ORIGIN OF COVID19 : Lab - Leak Hypothesis
The curious origin of Covid19 virus has been surrounded in disinformation and mystery for over a year now. Initially, it was speculated that the virus might have originated in the Huanan seafood market, a live animal and seafood market in Wuhan China, that the disease might have jumped from an infected animal host to humans. Now, more than a year later, the issue of Covid19’s origin still remains unclear and controversial, but another highly plausible hypothesis that the virus accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan China is gaining traction and support from the scientific community due to growing body of circumstantial evidences leading towards WIV. The WIV happens to be situated right in the middle of the epicenter of the first reported COVID19 case on 8 December 2019.
The lab leak theory was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory and anti-Chinese rhetoric, but recently the media has started to look into the lab escape hypothesis with renewed interest and scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal (linked below) recently published a detailed article on the origin of Covid19 and reports of illness among WIV lab researchers in the Autumn of 2019.
One of the early vocal proponents of the Wuhan Lab Leak theory was the former US President Donald Trump, who in a Press conference on April 30, 2020 stated that he had seen evidence that the virus had leaked from WIV, but he couldn’t divulge any details at the time as he was not allowed to. When prompted on the nature of the leak, he suggested that the leak could have been accidental due to lack of competence or purposeful to undermine his re-election. It is now largely accepted that medias bias against Trump lead to an outright dismissal of the lab leak hypothesis last year.
The suggestion of lab escape became so toxic that the former head of CDC (Centre for Diseases Control) Dr. Robert Redfield told the Vanity Fair (linked below) that he received death threats from scientists after he expressed his views on CNN that he believed that the virus may have accidentally escaped from the lab.
According to Wikipedia, the Wuhan Institute of Virology is China’s first biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) laboratory. The institute has been an active research center for the study of coronaviruses. The WIV has strong ties to the Galveston National Laboratory in the University of Texas and the researchers from the WIV have also collaborated in controversial gain of function research (GoFR) on coronaviruses with their American colleagues. In February 2020, the New York Times reported that a team led by Dr.Shi Zhengli, known as china’s Batwoman, at the WIV were the first to identify, analyze and name the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), upload it to public databases for scientists around the world to understand and publish papers in Nature.
The controversial Gain of function research (GoFR) is a term used to describe any field of medical research which alters an organism or disease in a way that increases pathogenesis, transmissibility, or host range. For example, influenza B can only infect humans and harbor seals. Introducing a mutation that would allow influenza B to infect rabbits in a controlled laboratory situation would be considered a "gain of function" experiment as the virus did not previously have that function. This research is intended to reveal targets to better predict emerging infectious diseases and to develop vaccines and therapeutics. In virology, gain-of-function research is employed with the intention of better understanding current and future pandemics, and in vaccine development, gain-of-function research is conducted in the hope of gaining a head start on a virus to develop a vaccine or therapeutic before it emerges.
Some forms of gain of function research carry inherent biosafety and biosecurity risks, and are thus also referred to as dual use research of concern (DURC). On October 2014, the US Government imposed a moratorium on GoFR due to resurgence in concerns about GoFR studies which have deeply split the scientific community and in part due to lab accidents at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that raised questions about safety at U.S. high-containment labs. The moratorium expired in 2017, and was replaced by a reporting system called the Potential Pandemic Pathogens Control and Oversight (P3CO) Framework, which required agencies to self report for review, any dangerous gain-of-function work they wished to fund.
There is mounting evidence that the GoFR has been outsourced to the WIV China under Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) US, also the head of the Corona task force U.S., who is now himself under intense scrutiny for his role in suppressing the lab leak hypothesis, after the release of his emails under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by Buzzfeed Media.
China has been denying the lab leak hypothesis as groundless, but also refused to provide any raw data or access to the lead coronavirus researcher Shi Zengli and her team. On March 2021, the WHO-led team that visited Wuhan concluded in a joint report with Chinese experts that the virus most likely spread from bats to humans via another animal, and that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely.” However, team members said they didn’t view raw data or original lab, safety, and other records, and on the same day the report came out, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the team had not adequately examined the lab leak hypothesis and called for a fuller probe of the idea.
The prominent science writer and editor Nicholas Wade added his voice to calls for a thorough examination into the origins of Covid19 in his detailed essay published in the Atomic Scientists (linked below) laying out grounds for lab escape and genesis of the virus in GoFR. In his exclusive interview with Republicworld.com (linked below) he reiterated his case for lab escape and called on world governments to put pressure on China for greater transparency, and to halt and review all Gain of Function Research for the danger it poses.
The U.S., European Union and several governments have also called for a more transparent investigation of Covid-19’s origins, in particular, for better access to data and samples from potential early Covid-19 cases, which the Chinese officials have been stonewalling since the outbreak. In May 14, 2021, a group of prominent scientists published a joint letter (linked below) calling for a proper investigation into the origins of Covid19 since “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” and also stated “Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”
On 26 May, 2021, the US President Joe Biden ordered the US intelligence agencies to "redouble" their efforts in investigating the emergence of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and report back to him within 90 days, amid growing controversy about the virus's origins from the WIV in China. His announcement came after a US intelligence report from January 15, 2021 surfaced that, several researchers at the WIV fell ill in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized.
Thus, it appears that there was a concerted effort from within a section of the scientific community both of U.S and China involved in GoFR to muzzle and discredit the lab leak theory of Covid19’s origins in order to avoid public scrutiny and governmental oversight of GoFR and the possible defunding and halt, altogether of GoFR.
It is extremely disheartening to know that an alarming number of scientists and experts we look upto for answers are largely motivated by either greed or ego to play God and tinker with nature, irrespective of the consequences. The only likely beneficiaries of such risky research and experiments is Pharma companies invested in producing Vaccines.