covid origins

Chinese Scientists Deleted Almost 50 Test Samples from Covid Patients in Wuhan That Suggested Virus was Circulating Before Seafood Market Outbreak

The debate over the origins of Covid has moved in the direction of the lab leak theory today after it emerged that Chinese scientists deleted dozens of test samples from patients in Wuhan from an international database used to track the evolution of the virus. The files are said to include some data that suggest the virus was circulating in people before – possibly even months before – it was linked to wet markets. The MailOnline has more.

The American professor who spotted their deletion and managed to recover some of the data said they suggested Covid was circulating long before China’s official timeline.

He found the early samples of the virus were more evolved than would be expected of a pathogen that had recently jumped from animals to humans – but did not say it gave more weight to the “lab leak” theory.

Professor Jesse Bloom, a virologist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said he believed China had removed the files to “obscure their existence”.

British scientists told MailOnline the findings confirm Covid was spreading in people before being linked to wet markets, “perhaps months before”.

The latest cover-up comes amid mounting suspicion the virus may have accidentally leaked from a high-level biosecurity laboratory in Wuhan…

The cover-up was detailed in a scientific paper titled “Recovery of deleted deep sequencing data sheds more light on the early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 epidemic” today.

45 positive samples had originally been uploaded to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Sequence Read Archive by the Wuhan University in early March 2020.

The NIH is a U.S. Government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research.

The samples were published as part of a study into diagnosing Covid patients using PCR tests – just days before the Chinese Government issued an order requiring approval of the publication of all coronavirus data. 

Professor Bloom noted all 45 samples have since been pulled from the database, with “no plausible scientific reason for the deletion”.

He said the most likely explanation was to “abuse” and “obscure” the truth about the origins of the pandemic.  

Worth reading in full.

Government Does Not Believe in Lab Leak Theory, Says Dominic Raab

Following discussions on the origins of Covid among the G7 leaders in Cornwall on Saturday, Dominic Raab has said that on the “balance of probabilities” the U.K. Government does not believe in the lab leak theory. It is “much more likely”, he added, that the virus “jumped” from animals to humans. The MailOnline has the story.

Asked if he had been involved in G7 discussions about the lab leak theory, [the Foreign Secretary] told Sky News: “I haven’t personally but of course it has created part of the backdrop and officials have been comparing notes on this.

“If you are asking me whether we think on the balance of probabilities, if you like, that it originated in a lab, our best information for now is that it didn’t.

“But we don’t have all of the answers, that is why internationally we wanted the review to be able to go into to get all of the answers, to have all the cooperation, so we have the full picture rather than these possible, potential, plausible options.

“But on balance we do not believe that it came from a laboratory. We think it is much more likely to have jumped if you like from animals to humans.”

A recent report by the Wall Street Journal, citing a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report, claimed three researchers from the Wuhan lab sought hospital care in November 2019.  

The report, which provided fresh details on the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits, sparked renewed calls for a probe into whether the virus came from a lab. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation, says that all hypotheses on the origins of Covid remain “open“.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

COVID-19 Virus has a Genetic Feature Never Found in Nature that Lab Scientists Use to Track Engineered Viruses

Medical doctor Steven Quay and Emeritus Professor Richard Muller have written an article in the Wall Street Journal in which they set out what they believe to be “the most compelling reason to favour the lab leak hypothesis”. It is the fact that SARS-CoV-2 has a genetic feature that has never been observed in natural SARS-like coronaviruses, but which is the preferred feature for scientists when engineering viruses in the lab. It’s preferred because it is simpler and more familiar for lab workers, and also because it can then be used as a tell-tale marker of the engineered virus when tracking it in the lab.

The genome of SARS-CoV-2 includes as part of its genetic coding of the spike protein a sequence known as “double CGG” (CGG-CGG) that codes for two “arginine” amino acids in a row. Quay and Muller explain that there are 35 other possibilities that could occur in this location, known as the “furin cleavage site”, which would not disadvantage the virus in any way so are equally likely to be selected for by natural fitness. Furthermore, viruses often evolve by picking up genetic code from other viruses (known as recombination), but since double CGG doesn’t exist in nature for SARS-like viruses (or didn’t before SARS-CoV-2) this common route of picking it up is not available, making its appearance in a new coronavirus even less likely.

On the other hand, double CGG is the most commonly used sequence for lab workers when engineering the furin cleavage site in gain-of-function research, because it is readily available and familiar and can then be used to track the engineered virus.

There is also evidence the Wuhan scientists tried to conceal this genetic smoking gun. When the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s “bat woman” Dr Shi Zhengli and colleagues published a paper in February 2020 with the virus’s partial genome, the double-CGG furin cleavage site section was in the part of the genome omitted (though could be seen in the accompanying data).

The double-CGG furin cleavage site is often used in gain-of-function engineering to make a virus more infectious or virulent. “Humanised” mice are typically then repeatedly exposed to the engineered virus in order to accelerate the process of adaptation to humans. If the virus did originate through this kind of research it would therefore explain why there is no evidence of this adaptation occurring in nature for SARS-CoV-2, unlike with SARS-1.

A further point of interest is that the U.S. National Security Council, after reading an April 2020 paper in which Chinese military researchers studied SARS-CoV-2 using humanised mice, deduced that the mice involved must have been engineered some time during summer 2019, prior to the pandemic, raising questions about the reasons they had been engineered and what they were being used for at the time SARS-CoV-2 emerged in the autumn of 2019.

The evidence for a lab leak origin during gain-of-function research is looking more compelling by the day.

The Collapse of the Attempt to Censor the Lab Leak Theory Shows Why it’s Dangerous to Suppress Free Enquiry

We’re publishing a new piece today by retired lawyer Cephas Alain (a pseudonym) about the lab leak theory, subtitled “Who Suppressed It? Who Uncovered It? And What Should We Do About It?

Here’s how he begins:

A crucial, and often overlooked, event in the story of the pandemic and its associated narratives, including that of the supposed natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was the Press Conference of WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control in China. It took place at The Presidential Hotel in Beijing on the evening of February 24th 2020. The transcript of Press Conference and the forty-page Report issued by the Joint Mission on the same date The China Report are available as follows:

The WHO Press Conference Transcript: February 24th 2020
The Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (The China Report)

The WHO Press Conference was briefed by the Team Leaders of the Joint Mission: Dr. Bruce Aylward (a former Assistant Director-General of the WHO and senior advisor to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) and Dr. Liang Wannian (Head of Expert Panel of COVID-19 Response of China National Health Commission (NHC).

Dr Wannian suggested that the source of the outbreak “…according to the currently available data in China, bats may be its host, and pangolin may also be one of the intermediate hosts [i.e., between bats and humans] of this virus”. The China Report added that: “At some point early in the outbreak, some cases generated human-to-human transmission chains that seeded the subsequent community outbreak prior to the implementation of the comprehensive control measures that were rolled out in Wuhan.” (China Report page 10) The ‘best guess’ of the WHO Team was therefore that the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in bats which jumped species to infect humans, possibly via pangolins.

Cephas gathers together some of the key events and articles to tell the story of the censorship and how it collapsed and what that means.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Douglas Murray has delivered one of his most sceptical pieces to date, lambasting the media for its skewed coverage of the pandemic, starting with the disgraceful silence over the mass protests and then taking aim at the “kidults” who run tech companies for their censorship of the lab leak theory.

Stop Press 2: Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair notes that researchers at the U.S. National Security Council had spotted that the engineered mice with humanised lungs that the WIV used for experiments with SARS-CoV-2 in early 2020 must have been engineered before the pandemic in the summer of 2019, leading to questions about the reason they were created – and how dangerous were the experiments being done on them.

Stop Press 3: The Daily Mail‘s Sian Boyle has carried out an investigation in Dr Peter Daszak, who, as President of EcoHealth Alliance, helped to fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology then did his best to rubbish the lab leak theory.

The Virus “Looks Engineered”, Dr Fauci was Told by a Leading Scientist, Before Both of Them Actively Suppressed the Lab Leak Theory

Why did senior U.S. Government Covid adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and other leading scientists seek to quash any suggestion of a lab leak origin back in early 2020 and ensure it was written off as a conspiracy theory? That’s what many people are asking now that a lab leak is being seen, including by Dr. Fauci himself and President Joe Biden, as a possibility worth investigating.

In May 2020, Dr Fauci was unequivocal: “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated… Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” Yet now he has changed his tune. On May 11th he stated that he is “not confident” the virus developed naturally and he is “perfectly in favour of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus”.

The controversy has escalated in the last couple of days after the publication of emails from February 2020 that show Dr. Fauci being told by Dr. Kristian Andersen, Director of Infectious Disease Genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, that SARS-CoV-2 features “look engineered“.

In the emails, obtained by BuzzFeed through Freedom of Information enquiries, Dr. Anderson wrote: “I should mention that after discussions earlier today, Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory. But we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.”

It seems the opinions did change, as six weeks later Dr. Anderson was a lead signatory of a letter in Nature that declared: “The evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus.”

In the wake of the revelation about his February email, Dr. Anderson has doubled down and defended his Nature letter, tweeting: “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.”

It Is “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” That Chinese Scientists Created Covid in a Lab and Tried to Cover Their Tracks, According to a New Study

It is “beyond reasonable doubt” that SARS-CoV-2 was created through “laboratory manipulation”, according to a new study. The paper claims that the virus was made in a Wuhan lab by Chinese scientists who then tried to cover their tracks by retro-engineering versions of the virus to make it look like it evolved naturally from bats. The authors’ study has been rejected by a number of academic publishers but is now set to be published in the scientific journal Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery in the coming days. The MailOnline has the story.

The paper’s authors, British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sørensen, wrote that they have had “prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China” for a year – but were ignored by academics and major journals.   

Dalgleish is a Professor of Oncology at St George’s University, London, and is best known for his breakthrough in creating the first working “HIV vaccine”, to treat diagnosed patients and allow them to go off medication for months.

Sørensen, a virologist, is Chair of pharmaceutical company, Immunor, which developed a coronavirus vaccine candidate called Biovacc-19. Dalgleish also has share options in the firm. 

The shocking allegations in the study include accusations of “deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data” at Chinese labs, and it notes the silencing and disappearance of scientists in the communist country who spoke out…

While analysing Covid samples last year in an attempt to create a vaccine, Dalgleish and Sørensen discovered “unique fingerprints” in the virus that they say could only have arisen from manipulation in a laboratory…

Even when former MI6 Chief Sir Richard Dearlove spoke out publicly saying the scientists’ theory should be investigated, the idea was dismissed as “fake news”…

Digging through archives of journals and databases [on experiments done at the Wuhan lab between 2002 and 2019], Dalgleish and Sørensen pieced together how Chinese scientists, some working in concert with American universities, allegedly built the tools to create the coronavirus. 

Much of the work was centred around controversial “Gain of Function” research – temporarily outlawed in the U.S. under the Obama administration.

Gain of Function involves tweaking naturally occurring viruses to make them more infectious so that they can replicate in human cells in a lab, allowing the virus’s potential effect on humans to be studied and better understood. 

Dalgleish and Sørensen claim that scientists working on Gain of Function projects took a natural coronavirus “backbone” found in Chinese cave bats and spliced onto it a new “spike”, turning it into the deadly and highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2.

One tell-tale sign of alleged manipulation the two men highlighted was a row of four amino acids they found on the SARS-CoV-2 spike.

In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Sørensen said the amino acids all have a positive charge, which cause the virus to tightly cling to the negatively charged parts of human cells like a magnet, and so become more infectious. 

But because, like magnets, the positively charged amino acids repel each other, it is rare to find even three in a row in naturally occurring organisms, while four in a row is “extremely unlikely”, the scientist said.

“The laws of physics mean that you cannot have four positively charged amino acids in a row. The only way you can get this is if you artificially manufacture it,” Dalgleish told DailyMail.com.

Worth reading in full.

Wuhan Institute of Virology Researchers Were in Hospital with Possible COVID-19 in November 2019, Says U.S. Intelligence Report

The Wall Street Journal has published an article summarising an undisclosed U.S. intelligence report claiming that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital care in November 2019 for possible COVID-19, a month before China reported the first cases of COVID-19 on December 8th, with the implication that they were infected in the lab and were among the first patients to become infected with the disease. Reuters reports on the Wall Street Journal story:

The newspaper said the previously undisclosed report which provides fresh details on the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits – may add weight to calls for a broader investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the laboratory.

The Journal said current and former officials familiar with the intelligence expressed a range of views about the strength of the report’s supporting evidence, with one unnamed person saying it needed “further investigation and additional corroboration.”

This may seem to add weight to the lab leak theory. However, the timing doesn’t fit with some other keys pieces of data.

A leaked report from China looked back at hospital records and suggested the first patients infected with COVID-19 were being admitted to Wuhan hospitals in October, before any putative lab leak in November.

A U.S. military intelligence dossier which came to light in April 2020 documented a runaway epidemic in the Hubei region (of which Wuhan is the capital) in November (though the Pentagon has denied the existence of this dossier), which fits with the leaked Chinese report but not the U.S. intelligence report, since a November outbreak would not have had time to become a region-wide epidemic in the same month. It takes some weeks for a first cluster of cases to spread throughout a population of millions and cause a noticeable number of hospital admissions. Regional newspaper reports also suggest Covid was already circulating in Hubei in mid-November.

A November lab leak also seems too late given the virus was already infecting people around the world in December, with the first official UK fatal infection being caught in England in December.

Putting this together, it could mean one of three things: 1) The reported WIV staff sickness in November, as documented in the latest U.S. intelligence report, was not the original lab leak, just part of the later epidemic, or a second leak from the same lab and the original leak happened earlier (say, in September); 2) Covid did not leak from the WIV at all and there is another reason Wuhan was the first epicentre; 3) this was the leak and the reports implying an earlier epidemic are somehow incorrect or unrelated.

The plot thickens.

Writing in Top Science Journal, Experts Call for New Investigation Into Origins of COVID-19

There are two main theories for SARS-CoV-2’s origin. One maintains that the virus originated in bats, and then jumped to humans, most likely via an intermediate host species. The other states that the virus originated in a lab, but then accidentally escaped, perhaps due to inadequate safety protocols. 

It should be noted that there are two slightly different versions of the latter, “lab leak” theory. One says the virus that escaped was of wholly natural origin; the other says it had been genetically engineered beforehand. In the diagram below, A corresponds to the first version of the lab leak theory and C corresponds to the second; B corresponds to the natural origin theory:

The lab leak theory, you’ll recall, was initially dismissed as a “conspiracy” – even though the location of the first outbreak (in proximity to the Wuhan Institute of Virology) suggested it was by no means implausible. 

In September of 2020, Twitter suspended the Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan after she claimed that SARS-CoV-2 was manufactured in a laboratory and accused the Chinese government of covering up evidence. (Dr. Yan subsequently fled to the United States over concerns for her safety.)

In February of 2020, 27 scientists wrote a letter to The Lancet, claiming studies “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife”. The authors stated, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

In May of 2020, Anthony Fauci told National Geographic that the scientific evidence is “very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated”.

In June of 2020, Peter Daszak – organiser of the Lancet letter – wrote an op-ed for the Guardian. He again referred to proponents of the lab leak theory as “conspiracy theorists”, and claimed that his own work “firmly concludes that COVID-19 originated in bats”. (Daszak has actually funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and was the subject of 2015 news item in the journal Nature titled ‘Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research’.)

Scientists Criticise WHO over Its Failure to Properly Investigate Covid Lab Leak Theory

Scientists from around the world have criticised the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) investigation into the origins of Covid, saying that the agency has not properly looked into the lab leak theory. The group wrote in a letter to the academic journal Science: “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover [from animals to humans] both remain viable.” Ian Birrell has more in the Mail on Sunday.

In a highly significant move, 18 scientists from the world’s top universities, including Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, have demanded further investigations into the origins of the pandemic…

[They wrote:] “More investigation is needed to determine the origin of the pandemic. Knowing how Covid emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”

The signatories include Ravindra Gupta, the Cambridge Geneticist who has played a key role in Britain’s response to variants. 

Another is Ralph Baric, a U.S. epidemiologist who carried out controversial experiments on coronaviruses which included collaborating with Shi Zhengli – the Wuhan scientist nicknamed “Batwoman”.

Their research manipulated bat viruses to make them more infectious to human beings.

Although the work by Baric and Zhengli was funded through the EcoHealth Alliance charity, leaked emails revealed that Baric declined to join the charity’s British Director Peter Daszak in efforts to dismiss suggestions of a possible lab leak.

When the pandemic erupted, Daszak secretly organised a statement with some fellow scientists to the Lancet which “strongly condemned” conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid did not have a natural origin. 

U.S. funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology was halted after it was reported by the Mail on Sunday

Yet Daszak was asked to join a WHO joint study team into the pandemic origins, despite his clear conflicts of interest.

The new letter to Science criticises the WHO inquiry for claiming a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely” when there is no strong evidence to support either theory. 

“We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data,” it said.

“A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimise the impact of conflicts of interest.”

The criticism demonstrates how the ground is shifting fast on the issue as scientists and politicians challenge the conventional wisdom that Covid emerged naturally in Wuhan, the site of several key Chinese laboratories.

These labs include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which specialises in the study of bat-borne viruses and where there are known safety concerns…

Only a few scientists and journalists dared challenge the narrative that dismissed the idea of a possible lab leak for the first year of the pandemic…

The argument began to shift when Stanford Microbiologist David Relman, another of the Science signatories, published a landmark paper demanding a serious investigation of both theories.

Worth reading in full.