Why the Science Points to a Lab Leak

In today’s Wall Street Journal, two eminent scientists explain why the evidence points toward a laboratory origin for the covid-19 virus:

In gain-of-function research, a microbiologist can increase the lethality of a coronavirus enormously by splicing a special sequence into its genome at a prime location. Doing this leaves no trace of manipulation. But it alters the virus spike protein, rendering it easier for the virus to inject genetic material into the victim cell.
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In the case of the gain-of-function supercharge, other sequences could have been spliced into this same site. Instead of a CGG-CGG (known as “double CGG”) that tells the protein factory to make two arginine amino acids in a row, you’ll obtain equal lethality by splicing any one of 35 of the other two-word combinations for double arginine. If the insertion takes place naturally, say through recombination, then one of those 35 other sequences is far more likely to appear; CGG is rarely used in the class of coronaviruses that can recombine with CoV-2.

In fact, in the entire class of coronaviruses that includes CoV-2, the CGG-CGG combination has never been found naturally. That means the common method of viruses picking up new skills, called recombination, cannot operate here.
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Although the double CGG is suppressed naturally, the opposite is true in laboratory work. The insertion sequence of choice is the double CGG. That’s because it is readily available and convenient, and scientists have a great deal of experience inserting it.
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Now the damning fact. It was this exact sequence that appears in CoV-2. Proponents of zoonotic origin must explain why the novel coronavirus, when it mutated or recombined, happened to pick its least favorite combination, the double CGG. Why did it replicate the choice the lab’s gain-of-function researchers would have made?

Yes, it could have happened randomly, through mutations. But do you believe that? At the minimum, this fact—that the coronavirus, with all its random possibilities, took the rare and unnatural combination used by human researchers—implies that the leading theory for the origin of the coronavirus must be laboratory escape.

When the lab’s Shi Zhengli and colleagues published a paper in February 2020 with the virus’s partial genome, they omitted any mention of the special sequence that supercharges the virus or the rare double CGG section. Yet the fingerprint is easily identified in the data that accompanied the paper.

All of this didn’t just recently come to light. The authors point out that the CGG connection was noted in published literature by February 2020. So, why is it that only in the last few weeks have the scientific, political and media establishments decided not only that it is acceptable to entertain the idea that covid could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but to point out publicly that this is the most likely explanation of the virus’s origin?

I think the answer lies in the realm of politics, not science. Covid was not a hoax, but it was immediately seen by the Left as the means through which they might oust Donald Trump from the White House. (“God’s gift to the Left,” as Jane Fonda expressed it.) For that strategy to work, the focus needed to be here at home, on the alleged (almost entirely mythical) failures of the Trump administration. Pointing the finger at China would not only reinforce President Trump’s speculation about the virus, it would also validate the tough approach he took toward the CCP throughout his term in office.

So the truth about the origin of covid had to be suppressed. That is how it looks to me, anyway.

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