Evidence on the origin of Covid leads to lab in Wuhan – Former NY Times Science Editor
In the millions of articles, opinion pieces, and news stories written about Covid there is one topic that is more important than all the others. It’s more important than masks, vaccines, or lockdown measures. The origin of the virus is critical because no matter how many people die from covid, or how many businesses are wiped out, it’s critical that IF the next virus can be stopped, it mu st be.
A science writer named Nicholas Wade has written the most thorough study on the origins of Covid to be released to the public. Wade has worked with Nature, Science, and the New York Times, but this article was released on the public platform Medium. In this article Wade goes through three possible scenarios and then draws the most likely conclusion. This is a long read, but it might be the most important article yet written during this pandemic.
Here is the beginning of this extensive article from Medium. Click here to read the full article on Medium.
Origin of Covid — Following the Clues
Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?
I’m a science writer and have worked on the staff of Nature, Science and, for many years, on the New York Times. [email protected]
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives the world over for more than a year. Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: the political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel.
In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments. I will then try to assess the complex issue of blame, which starts with, but extends far beyond, the government of China.
By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze.
The virus that caused the pandemic is known officially as SARS-CoV-2, but can be called SARS2 for short. As many people know, there are two main theories about its origin. One is that it jumped naturally from wildlife to people. The other is that the virus was under study in a lab, from which it escaped. It matters a great deal which is the case if we hope to prevent a second such occurrence.
I’ll describe the two theories, explain why each is plausible, and then ask which provides the better explanation of the available facts. It’s important to note that so far there is no direct evidence for either theory. Each depends on a set of reasonable conjectures but so far lacks proof. So I have only clues, not conclusions, to offer. But those clues point in a specific direction. And having inferred that direction, I’m going to delineate some of the strands in this tangled skein of disaster.
A Tale of Two Theories
After the pandemic first broke out in December 2019, Chinese authorities reported that many cases had occurred in the wet market — a place selling wild animals for meat — in Wuhan. This reminded experts of the SARS1 epidemic of 2002 in which a bat virus had spread first to civets, an animal sold in wet markets, and from civets to people. A similar bat virus caused a second epidemic, known as MERS, in 2012. This time the intermediary host animal was camels.
The decoding of the virus’s genome showed it belonged to a viral family known as beta-coronaviruses, to which the SARS1 and MERS viruses also belong. The relationship supported the idea that, like them, it was a natural virus that had managed to jump from bats, via another animal host, to people. The wet market connection, the only other point of similarity with the SARS1 and MERS epidemics, was soon broken: Chinese researchers found earlier cases in Wuhan with no link to the wet market. But that seemed not to matter when so much further evidence in support of natural emergence was expected shortly.
Wuhan, however, is home of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a leading world center for research on coronaviruses. So the possibility that the SARS2 virus had escaped from the lab could not be ruled out. Two reasonable scenarios of origin were on the table.
From early on, public and media perceptions were shaped in favor of the natural emergence scenario by strong statements from two scientific groups. These statements were not at first examined as critically as they should have been.
“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” a group of virologists and others wrote in the Lancet on February 19, 2020, when it was really far too soon for anyone to be sure what had happened. Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” they said, with a stirring rallying call for readers to stand with Chinese colleagues on the frontline of fighting the disease.
Contrary to the letter writers’ assertion, the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy. It surely needed to be explored, not rejected out of hand. A defining mark of good scientists is that they go to great pains to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know. By this criterion, the signatories of the Lancet letter were behaving as poor scientists: they were assuring the public of facts they could not know for sure were true.
It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Dr. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Dr. Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”
Virologists like Dr. Daszak had much at stake in the assigning of blame for the pandemic. For 20 years, mostly beneath the public’s attention, they had been playing a dangerous game. In their laboratories they routinely created viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature. They argued they could do so safely, and that by getting ahead of nature they could predict and prevent natural “spillovers,” the cross-over of viruses from an animal host to people. If SARS2 had indeed escaped from such a laboratory experiment, a savage blowback could be expected, and the storm of public indignation would affect virologists everywhere, not just in China. “It would shatter the scientific edifice top to bottom,” an MIT Technology Review editor, Antonio Regalado, said in March 2020.
A second statement which had enormous influence in shaping public attitudes was a letter (in other words an opinion piece, not a scientific article) published on 17 March 2020 in the journal Nature Medicine. Its authors were a group of virologists led by Kristian G. Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute. “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” the five virologists declared in the second paragraph of their letter.
Unfortunately this was another case of poor science, in the sense defined above. True, some older methods of cutting and pasting viral genomes retain tell-tale signs of manipulation. But newer methods, called “no-see-um” or “seamless” approaches, leave no defining marks. Nor do other methods for manipulating viruses such as serial passage, the repeated transfer of viruses from one culture of cells to another. If a virus has been manipulated, whether with a seamless method or by serial passage, there is no way of knowing that this is the case. Dr. Andersen and his colleagues were assuring their readers of something they could not know.
The discussion part their letter begins, “It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus”. But wait, didn’t the lead say the virus had clearly not been manipulated? The authors’ degree of certainty seemed to slip several notches when it came to laying out their reasoning.
The reason for the slippage is clear once the technical language has been penetrated. The two reasons the authors give for supposing manipulation to be improbable are decidedly inconclusive.
First, they say that the spike protein of SARS2 binds very well to its target, the human ACE2 receptor, but does so in a different way from that which physical calculations suggest would be the best fit. Therefore the virus must have arisen by natural selection, not manipulation.
If this argument seems hard to grasp, it’s because it’s so strained. The authors’ basic assumption, not spelt out, is that anyone trying to make a bat virus bind to human cells could do so in only one way. First they would calculate the strongest possible fit between the human ACE2 receptor and the spike protein with which the virus latches onto it. They would then design the spike protein accordingly (by selecting the right string of amino acid units that compose it). But since the SARS2 spike protein is not of this calculated best design, the Andersen paper says, therefore it can’t have been manipulated.
But this ignores the way that virologists do in fact get spike proteins to bind to chosen targets, which is not by calculation but by splicing in spike protein genes from other viruses or by serial passage. With serial passage, each time the virus’s progeny are transferred to new cell cultures or animals, the more successful are selected until one emerges that makes a really tight bind to human cells. Natural selection has done all the heavy lifting. The Andersen paper’s speculation about designing a viral spike protein through calculation has no bearing on whether or not the virus was manipulated by one of the other two methods.
The authors’ second argument against manipulation is even more contrived. Although most living things use DNA as their hereditary material, a number of viruses use RNA, DNA’s close chemical cousin. But RNA is difficult to manipulate, so researchers working on coronaviruses, which are RNA-based, will first convert the RNA genome to DNA. They manipulate the DNA version, whether by adding or altering genes, and then arrange for the manipulated DNA genome to be converted back into infectious RNA.
Only a certain number of these DNA backbones have been described in the scientific literature. Anyone manipulating the SARS2 virus “would probably” have used one of these known backbones, the Andersen group writes, and since SARS2 is not derived from any of them, therefore it was not manipulated. But the argument is conspicuously inconclusive. DNA backbones are quite easy to make, so it’s obviously possible that SARS2 was manipulated using an unpublished DNA backbone.
And that’s it. These are the two arguments made by the Andersen group in support of their declaration that the SARS2 virus was clearly not manipulated. And this conclusion, grounded in nothing but two inconclusive speculations, convinced the world’s press that SARS2 could not have escaped from a lab. A technical critique of the Andersen letter takes it down in harsher words.
Science is supposedly a self-correcting community of experts who constantly check each other’s work. So why didn’t other virologists point out that the Andersen group’s argument was full of absurdly large holes? Perhaps because in today’s universities speech can be very costly. Careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line. Any virologist who challenges the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application turned down by the panel of fellow virologists that advises the government grant distribution agency.
The Daszak and Andersen letters were really political, not scientific statements, yet were amazingly effective. Articles in the mainstream press repeatedly stated that a consensus of experts had ruled lab escape out of the question or extremely unlikely. Their authors relied for the most part on the Daszak and Andersen letters, failing to understand the yawning gaps in their arguments. Mainstream newspapers all have science journalists on their staff, as do the major networks, and these specialist reporters are supposed to be able to question scientists and check their assertions. But the Daszak and Andersen assertions went largely unchallenged.
Doubts about natural emergence
Natural emergence was the media’s preferred theory until around February 2021 and the visit by a World Health Organization commission to China. The commission’s composition and access were heavily controlled by the Chinese authorities. Its members, who included the ubiquitous Dr. Daszak, kept asserting before, during and after their visit that lab escape was extremely unlikely. But this was not quite the propaganda victory the Chinese authorities may have been hoping for. What became clear was that the Chinese had no evidence to offer the commission in support of the natural emergence theory.
This was surprising because both the SARS1 and MERS viruses had left copious traces in the environment. The intermediary host species of SARS1 was identified within four months of the epidemic’s outbreak, and the host of MERS within nine months. Yet some 15 months after the SARS2 pandemic began, and a presumably intensive search, Chinese researchers had failed to find either the original bat population, or the intermediate species to which SARS2 might have jumped, or any serological evidence that any Chinese population, including that of Wuhan, had ever been exposed to the virus prior to December 2019. Natural emergence remained a conjecture which, however plausible to begin with, had gained not a shred of supporting evidence in over a year.
And as long as that remains the case, it’s logical to pay serious attention to the alternative conjecture, that SARS2 escaped from a lab.
Why would anyone want to create a novel virus capable of causing a pandemic?
To read the rest of this article on Medium click here
I’m a science writer and have worked on the staff of Nature, Science and, for many years, on the New York Times. [email protected]
By the way.. Medium is a fascinating place. If you haven’t checked it out yet here’s a link to medium.com.
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Eye Protection Wasn’t Misdirection
From the Brownstone Institute
“If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it.” ~ Anthony Fauci, July 30th, 2020
We had heard enough from Fauci by the time this comment was made in mid-2020 to begin automatically tuning out his frequently contradictory advice. What if we had given weight to this comment and explored why he began recommending goggles (yet never donned them himself)?
While I’m not surprised that the inner anatomy of the face including ocular ducts and connectivity within structures aren’t common knowledge, I expected more of a reaction from the medical community regarding Fauci’s push for eye protection. Not only do medical professionals take extensive coursework on human anatomy — they are required to meet annually with an Industrial Hygienist for fit tested, hazard-specific kit for each exposure setting , including ocular protection. This testing process requires going into detail about each exposure setting and required donning and donning practices within the scope of their professional duties.
Instead of elaborating on his recommendation, Fauci just publicly hushed on the issue and folks carried on, obediently masked up yet entirely neglectful of their nasolacrimal ducts. Shame, shame.
These are the structures of the lacrimal apparatus connecting ocular and nasal pathways. Basically, the eye drains into the nasal cavity. None of the talking heads of the medical community ever seem to bring up that these parts of the body connect with one another, and while we hear about masks ad nauseam three entire years after the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, no one is arguing with strangers on the internet about goggles.
Bernie Sanders was recently praised for being the only person at the February, 2023 State of the Union donning a (sub-grade, non-mitigating) respirator, but eye spy something fishy. It was noted that he kept removing his glasses, as they were fogging up.
Those who have donned respirators have experienced that exhale emissions are generally redirected out of the nose bridge (or out of side gaps if improperly sealed). This is the exhale emission plume create by a fitted, unvalved N95 respirator:
This plume of warm, moist respiratory emissions is what causes glasses to fog. This is precisely why I continue to argue that masks are NOT source control for respiratory aerosols, because these apparatuses are not designed nor intended to protect others from your emissions, but solely for protection of the wearer. The ASTM agrees with me on this matter:
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Specification for Barrier Face Coverings F3502-21 Note 2 states, “There are currently no established methods for measuring outward leakage from a barrier face covering, medical mask, or respirator. Nothing in this standard addresses or implies a quantitative assessment of outward leakage and no claims can be made about the degree to which a barrier face covering reduces emission of human-generated particles.”
Additionally, Note 5 states, “There are currently no specific accepted techniques that are available to measure outward leakage from a barrier face covering or other products. Thus, no claims may be made with respect to the degree of source control offered by the barrier face covering based on the leakage assessment.”
So does it matter if your neighbor’s exhale emissions are directed in your face for the duration of your 6-hour flight?
Absolutely. Imagine sitting between these two fine fellas with your eyes exposed, and their emission plumes directed right in your face.
In mitigation of aerosol hazards, eye protection is a standard part of required kit, because those from the correct domain of expertise, Industrial Hygiene, know enough about human anatomy to remember the interconnectivity of facial structures.
Ocular transmission of SARS-CoV-2
There has been a great deal of focus on respiratory protection since the start of the pandemic, but ocular transmission was already established for SARS-CoV-1.
“SARS-CoV-1 has been shown to be transmitted through direct contact or with droplet or aerosolized particle contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. Indeed, during the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 outbreak in Toronto, health care workers who failed to wear eye protection in caring for patients infected with SARS-CoV-1 had a higher rate of seroconversion.”
We are beginning to see mounting research on ocular transmission for SARS-CoV-2 emerge, as well, traveling through the nasolacrimal duct from the eye, draining into the sinus cavity.
“There is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 may either directly infect cells on the ocular surface, or virus can be carried by tears through the nasolacrimal duct to infect the nasal or gastrointestinal epithelium.”
“The nasolacrimal system provides an anatomic connection between the ocular surface and the upper respiratory tract. When a drop is instilled into the eye, even though some of it is absorbed by the cornea and the conjunctiva, most of it is drained into the nasal cavity through the nasolacrimal canal and is subsequently transferred to the upper respiratory or the gastrointestinal tract.”
“SARS-CoV-2 on the ocular surface can be transferred to different systems along with tears through the nasolacrimal route.”
Seldom did ocular exposure result in eye infection, while systemic infections occurred regularly. Ocular exposure cannot always be determined as the point of contact for this reason, as an eye infection does not always coincide with systemic infection.
The nasolacrimal duct is often discussed in ocular transmission research, but this is not the sole ocular transmission pathway discussed.
“There are two pathways by which ocular exposure could lead to systemic transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. (1) Direct infection of ocular tissues including cornea, conjunctiva, lacrimal gland, meibomian glands from virus exposure and (2) virus in the tears, which then goes through the nasolacrimal duct to infect the nasal or gastrointestinal epithelium.”
Additionally, research is being conducted on the usage of ocular secretions in transmitting SARS-CoV-2.
“Then here comes the question, whether SARS-CoV-2 detected in conjunctival secretions and tears is an infectious virus? Colavita et al inoculated Vero E6 cells with the first RNA positive ocular sample obtained from a COVID-19 patient. Cytopathic effect was observed 5 days post-inoculation, and viral replication was confirmed by real-time RT-PCR in spent cell medium. Hui et al also isolated SARS-CoV-2 virus from a nasopharyngeal aspirate specimen and a throat swab of a COVID-19 patient. The isolated virus not only infected human conjunctival explants but also infected more extensively and reached higher infectious viral titers than SARS-CoV.”
According to this study, ocular secretions were highly infectious.
“The ocular surface can serve as a reservoir and source of contagion for SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted to the ocular surface through hand-eye contact and aerosols, and then transfer to other systems through nasolacrimal route and hematogenous metastasis. The possibility of ocular transmission of SARS-CoV-2 cannot be ignored.”
This paper also has a focus on aerosols coming into contact with ocular mucosa.
“Once aerosols form, SARS-CoV-2 can bind to the ACE2 on the exposed ocular mucosa to cause infection. In order to prevent aerosols from contacting the eye surface, eye protection cannot be ignored.”
An additional area explored in this analysis discusses rhesus macaques wherein solely those inoculated through the ocular route became infected.
“If the ocular surface is the portal for SARS-CoV-2 to enter, where does the virus transfer after entering? An animal experiment reveals the possible nasolacrimal routes of SARS-CoV-2 transfer from the ocular surface. Five rhesus macaques were inoculated with 1×106 50% tissue-culture infectious doses of SARS-CoV-2. Only in the conjunctival swabs of rhesus macaques inoculated via conjunctival route could the SARS-CoV-2 be detected. Conjunctival swabs of the rhesus macaques that were inoculated via intragastric or intratracheal route were negative. Three days post conjunctival inoculation, rhesus macaques presented mild interstitial pneumonia. Autopsies showed that SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in the nasolacrimal system tissues, including the lacrimal gland, conjunctiva, nasal cavity, and throat, which connected the eyes and respiratory tract on anatomy.”
An additional macaque study had similar findings.
“Deng et al. showed that SARS-CoV-2 infection could be induced by ocular surface inoculation in an experimental animal model using macaques. Although the researchers detected the virus in conjunctival swabs only on the first day after inoculation, they continued to detect it in nasal and throat swabs 1-7 days after the inoculation. Their findings demonstrated that the viral load in the airway mucosa was much higher than that in the ocular surface. They euthanized and necropsied one of the conjunctival inoculated-animals and found that the virus had spread to the nasolacrimal system and ocular tissue, nasal cavity, pharynx, trachea, tissues in the oral cavity, tissues in the lower-left lobe of the lung, inguinal and perirectal lymph node, stomach, duode-num, cecum, and ileum. They also found a specific IgG antibody, indicating that the animal was infected with SARS-CoV-2 via the ocular surface route.”
While the nasolacrimal route is the primary focus in most current research, the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) is also discussed as a possible pathway.
“Once it reaches the ocular surface, SARS-CoV-2 could invade the conjunctiva and iris under the mediation of ACE2 and CD147, another possible receptor for SARS-CoV-2 on host cells. De Figueiredo et al described the following possible pathways. After reaching blood capillaries and then choroid plexus, the virus reaches the blood-retinal barrier (BRB), which expresses both ACE2 and CD147 in retinal pigment epithelial cells and blood vessel endothelial cells. Since CD147 mediates the breakdown of neurovascular blood barriers, the virus can cross the BRB and enter into blood.”
There has been a push recently to bring back masks for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), especially in schools, as this pathogen largely impacts youth populations, yet ocular transmission is a proven method of infectivity for RSV.
In this paper, intranasal dosing of the given pathogen resulted in onset of illness for nearly all respiratory pathogens studied. It reviews transmission routes and minimum infective dose for Influenza, Rhinovirus, Coxsackievirus, Adenovirus, RSV, Enteric Viruses, Rotavirus, Norovirus, and Echovirus, including ocular transmission.
“The infective doses of rhinoviruses in the nose and eyes are thought to be comparable because the virus does not infect the eyes but appears to travel from the eyes to the nasal mucosa via the tear duct.”
“Hall et al. (1981) investigated the infectivity of RSV A2 strain administered by nose, eye, and mouth in adult volunteers. They reported that the virus may infect by eye or nose and both routes appear to be equally sensitive. A dose of 1.6 × 105 TCID50 infected three of the four volunteers given either into the eyes or nose while only one out of the eight were infected via mouth inoculation, and this was thought to be due to secondary spread of the virus.”
“RSV A2 had poor infectivity when administered via the mouth but was shown to infect by eye and nose and both routes appear to be equally sensitive to the virus.”
“Bynoe et al. (1961) found that colds could be produced almost as readily by applying virus by nasal and conjunctival swabs as by giving nasal drops to volunteers.”
Would masks save schools from RSV circulation? Most kids have robust immune systems, with a very, very small percentage of the youth population undergoing chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressives, who usually are not on campus for in-person learning. But for those seeming protection and in-person instruction, we must not set them up for immune bombardment by offering a false sense of security while feigning ignorance of other viable transmission routes. Masks are not the answer.
Ocular transmission of respiratory pathogens hasn’t been a focal point of study, but with other pathogens and mounting research on SARS-CoV-2 showing such ease of systemic onset for this transmission route, more attention should be given to this area of research.
Consider all of the people you’ve seen donning masks or respirators over these past three years, assured in the merit of their virtue. How many still got sick? Did you ever once see someone donning goggles? Are we ever going to get around to discussing exhaustion of the hierarchy of controls, or are actual mitigating measures too taboo, too fringe?
TLDR: Ocular transmission is a viable method of transmission for SARS-CoV-2. Masks are not source control. Even N95s aren’t going to fix this. And all child masks are unregulated, untested, unethical, and unsafe, with zero efficacy, fit, term of wear, or medical clearance standards, and with ocular transmission being a proven route of transmission for RSV, masks aren’t going to fix that issue, either.
Curious: Angela Merkel’s September 2019 Visit to Wuhan
From the Brownstone Institute
In a much-tweeted soundbite from the recent Congressional hearing on the origins of Covid-19, former CDC director Robert Redfield noted that three unusual events occurred in Wuhan in September 2019 suggesting a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
But another, in retrospect, highly curious event also occurred in Wuhan in September 2019: namely, none other than then German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to the city and, more specifically, to the Tongji Hospital on the left bank of the Yangtze River. The hospital is also known as the German-Chinese Friendship Hospital.
The below photo from Germany’s Deutsche Presse Agentur shows Chancellor Merkel being greeted by nurses at the hospital reception on September 7, 2019. (Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung.)
A 2021 House Foreign Affairs Committee Minority Report, referring in greater detail to the same events as Redfield, concludes that a lab leak took place at the WIV sometime prior to September 12, when, notably, the WIV’s virus and sample database was mysteriously taken offline in the middle of the night (p. 5 and passim).
What an incredible coincidence that the German Chancellor was visiting Wuhan’s Tongji Hospital at almost precisely the time when, according to Redfield’s speculations, a potentially catastrophic event was taking place across the river at the Wuhan Institute of Virology! This was, moreover, merely three months before the first officially acknowledged cases of Covid-19 began to turn up in the city.
But the coincidence is in fact even more incredible. For when those first cases did begin to turn up in Wuhan in early December 2019, they did not in fact turn up in the vicinity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology on the right bank of the Yangtze, but rather in the direct vicinity of Tongji Hospital on the left bank!
The below mapping of the initial cluster of cases from Science magazine makes this clear. The black dot is the epicenter of the cluster. Cross #5 marks the location of Tongji Hospital.
And that is not all. As discussed in my earlier article on “The Other Lab in Wuhan,”although the WIV was relatively far removed from the outbreak – say around 10 kilometers from the epicenter as the crow flies — there is in fact another virus research lab in Wuhan that is located right in the area of the initial cluster.
The lab in question is the German-Chinese Joint Laboratory of Infection and Immunity – or, as its German co-director Ulf Dittmer has also called it, the “Essen-Wuhan Laboratory for Virus Research” – and the Chinese host institution of the German-Chinese Joint Lab is none other than the Tongji-Hospital-affiliated Tongji Medical College.
Per Google maps, Tongji Medical College is located around one kilometer due north of the hospital. Have another look at the above map keeping in mind the indicated scale. This would put it nearly right at the epicenter of the outbreak!
According to German and Chinese sources, however, the lab is in fact located at another hospital affiliated with Tongji Medical College: Wuhan Union Hospital. The location of Union Hospital is marked by cross #6 on the Science map: still in the cluster, but a bit further away from the epicenter.
A press release on the website of the University of Duisburg-Essen, the German co-sponsor of the lab, notes that:
The Joint Lab is fully equipped for virus research. It is a BSL2 safety laboratory with access to BSL3 conditions. German and Chinese members of the lab have access to a large sample collection form [sic.] patients of the Department of Infectious Diseases for their research.
BSL stands for “biosafety level.”
The below photo from a German article on the Essen-Wuhan collaboration shows the virologist Xin Zheng of Union Hospital, Tongji Medical School, at work in the joint lab. Per the cited source, Xin did her doctorate at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
Could SARS-CoV-2 have leaked from the joint lab?
And, while we’re at it, was gain-of-function research being conducted at the lab? We do not know, but we do know that the German members of the lab will, at any rate, have been in contact with a nearby lab where it was being conducted. For the Wuhan Institute of Virology lists the University of Duisburg-Essen as one of its partner institutions.
Furthermore, in addition to its own partnership with the University of Duisburg-Essen, Tongji Medical College also has a longstanding academic exchange program with the Charité research and teaching hospital in Berlin of none other than Christian Drosten: the German virologist whose controversial and ultrasensitive PCR protocol, in effect, guaranteed that the Covid-19 outbreak would acquire the status of a “pandemic.”
As discussed in “The Other Lab in Wuhan,” Drosten appears as one of the scientists participating in the so-called “Fauci emails,” and of all the participants, he is the most vehement denier of the possibility of a lab leak.
In remarks in the German press, Drosten has admitted that he began working on his Covid-19 testing protocol before any Covid-19 cases had even officially been reported to the WHO! He says he did so based on information he had from unnamed virologist colleagues working in Wuhan. (Source: Die Berliner Zeitung.)
Speaking of which, Drosten can be seen below in the company of none other than Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the scientist whose research on bat coronaviruses is suspected of being at the origin of a Covid-19 lab leak.
The picture comes from a “Sino-German Symposium on Infectious Diseases” that took place in Berlin in 2015 and that was organized by Ulf Dittmer of the University of Duisburg-Essen. Dittmer, as noted above, is the co-director of the Essen-Wuhan lab, which would be founded two years later. The symposium was funded by the German Ministry of Health.
Dittmer is the bald man with the striped shirt in the full group picture of symposium participants below. (Source: University of Duisburg-Essen.) The jovial bearded man with the bowtie in the next row is none other than Thomas Mertens, the current chair of the “Standing Committee on Vaccination” of the German health authority, the Robert Koch Institute.
The Berlin symposium was held one year after the US government declared a moratorium on gain-of-function research.
As it so happens, Drosten himself has been involved in gain-of-function research, as the below screen shot from the webpage of the German RAPID project makes clear.
RAPID stands for “Risk Assessment in Prepandemic Respiratory Infectious Diseases.” Further information from the German Ministry of Education and Research expressly states that Drosten’s Charité hospital does not merely oversee, but is directly involved (beteiligt) in RAPID sub-project 2: i.e. “identification of host factors by loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments.”
Imagine for a moment that then President Donald Trump paid a visit to Wuhan in September 2019, at the very time that a lab leak is suspected to have occurred in the city.
And imagine that, while there, he made a stop at a hospital that is affiliated with a medical school located in the very epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak that would officially occur three months later.
Imagine that this medical school, furthermore, runs a joint, BSL-3 capable, virus research lab with an American university – let’s say, for example, Ralph Baric’s University of North Carolina – and that Baric and his colleagues were themselves conducting research right in Wuhan!
And imagine that the American university in question is also a partner institution of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (Baric’s University of North Carolina is not in fact) and that the local Wuhan medical school also has a partnership with, say, the NIH.
And imagine that there is even a photo of none other than Anthony Fauci of the NIH with none other than Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology at a joint “Sino-American Symposium on Infectious Diseases” in Washington that was organized by Baric and funded by the US Department of Health four years before the Covid-19 outbreak. And imagine, for good measure, that, say, Rochelle Walensky was also present at the event.
Imagine, finally, that Fauci had not just (allegedly) provided funding for gain-of-function research, but was himself directly involved in it.
The above concatenation of circumstances would undoubtedly be regarded as what some members of the US intelligence community might call “slam-dunk” proof of US complicity in any lab leak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that may have occurred in Wuhan.
Why does the ample evidence of manifold German connections to and indeed involvement in virus research in Wuhan not merit at least the same degree of scrutiny, if not to say of certainty?
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Atlantic2 days ago
CP NewsAlert: Four people stabbed at high school in Halifax, student in custody