 50–50 chance that [genetic engineering] happened.”

This question was at the center of a heated exchange between Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) Fauci and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were involved in a heated exchange about possible funding by the National Institutes of Health for so-called gain of functionality research. This involves intentionally making a virus more contagious to people.

Ridley believes that China authorities are partly responsible for the devastation caused by the pandemic. They have punished whistleblowers such as Li Wenliang (ophthalmologist), who attempted to spread the news about the new SARS-like disease to his fellow doctors. The government kept the human-to–human transmission of this disease secret for several weeks.

Ridley says that communist regimes are often secretive. There is an assumption that people don’t speak about certain things unless they are permitted to. But [Chinese President]Xi Jinping is a more authoritarian and dictatorial ruler than his immediate predecessors. By 2019, scientists working in labs and physicians in hospitals had been given orders to not communicate with him. outside world about things that the regime might not want them to…Could that have played any role in the outbreak spreading to other countries and becoming a pandemic. That’s what you would think.

RaTG13, a bat-virus that has one of the closest genetic matches to SARS/CoV-2 is kept at Wuhan Institute of Virology. However, we are unable to determine if other coronaviruses were present in Wuhan’s lab.

Although the lab had a public repository of virus samples, it was removed in February. It then changed in December. We know this because of the work of the Dedicated Research & Scientific Team Investigating COVID-19(DRASTIC). This group is a network of volunteers that compiles and analyses open-source materials and leaks documents in order to determine the source of COVID-19.

“Once in a while I was able to see the truth.” [the lab-leak hypothesis]I was being discredited, without any evidence. Yuri Deigin is a biotech entrepreneur who was one of the founders of DRASTIC.

One of the key findings of the group’s investigation was the discovery that the Wuhan Institute of Virology Database was taken down three months before the outbreak became public. A description of the database was modified on December 30, 2019, the day Shi Zhengli told Chinese state television that her lab first obtained samples of the virus in Wuhan.

Wuhan scientists had accessed the database several times prior to its removal in February 2020 due to alleged security concerns.

They took it down seems very suspect. Deigin asserts that Shi claimed she had to take it down in order to protect hackers.

A member of the DRASTIC team also discovered that the Wuhan team had collected key samples—including one of the virus’s closest known genetic matches—from a mine where some workers had fallen sick and died after clearing out bat droppings. Chinese authorities denied any outsiders access.

Although there is mounting evidence supporting the laboratory-leak hypothesis, officials from the government believe that natural-origin theory is stronger. On October 29th 2020, a U.S. intelligence document was declassified. It stated that four agencies were skeptical that the virus originated in nature. One agency believed it had leaked from a laboratory. Analysts at three other agencies said they could not agree on either explanation and that no additional information would help them. SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to be biological weapons, according to the report.

Francis Collins, Director of NIH, didn’t respond to my questions ReasonIn November, he spoke to Lex Fridman (computer scientist and podcast host) about his interview request. He said that while he was open to the possibility of a lab leak hypothesis, despite believing strongly that the virus has natural origins.

Between July 2020 and January 2021, an international team of scientists captured bats in Laos carrying a newly discovered coronavirus that’s the closest known genetic match to SARS-CoV-2—even closer than the virus held in the Wuhan lab, which some say supports the natural-origin theory. Ridley Chan and Deigin however point out it does not have the critical furin-cleavage site that scientists may have inserted into a lab.

Supporters of natural-origin theories point out the fact that the Wuhan database uncovered in DRASTIC has not yet contained any “smoking guns” viruses. Chan says that this database version is years outdated because Wuhan researchers rarely enter new viruses before they are able to study them and make publications about them.

Chan states that “So far, we don’t have any idea what sequences or viruses they could have discovered after 2016, in the years preceding COVID-19.” “So without access to the information it becomes very difficult for us to guess whether or not they finally found the precursor of SARS-CoV-2 in the labs and were working with it.”

Ridley stated that he does not want people to fear biotechnology. He credits it with alleviating suffering and preventing them from being afraid of scientific advancements. Ridley believes scientists need to convene an international conference to discuss stricter ethics regarding dangerous research. For example, he suggests that bat virus researchers not be allowed to harvest from distant caves in order to bring them into large cities to perform experiments to make them more contagious to humans. A documentary made in China that was released in December 2019 shows the work of researchers, many of whom are not wearing protective gear.

Ridley states that it is unlikely to make sense to go out in the wild and collect viruses there with potential pandemic effects, and bring them back to cities for treatment. “IIf we can get the U.S. and other countries, Australia, Japan and the U.K. to sign a treaty that states, “When there is an outbreak in our nation, we will open up as much as we possibly can to tell you all we know,” then even the fact that certain countries don’t want to sign the treaty will put pressure on them.

He cites the International Atomic Energy Agency, which he believes is a good example for other nations in terms of stopping future leakage of potential pandemic-causing pathogens from the lab.

Ridley also stated that even though months of lies and deceit perpetrated by Chinese authorities, virusologists, as well as some U.S. media outlets over the years, Ridley is optimistic that truth will be revealed in due time.

Ridley says that it may be a while before they find out. “The fall of the Soviet Union did lead to significant revelations about biological accidents there…I think therefore it may take a change of regime in Beijing before we find out more. But I think there are people who know what happened, whatever happened, even if it’s just what happened in a market…There are plenty of people who say it’s too late; we’ve lost the chance to find out. I don’t think so, at least not yet.

Zach Weissmueller, graphic intro and timeline graphics created by Tomasz Jaye. Additional graphics are by Calvin Tran

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