Connect with us
Advertisement

The Corona Coronation (Part 2)

Coronavirus is a laboratory creation, says a scientist of renown

On March 12 2020, Robert Redfield, the director for the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a congressional hearing that it had emerged that some of America’s people who had been previously certified as having died from influenza – the common cold known as flu – turned out to have actually succumbed to Covid-19.

The Chinese government authorities were quick to pounce as what that suggested was that hitherto the US Covid-19 scenario had been falsified, that the coronavirus had actually been gnawing away at the US fabric for sometime and likely predated its emergence in China.

The Trump administration, however, is adamant that China was both the birthplace and hub, initially, of Covid-19. It is the US government narrative, seemingly, that holds greater sway across the globe, prompting an outspoken Texas-based NGO to demand a $20 trillion compensation from China on behalf of the US citizenry and a UK think-tank also to weigh in for £350 billion for the UK alone and £3.2 trillion for the G7. The indictment is that China either deliberately or negligently allowed the coronavirus to wash over the entire globe.

Which behooves us to pose this question: was China solely responsible for the advent of Covid-19 or it is no more than an opportunistic scapegoat?
Having devoted a great deal of time and energy to delving into the matter, I have, Ladies and Gentlemen, arrived at the verdict that culpability rests with both the Red Dragon and Uncle Sam himself.

A PIECE OF VERY BAD NEWS

In 1977, a spousal team of British biologists, Jean and Peter Medawar, hilariously defined a virus as “simply a piece of bad news wrapped up in protein”. In this analysis, the bad news at issue is the novel coronavirus, the propagator of Covid-19. Until the turn of the century, few members of the global citizenry were conversant with the concept of a coronavirus. But the coronavirus is far from a John-Come-Lately: the pathogen was known as early as 1968. It was first detected in chicken as an infectious bronchitis virus and in two human patients who presented with flu.

The coronavirus typically circulates among animals, notably pigs, camels, birds, bats, and cats, which it seldom harms (just as SIV, the equivalent of HIV, does not lead to AIDS in monkeys) probably because it has dwelt in them for such a long time that they have honed their defence mechanism in its regard.

It is another matter when the virus shifts camp from animals to humans, for then it causes disease, what experts term as a “spillover event”. To date, seven such coronaviruses have been known to cause morbidity in humans, three of which seriously so in some cases.

The three most virulent coronavirus are responsible for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in late 2002 and disappeared by 2004); MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which broke out in in 2012 and remains in circulation in camels); and Covid-19, which is said to have originated in China’s Wuhan city in December 2019 and has since spread to the rest of the world.

Now, if the novel coronavirus, also known as SAR-Covid-2 or 2019-nCoV, belongs to the same viral clan as the ones behind SARS and MERS, why is it so manifold contagious and deadlier?

THAT CURIOUS GENE CAPACITATION

In February this year, a team of virologists and genomicists led by Professor Ruan Jishou of Nankan University in Tianjin, northern China, reported that SARS-Cov-2 was radically different from other coronaviruses in that its latch-on ability made it 1000 times more potent than the familiar coronaviruses.

This capacity was attested to by findings in two other studies, one by a Huazhong University of Science and Technology team led by Professor Li Hua, and the other by French scientist Professor Dr Etienne Decroly of Aix-Marseille University in France. The capacity derived from a gene that gave the coronavirus a dual attack approach of binding to human cells.

Professor Li referred to the feature that enabled the capacity as an “unexpected insertion”, that is, a genetic mutation (a change in the genetic message carried by the gene, which change may arise from damage or a laboratory-setting alteration).

“This finding,” Li said, “suggests that the 2019-nCoV coronavirus may be significantly different from the SARS coronavirus in the infection pathway … Maybe this is why the SARS-CoV-2 is more infectious than the other known coronaviruses … The result findings show that when compared to the initial SARs mode of entry, this binding method is more than a 1,000 times efficient.”

Considering that Li expressed puzzlement at the so-called insertion, one is prompted to ask whether this was natural or was artificially induced with a view to turning the coronavirus into a steamrolling biological weapon.

HOW CORONA STEALS INTO THE HUMAN CELL

Let us first outline the mechanism by which the novel coronavirus eases itself into a human cell. Like all viruses, the coronavirus cannot reproduce itself using its own, innately programed capacity. For it to replicate and populate expansively in its habitat, it has to hijack living cells and turn them into a self-perpetuation factory.

The coronavirus uses the constitutional infrastructure of its own and that of the target cell to embed itself in the latter, also known as the host cell. To do that, it uses one of the four filaments on its outer layer known as spikes. These are components of the S-Protein, which occur in groups of three, crown-like spikes – the reason it is known as the coronavirus, meaning crown-like virus.

In order to invade the target cell, the coronavirus needs a doorway. In human cells, this doorway is known as the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2, or ACE2 protein in short. The coronavirus then extends a part of its S-Protein to attach itself to the ACE2 receptor, thereby gaining entry to the cell. The virus is ushered into the cell by a “door bouncer” which it “coaxes” or “sweet-talks”, known as the TMPRSS2 Cellular Protease

In healthy humans, however, the ACE2 protein occurs rather scantily and that makes it difficult for coronaviruses to ordinarily intrude into the cell (the reason the SARS outbreak of 2002/2003 which infected close to 8,000 people globally was not so widespread).

The coronavirus’ fallback action in the face of a telling ACE2 dearth is what we can as well term the Furin route. A pundit explains this phenomenon thus: “It (the mutated coronavirus) is also able to attack human cells via the target called Furin, which is an enzyme that works as a protein activator in the human body. Typically, many proteins are inactive or dormant when they are produced and have to be ‘cut’ at specific points to activate their various functions, which Furin does in the human cellular pathways.”

The coronavirus bears an activation site on its body which it “commandeers” (as if at gun point) the Furin protein to operationalise. That done, the virus is able to slip into and lodge in the cell without the need of the ACE2 protein. Seemingly, its activation by Furin affords the coronavirus easy admittance into the cell without being subjected to a kind of vetting process.

HIV DISCOVERER SMELLS A RAT (OR WAS IT A BAT?)

Since the onset of Covid-19, there has been no shortage of either eminent or little-known researchers crying foul over the morphology of the propagator virus now on rampage across the globe.

Perhaps the most authoritative of the connoisseurs on the subject is Luc Montagnier, the famous French virologist who discovered HIV in 1982 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for this same feat. In an interview with CNews, a French free-to-air TV network late last month, Montagnier charged that the novel coronavirus was scientifically tweaked in a laboratory to turn it into the monster it is. In a bid to content the Doubting Thomases, we will quote him verbatim thus:

“We came to the conclusion that there was manipulation around this virus … to a part but I do not say the total … of the coronavirus of a bat: someone added sequences, in particular of HIV, the virus of AIDS … It is not natural. It’s the work of professionals, of molecular biologists … a very meticulous work.”

Perhaps out of sense of common human courtesy, Montagnier, however, did not, allege sinister motives on the part of whomever scientists were involved: he supposed that they likely punctuated the virus’ virulence with a view to, and in the process of, finding a vaccine against AIDS.

To further buttress his assertion, Montaignier pointed to a 9-man team of Indian researchers who in their paper titled Uncanny Similarity of Unique Inserts in the 2019-nCoV Spike Protein to HIV-1 GP120 and Gag, which was published on January 31 this year, came to precisely the same conclusion.

This song, of the coronavirus being turned into a deadly morbidity weapon, has actually become a familiar refrain. In February this same year, for instance, US senator Tom Cotton and Francis Boyle, a law professor, on good authority opined that the coronavirus may have been a “Chinese bioweapon which escaped from a lab”.

Three years earlier, a US molecular biologist, Richard H Ebright, had voiced fears over the attempt on the part of the Chinese government to upgrade the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the country’s first Biosafety Level 4 (BSL–4) laboratory having taken into account previous escapes of the SARS virus at other Chinese laboratories. Were these commentators of good standing internationally spot-on or were guilty of building castles in the air, of making a mountain out of a molehill?

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Corona Coronation (Part 7)

17th June 2020

Who was Covid-19’s Patient Zero, defined as the first carrier of a communicable disease in an outbreak of related cases?

Since the disease at least officially originated in China, and which scenario China has not unequivocally admitted to but has not spiritedly refuted anyway, Patient Zero ought to be a Wuhan-based Chinese.

What Beijing has readily told the world is of Covid-19’s first fatality, a 61-year-old going by the name Zhen, in all probability a non de plume. Zhen is said to have contracted Covid-19 during one of his routine visits to the Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market.

He died at Wuhan Puren Hospital on the night of January 10, 2020, at a time when 41 people had been diagnosed with the disease and at least seven were in critical condition according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.

Zhen, however, was not Patient Zero. According to the January 24, 2020 edition of The Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal, Patient Zero had no connection whatsoever with the now infamous seafood market.

The Lancet report was informed by a team of researchers, seven of whom worked at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital, which was the first hospital to be designated for patients with Covid-19. The researchers analysed data from the 41 patients with confirmed infections and who had showed an onset of symptoms up to January 2.

They stressed that Patient Zero had never been to the seafood market and that “there was also no epidemiological link between the first patient and the later cases”.

Sadly (or was it decorously?), The Lancet provided no hint as to who the real Patient Zero was. It was not until three months later that her name was put out into the global public domain although she had long been named in maverick Beijing newspapers.

PATIENT ZERO WAS A LADY KNOW AS HUANG

Ever heard of the so-called Five Eyes? It is the world’s oldest intelligence partnership which came into being in 1946, its membership comprising of the major Anglophone countries, namely the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

In a Five Eyes memo passed to Australia’s The Daily Telegraph towards the end of April this year, Patient Zero was confirmed as Huang Yan Ling, a scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and who was believed to have succumbed to the effects of Covid-19.

She is said to have contracted the disease “during a botched experiment” in the institute’s P4 laboratory.  The memo was a summary of a more detailed 15-page dossier.

The name Huang Yan Ling first popped up in Beijing newspapers in January and shortly thereafter went viral in China’s blogosphere. Huang was a female graduate from Jiantong University and enrolled for a Master’s programme at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2012, which she completed in 2015.

At first, the institute denied she ever schooled or worked there and even went to the extent of removing all her particulars from the institutional website. They subsequently owned up to her association with them but insisted she was still alive and kicking. They have lately made a unabashed U-turn, saying she’s now unaccounted for.

Certainly, if Huang was still in good health to date, the government would have   forced her to emerge and make a public statement live on television. The fact that they have not done so demonstrates quite clearly that she is indeed deceased.

CHINA’S DUCKING AND DIVING

The Five Eyes report pans China for obfuscating whistleblower reports, censoring Internet reports in a cover-up, and withholding important scientific information – including virus samples – to help other countries treat the disease in the early stages of what would eventually become the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Lancet endorses this view too: it informs us that the symptoms of Covid-19 were first made known to the Wuhan authorities on December 1, but they were reluctant to own up to the existence of the disease till December 31st, when they announced that 27 people were down with a pneumonia-like ailment.

On its part, the central government in Beijing suppressed information on Covid-19 for six weeks spanning December and January and only officially acknowledged it on January 20. Even then, the acknowledgement was far from wholehearted. The authorities continued to gag doctors and others for raising red flags and were unstinting in playing down the dangers to the public of the otherwise deadly disease.

For instance, when Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s Shanghai laboratory published Covid-19’s genomic sequence on January 11 to allow the scientists around the world to study the virus, the following day the laboratory was shut down for what was spun as “rectification” – whatever that meant.

And when on January  26 a group of 9 “experts” arrived in Wuhan to review the criteria for disseminating information about the virus to the global population, they were deputised by the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda Tsar, whose brief, clearly, was to sanitise the information and slant the narrative to Xi Jinping’s liking.

LI AND OTHERS SOUND THE ALARM

Arguably the earliest tipsters to go public about the existence of Covid-19 in China were Lu Xiaohong, Hie Linka, and Li Wenliang, all medical doctors.

Lu, the director of gastroenterology at Wuhan Municipal Hospital, on Christmas Day told the state-run China Youth Daily that a number of medical workers at two hospitals in Wuhan had presented with a mysterious pneumonia-like illness. Lu privately sent word to a school located near another major market about her concerns.

On December 30, Hie, an oncologist at Wuhan Union Hospital, and Li, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central University, set about alerting the public on WeChat, the ubiquitous social media platform of China, about the same come-from-nowhere disease.

Hie enjoined people to “wear masks and ventilate areas” after learning from her colleagues in the hospital’s  respiratory unit that  many patients, all of whom had recently been to the same seafood and live animal market in Wuhan,  had been admitted there with pneumonia-like symptoms whose cause was as yet unknown.

But it was Li’s situation that ended in tragedy and therefore became the most topical across the globe. Targeting about 150 of his fellow students in a closed WeChat group, Li notified them about seven patients who had visited the Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market and were quarantined in his hospital after showing SARS-like symptoms.

He would later tell The New York Times that, “we needed to be ready for it mentally; take protective measures” and CNN that, “I only wanted to remind my university classmates to be careful”.

R.I.P. DR LI

The screenshots of Li’s postings, which were under his real name, inevitably went viral and the outcome was exactly as had predicted. “I realised it was out of my control and I would probably be punished,” he would later harp back.

However, it was not until two days after his WeChat comments that the Public Safety Bureau of Wuhan, a branch of the national police, pounced. Li was one of the people rounded up in the dead of night in a swoop on eight medical staff, who included Hie, for “spreading rumours online that disturbed the public order”. He was made to sign a statement acknowledging guilt of a misdemeanour which constituted illegal behaviour.

But the iron-willed, heart-of-oak Li simply wasn’t giving up.  Although the police deleted all his WeChat posts and even closed his account, he resorted to uploading remonstrative videos on his blog straight after his release.

Li’s days nonetheless were numbered. Officially, he contracted Covid-19 from a woman suffering from glaucoma that he treated on January 10. He passed away on February 7. The probability that he was tactfully eliminated by the country’s intelligence apparatus cannot be entirely discounted given China’s penchant to harshly crack the whip on perceived dissidents. He was 34 years old and was survived by a son and a pregnant wife.

Li’s highly suspicious death sparked outrage throughout China, prompting the National Supervisory Commission, the country’s highest anti-corruption agency, to declare that they would conduct investigations into his demise.  There has never been a word from them on the matter four months hence.

HE CASE OF AI FEN

In March this year, the Xi Jinping regime was at it again. One Ai Fen, the head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central hospital, simply went out of circulation, which is odd for a medical doctor working for a government-owned hospital.

Apparently, Ai’s sin was to criticise government for heavy-handed censorship of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country thereby delaying the adoption of measures to combat it and stem its spread in an interview with a popular magazine.

Ai was one of the eight doctors alluded to above who were the first to blow the trumpet on the emergence of the disease.

The Chinese authorities moved rather swiftly to muzzle the interview. The issue containing the interview, published on March 10, was quickly removed from newsstands. The interview was also deleted from the magazine’s website but was previously copied by Internet users who continued to circulate it.

Maybe Huang’s death was natural, but I’m willing to bet you my very last penny that Li’s and Ai’s were blatant eliminations by a near-Stalinist regime that scarcely tolerates going against the grain.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Corona Coronation (Part 6)

9th June 2020

Covid-19 a man-made disease

If the novel coronavirus was intended as a biological weapon, this is very much in line with China’s biological warfare programme, which was mooted as early as 1999, when Jiang Zemin was in power.

In that year, the army published a book titled Unrestricted Warfare, in which strategies to tilt the balance of power between a weaker nation and a stronger one were suggested and propounded upon. Among the viable options was biological warfare.

In 2015, a paper published in India’s Journal of Defence Studies carried the expose that China had 42 facilities involved in research, development, production, testing, or storage of Biological Weapons. In the interests of sustained good diplomatic relations, the facilities were not named but if they had, the Wuhan Institute of Virology would no doubt have taken pride of place.

Could that be the real reason why the Chinese government remain adamant that the novel coronavirus originated from the Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market – to deceptively cover up for their clandestine pursuit of biological weaponry?

In so saying, their fallback pretext is the SARS epidemic of 2003, which is said to have arisen when a coronavirus jumped from Asian palm civets, a cat-like creature that is legally raised and consumed. The Chinese authorities insist that the novel coronavirus might have followed the same path by way of the seafood market.

Perhaps to lend credibility to this thesis, Beijing on February 24, 2020 decreed a permanent ban on wildlife consumption and trade, with the nod given only in relation to medicinal, research, or display purposes. This was irrespective of putting paid to a $76 billion industry and at the cost of 14 million jobs according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

ALL FINGERS POINT TO WUHAN INSTITUTE

As already made mention of in previous articles, the one particular place in China that is in the eye of the storm with respect to the emergence of the novel coronavirus is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is reportedly equipped with “the technology to synthesise viruses for cross-species transmission”. The institute not only has become synonymous with coronavirus but with the term “bat” as well.

It is no secret that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been actively researching coronaviruses from horseshoe bats. The research, which began as early as the turn of the century, was directly acknowledged in a paper the institute published in 2005, which posited that China’s horseshoe bats were natural reservoirs of SARS-like coronaviruses.

The researchers are said to have isolated over 300 bat coronavirus sequences from thousands of horseshoe bats ferreted out from the mountains of southern China, about 900 km from Wuhan.

It was at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that the horseshoe coronavirus was made genetically optimal for human transmission.   A  molecular biologist at Rutgers University,  Richard Ebright, told The Scientist, a professional magazine targeted at  life scientists, in November 2015 that,   “The only impact of this work (of the Wuhan Institute of Virology)  is the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk.”

An investigative report by National Review, America’s most influential magazine for conservative news, commentary, and opinion extensively documented evidence to the effect that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had put out an advertisement for scientists who were needed to study coronaviruses and bats.

Indeed, on December 24, 2019, the institute made known on its website that it had “discovered a large number of new bat viruses and their infection mechanisms that could transmit to humans”.

France’s Pasteur Institute was actually alarmed by the goings-on at the Wuhan Institute as far back as four years prior and warned that growing a virus that remarkably grew well in humans was tantamount to courting a doomsday scenario for mankind. “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory”, one of its leading virologists so presciently told Nature magazine in November 2015.

A “SHE” AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

If there is one particular name that keeps cropping up in relation to the diabolical viral research exploits of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it is Shi Zheng Li.

Shi, a 55-year-old of female gender, is the institute’s lead researcher, with her last 16 years devoted to bat-borne coronaviruses and their transmitability to humans. Part of her CV reads something like that she has “researched in synthetic viruses and published several papers on the creation of coronaviruses for the study of cross-species transmission of coronaviruses.”

In short, Shi is an expert in engineering lab variants of viruses with possible pandemic potential – the reason, supposedly, the presently raging pathogen was dubbed the “novel” coronavirus. It is novel because its characteristics are very much unlike your typical natural coronavirus.

Shi has a moniker which is not so much a tribute as a dressing-down. She is amongst the scientific establishment in China called “Bat Woman”. Of course she does not remotely resemble a bat: she’s so-called because of her compulsive virus-hunting expeditions in the bat caves of southern China.

Her very first was logged in 2004, when in the company of an international team of researchers, she set off for the bat colonies in caves around Nanning, the provincial capital of Guangxi. Her predilection for southern China bats is informed by her research, which posits that it is the southern, subtropical provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan which may be the most susceptible to infections by coronaviruses jumping from bats.

In the countless bat dwellings she has sampled coronaviruses from, Shi has found that “constant mixing of different viruses creates a great opportunity for dangerous new pathogens to emerge”, prompting her inalienable stance that given that coronaviruses are liable to trigger a chain of morbidity outbreaks in humans, “we must find them before they find us.”

It was Shi and her team who fathomed the origins of the SARS virus, which sprang forth in Guangdong in 2002. But there was more. Says one report: “In late 2016, pigs across four farms in Qingyuan County in Guangdong — 60 miles from the site where the SARS outbreak originated — suffered from acute vomiting and diarrhea, and nearly 25,000 of the animals died.

Local veterinarians could not detect any known pathogen and called Shi for help. The cause of the illness — swine acute diarrhoea syndrome (SADS) — turned out to be a virus whose genomic sequence was 98 percent identical to that of a coronavirus found in horseshoe bats in a nearby cave.”

At the time Covid-19 hit the headlines, Shi was attending a conference in Shanghai.  Upon being pointed to one such banner headline, she immediately took off, but not before she quipped to a journalist that, “If coronaviruses were the culprit, could they have come from our lab?”

There it was folks, straight from the horse’s mouth: it was not a direct acknowledgement but it was a telltale. It suggested in no uncertain terms that Shi’s institution, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was already a breeding ground for coronaviruses.

SHI AND CO PREDICT ADVENT OF COVID-19

The one thing that cannot be denied or downplayed is the fact that Shi Zheng Li is a reputable researcher, albeit the Frankenstein type, it turns out.

Since 2003, in the immediate wake of the outbreak of SARS, Shi has published no less than four papers which have riveted the attention of the international scientific community. All the papers centred on the study and manipulation of bat coronaviruses.

Her latest, the one that was published in 2015, was particularly topical. Authored as part of a team of researchers drawn from various institutions from Asia, Europe, and the US, the paper was titled A SARS-Like Cluster Of Circulating Bat Coronaviruses Shows Potential For Human Emergence and appeared in Nature Medicine magazine on December 21st of that same year.

In the paper, Shi’s team reported that they had created a new virus by combining two coronaviruses, one of which was found in Chinese horseshoe bats and the other from the so-called backbone of the SARS virus, which had been adapted to grow in mice and mimic human disease. They called this hybrid virus a recombinant virus which they had “synthetically re-derived”, or genetically re-engineered in simpler terms.

The report said that this new, chimeric virus had demonstrated rapid viral replication and was capable of infecting human airway cells and therefore it was feared that a SARS-like disease might soon emerge.

On November 14, 2018, Shi spoke at Shanghai Jaiatong University, where she unequivocally made the case that bat coronaviruses were capable of across-species transmission, specifically from bats to human beings.

It emerges, folks, that Covid-19 was not only anticipated as early as 2015: its vector virus, the novel coronavirus, was actually created in the laboratory. 

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Corona Coronation (Part 5)

3rd June 2020

Stored and leaked pathogens could give rise to a Covid-19-like scourge

The February 2020 events in China vis-à-vis the novel coronavirus were as frenetic as they were eyebrow-raising.

First, Chen Wei, the Chinese army’s 54-year-old chief biochemical weapons defence expert, was redeployed to head the Institute of Virology’s P4 laboratory with a team of top military scientists in tow. Second, the country’s legislative assembly set about the process of enacting a biosafety law.

Talking to The Beijing News in the context of both the coronavirus and the desirability and necessity of such a law, a law professor at Beihang University had this to say: “Scientists’ instinct is to explore the unknown world. But they should also follow the ethical principles of scientific research, remembering their responsibility to protect society.

Many biotechnology issues (in China) lack legislative restriction, such as the development and utilisation of biological gene statistics, the protection of genetic resources and genome manipulation, as well as laboratory management and norms for scientists. Without such regulations, operators at laboratories are left vulnerable to infections and toxic viruses that can leak out during experiments. So it is necessary to build scientific ethics in laboratories.”

Although the professor did not hit the nail squarely on the head, what she was trying to convey was obvious enough – that the coronavirus inadvertently escaped from a laboratory before it achieved, as was the official, blame-deflecting narrative, a natural zoonotic transmission to humans at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

Sometime toward the end of January, the controversial Chinese billionaire dissident and high-profile fugitive, Miles Guo, who has been tucked away in the US since 2015, sketched out a link between the P4 laboratory and the novel coronavirus.  He fingered out a certain Gu Devin as the creator of the virus on the orders of Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.

Doubting Thomases may dismiss Guo’s take as no more than the rantings of a fugitive from Chinese justice, but what about the likes of Xu Bo, the chairman of Duoyi network, the 25th of China’s Top 100 Internet companies? This is what he said on his personal website on February 4 without a care in the world as to the backlash he might provoke from Beijing:  “In light of the importance of epidemic prevention, I suspect that the mismanagement of experimental animals and the outflow of viral experimental animals at the Wuhan Institute of Virology caused the novel coronavirus outbreak in 2019 based on the following facts and evidences.

I decided to report the Institute of Virology to Wuhan (government) in the hope that the country will thoroughly investigate the management of experimental animals in the institute and the research on the transmission of related bat coronaviruses into humans.”

What were Xu’s “following facts”?

CHINA NOTORIOUS FOR LETTING LOOSE DEADLY PATHOGENS

Let us first appreciate that the notion of lab-grown pathogens wreaking pathological havoc on laboratory staff and even well beyond through the multiplier infection effect is not confined to the realm of sci-fi movies. Although such hazards are not widely documented being atypical, they are far from the stuff of conspiracy theory.

The scientific art of creating new, transmissible versions of deadly viruses in laboratories for preemptive reasons continues apace even if it is frowned upon in case the virus was   introduced into the population either by accident or by evil design with results too ghastly to contemplate. Accidental leaks have been known to happen, for instance, by way of failures in respiratory equipment or workers touching the most vulnerable parts of their bodies with a contaminated glove.

The Scripps Institute, a California-based biomedical research organisation, has warned of just such a scenario on more than one occasion. An article by a Harvard University professor and a scholarly colleague in the May 20, 2014 edition of PLOS Medicine, a weekly medical journal,  served up the same warning too, citing the ebola and Marburg viruses as just two of the pathogens that have infected workers and brought them to the brink.

Nowhere are such pathogen-associated hazards a more regular occurrence than in China itself. Even as the coronavirus was laying siege in that country in December last year, said an article in Nature magazine, more than 100 staff and students at two agricultural research institutes 2600 km removed, namely the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute and Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, tested positive for the bacterium Brucella, which triggers potentially fatal complications in several of the body’s vital organs.

Another magazine called The Scientist reported that the SARS virus had escaped multiple times from high-level containment facilities at the Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The last known SARS cases, reported in 2004, related to people who worked in a Chinese laboratory.

THE US AND OTHERS ARE CULPRITS TOO

In all fairness though, China is not the sole perpetrator of these accidents. Said an article in a May 2016 edition of The Atlantic: “A Singaporean lab worker was inadvertently infected with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003. In 2004, a Russian scientist died after accidentally sticking herself with a needle contaminated with Ebola at a Siberian lab.

In April, Paris Pasteur Institute lost 2,000 vials containing the SARS virus. And in March, the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas lost a vial containing Guanarito virus, which causes bleeding under the skin, in internal organs or from body orifices like the mouth, eyes, or ears.”

The tendency on the part of the medical establishment of some developed countries to retain samples of age-old viruses in their professedly “high-security” laboratory vaults can be a recipe for a pathological disaster. For instance, smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980 but disease control and prevention centres in Russia and the US retain samples of the virus.

Six such sealed vials, which dated from the 1950s, were in July 2014 found in a government laboratory storeroom in the US state of Maryland. It seems the medical world is perpetually torn between the desire to eliminate horrific diseases entirely and the need to preserve them for future study. But with the kind of carelessness the custodians of such dangerous viruses seem to exhibit, the odds that the samples could come in the hands of rogues and be used in bio-terrorism are higher than low.

Meanwhile, there is simply no letup on scientists creating new incurable diseases in laboratories. Said The Atlantic: “Swine flu, or H1N1, had been dead for 20 years when it suddenly re-emerged in 1977 with a curious twist.

The new strain was genetically similar to one from the 1950s, almost as though it had been sitting frozen in a lab since then. Indeed, it eventually became clear that the late 70s-flu outbreak was likely the result of a lowly lab worker’s snafu …

“In recent years, scientists have found a way to make H5N1 jump between ferrets, the best animal model for flu viruses in humans. They say they need to create a transmissible version in order to better understand the disease and to prepare potential vaccines. The concern is that you’re making something that doesn’t exist in nature and combines high virulence for people with the ability to transmit efficiently.”

The Harvard University team referenced above estimate that there was a 20 percent chance for a lab worker who took part in pathogen manipulation experiments for ten years continuously to get infected and pass it on to others.

This brings us back to the question we posed in the first section of this piece: when the Duoyi network supremo Xu Bo talked about unearthing certain facts regarding how Covid-19 arose in China, what did he mean?

For a detailed unpacking, make a date with us next week.

Continue Reading