The lab leak exposed

RealClearPolitics co-founder Tom Bevan must read a lot of columns in connection with his work. When he singles one out, I infer it must be good. On Twitter Tom draws attention to the Wall Street Journal column “Science Closes In on Covid’s Origins.” Subhead: “Four studies—including two from WHO—provide powerful evidence favoring the lab-leak theory.” The column is written by Richard Muller and Steven Quay. Muller is emeritus professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley and a former senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Quay is founder of Atossa Therapeutics and co-author of The Origin of the Virus: The Hidden Truths Behind the Microbe That Killed Millions of People.

I have thought that the circumstantial evidence supporting the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis is strong if not overwhelming. Tom pulls a key quote from the column in the tweet below.

The entire column is must reading. It lays out the evidence in a more understandable form than I have found elsewhere. Three paragraphs that precede the one above are perhaps key:

A coronavirus adapts for its host animal. It takes time to perfect itself for infecting humans. But a pathogen engineered via accelerated evolution in a laboratory using humanized mice would need no additional time after escape to optimize for human infection. In their Nature Medicine paper, Mr. Andersen and colleagues pointed to what they considered the poor design of SARS-CoV-2 as evidence of zoonotic origin. But a team of American scientists mutated the stem of the coronavirus genome in nearly 4,000 different ways and tested each variation. In the process they actually stumbled on the Delta variant. In the end, they determined that the original SARS-CoV-2 pathogen was 99.5% optimized for human infection—strong confirmation of the lab-leak hypothesis.

SARS-CoV-2 contains a key mutation: the “furin cleavage site,” or FCS. This mutation is sufficiently complex that it couldn’t have been the result of spontaneous changes triggered, for example, by a mutagen or radiation. It could, however, have been inserted by nature or by humans. In nature the process is called recombination—a virus exchanges chunks of itself with another closely related virus when both infect the same cell. The National Institutes of Health database shows no FCS in more than 1,200 viruses that can exchange with SARS-CoV-2.

As the Intercept recently reported, a 2018 grant proposal—written by the EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit, and submitted to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa—contained a description of proposed experiments that would involve splicing the FCS sequences into bat viruses so a research team could look for changes in infectivity. Darpa opted not to fund the grant, but the absence of the FCS in related coronaviruses, together with the apparent desire and capability of scientists to make such an insertion, strongly argues in favor of the laboratory origin thesis.

The column concludes: “We have an eyewitness, a whistleblower who escaped from Wuhan and carried details of the pandemic’s origin that the Chinese Communist Party can’t hide. The whistleblower’s name is SARS-CoV-2.”

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