Case Closed: It Was a Lab Leak

The Sunday London Times, out today, has a long, long article about the origins of the covid-19 virus in the lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Until the far-off day when Chinese sources open up honestly, it will stand as definitive proof of not just the lab leak hypothesis, but the conclusion that covid-19 was a human creation. Its conclusions are unqualified:

Scientists in Wuhan working alongside the Chinese military were combining the world’s most deadly coronaviruses to create a new mutant virus just as the pandemic began.

Investigators who scrutinised top-secret intercepted communications and scientific research believe Chinese scientists were running a covert project of dangerous experiments, which caused a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and started the Covid-19 outbreak.

The US investigators say one of the reasons there is no published information on the work is because it was done in collaboration with researchers from the Chinese military, which was funding it and which, they say, was pursuing bioweapons.

The wealth of detail in this piece is remarkable. It lays out the relationships among the National Institutes of Health, American researchers, the Chinese military, and the Wuhan institute. An excerpt:

The facility, which had started hunting the origins of the Sars virus in 2003, attracted US government funding through a New York-based charity whose president was a British-born and educated zoologist. America’s leading coronavirus scientist shared cutting-edge virus manipulation techniques.

The institute was engaged in increasingly risky experiments on coronaviruses it gathered from bat caves in southern China. Initially, it made its findings public and argued the associated risks were justified because the work might help science develop vaccines.

This changed in 2016 after researchers discovered a new type of coronavirus in a mineshaft in Mojiang in Yunnan province where people had died from symptoms similar to Sars.

Rather than warning the world, the Chinese authorities did not report the fatalities. The viruses found there are now recognised as the only members of Covid-19’s immediate family known to have been in existence pre-pandemic.

They were transported to the Wuhan institute and the work of its scientists became classified. “The trail of papers starts to go dark,” a US investigator said. “That’s exactly when the classified programme kicked off. My view is that the reason Mojiang was covered up was due to military secrecy related to [the army’s] pursuit of dual use capabilities in virological biological weapons and vaccines.”

According to the US investigators, the classified programme was to make the mineshaft viruses more infectious to humans.

They believe this led to the creation of the Covid-19 virus, and that it leaked into the city of Wuhan after a laboratory accident. “It has become increasingly clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in the creation, promulgation and cover-up of the Covid-19 pandemic,” one of the investigators said.

The risks of the work being done in Wuhan were widely known:

The results of Baric’s experiment with the genetic sequence given to him by Shi were published in co-authored research in November 2015. The combined Sars copy and SHC014 virus was a potential mass killer. It caused severe lung damage in humanised mice and was resistant to vaccines developed for Sars. The paper acknowledged this might have been an experiment that was too dangerous.

It caused a big stir. “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory,” warned Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
The Wuhan institute began stepping up its own lab work using Baric’s techniques. It created two new mutants by fusing viruses with the WIV1 pathogen it had found in the Shitou cave. These experiments were mentioned in Daszak’s progress report for the year to May 2016, which he submitted to the US government funders. The same report disclosed the institute planned to create an infectious version of the camel pathogen Mers by combining it with bat viruses. Mers had killed 35 per cent of people infected during a 2012 outbreak in Saudi Arabia.

This triggered alarm bells for the US government because it would have involved the type of gain-of-function experiments that were still barred. According to documents obtained by freedom of information campaigners, Daszak argued the Mers experiment was not gain of function because it was unlikely to make the virus more pathogenic. A compromise was reached whereby the scientists would stop work and report to US officials if they created a new mutant virus that grew ten times faster than the natural virus it was created from.

Precautions at the WIV lab were known to be inadequate:

The US embassy found out about the experiments in Wuhan and sent diplomats with scientific expertise to inspect the institute in January 2018, according to diplomatic cables leaked to The Washington Post. They observed “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory”.

The London Times report also documents dishonesty within the scientific community that was being funded by the U.S. government. The Wuhan lab created a coronavirus that was vastly more dangerous than covid-19, which fortunately has not yet escaped:

Around the same time, the Wuhan institute took another perilous leap forward with its work on the Shitou viruses. It began what Professor Richard Ebright describes as the most dangerous coronavirus experiment ever undertaken. The scientists selected three lab-grown mutant viruses, created by mixing Sars-like viruses with WIV1, which had all been shown to infect human cells. These mutants were then injected into the noses of albino mice with human lungs.

The aim was to see whether the viruses had the potential to spark a pandemic if they were fused together, as they might do naturally in a bat colony. The original WIV1 virus was injected into another group of mice as a comparison.

The mice were monitored in their cages over two weeks. The results were shocking. The mutant virus that fused WIV1 with SHC014 killed 75 per cent of the rodents and was three times as lethal as the original WIV1. In the early days of the infection, the mice’s human-like lungs were found to contain a viral load up to 10,000 times greater than the original WIV1 virus.

The scientists had created a highly infectious super-coronavirus with a terrifying kill-rate that in all probability would never have emerged in nature. The new genetically modified virus was not Covid-19 but it might have been even more deadly if it had leaked.

But the lethality of this virus was not disclosed:

The researchers’ tests also showed vaccines and other treatments developed to combat Sars were not effective against the new virus. The results of the experiment were not shared with other scientists in any scientific journal or paper.

The experiment was part-funded by EcoHealth’s grant money, but the FOI documents show that, while the Wuhan institute’s experiments were described in Daszak’s April 2018 annual progress report to the NIH, he did not refer to the deaths of the humanised mice.

There was also no mention of the mouse deaths in the grant renewal application Daszak filed to the NIH later that year. In this account, he said the mice had experienced “mild Sars-like clinical signs” when they were infected with the mutant virus. It had actually killed six of the eight infected humanised mice.

Finally, this:

[Dr Steven Quay, a US scientist who advised the State Department on its investigation] believes Covid-19 was created by inserting a furin cleavage site into one of the mine viruses and then serial passaging it through humanised mice. He submitted a statement to the US Senate explaining the process. “You infect the mice, wait a week or so, and then recover the virus from the sickest mice. Then you repeat. In a matter of weeks this directed evolution will produce a virus that can kill every humanised mouse.”

This explains why from the beginning of the outbreak, he says, the pandemic virus was so remarkably well adapted to infect humans.

There is much, much more at the link. Readers of this site will not be surprised at the conclusion that covid-19 was created in the WIV lab and escaped from there, but the London Times has done a real service in bringing together the evidence, including some that has not previously been public, in comprehensible form. It is worth a subscription, I think, for this article alone.

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