Diary

Reconsidering That Chinese Lab

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Wuhan virus pandemic is its origin.  It has spurred what some claim are conspiracy theories while others correctly point to the lying nature of the Chinese government.  The big fact-checkers at USA Today, Vox, the Washington Post, and elsewhere have dismissed the idea that the virus was somehow biologically engineered at a bioweapons laboratory in Wuhan, China.  They are, however, overlooking the possibility that the virus may have accidentally leaked from that facility.

First, it is not uncommon to have major, highly restrictive virology laboratories located in major cities.  Three such laboratories exist here in the United States in Atlanta, Galveston, and San Antonio.  There are plans to build at least seven more with two being in Richmond, Virginia and Boston.  As the fact checkers note, most of the “evidence” the virus escaped from the lab is tied to the lab’s proximity (about 300 meters) from the wet market which is now considered the origin of the outbreak.

The consensus is that the Covid-19 virus originated in bats and was somehow transmitted to humans,  possibly through an intermediary non-bat host.  The suggested intermediary is a pangolin- a mammal much like an anteater which is hunted for its meat and its valuable scales.  The only problem with that theory, as it relates to human transmission at a wet market in Wuhan, is that there is no evidence bats or pangolin were sold at the market, even by illegal traders.

Researchers here and in China have identified the likely bat culprit species- the horseshoe bat.  That particular bat is not to be found anywhere near Wuhan.  The nearest one is 900 miles away.  If this virus from this bat caused the outbreak in Wuhan, then that/those bats did some traveling to get there, which is very un-batlike behavior.  To this day, no one has found a horseshoe bat anywhere near Wuhan.  So, one of two things is likely here: (1) perhaps bats or pangolins were actually sold at that wet market, or (2) perhaps the virus itself was somehow present in Wuhan.  Again, that would point to either a human carrier at that market, or the level-4 security lab.

When the notion that the virus originated in a lab first circulated, Dr. Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University stated to the Washington Post: ““Based on the virus genome and properties, there is no indication whatsoever that it was an engineered virus.”  However, that same Dr. Ebright also said this: “…the first human infection could have occurred as a natural accident…(but) also could have occurred as a laboratory accident, with, for example, an accidental infection of a laboratory worker.”   Dr. Ebright further noted that coronaviruses were studied in Wuhan at biosafety level 2 with only minimal protection at one time.

There is actual video out of China showing researchers collecting samples from bats in labs with improper protective clothing, according to Ebright.  Further, there is documentary evidence of researcher Tian Junhua capturing bats in a cave without protective clothing and bat urine dropping on his head.  That is not to suggest that Junhua is the source of any coronavirus, only that if respected Chinese researchers are apt not to take necessary precautions while collecting bats for whatever purpose, who’s to say they took the necessary precautions in a laboratory?

There is, admittedly, evidence to suggest that this particular strain of coronavirus was not biologically engineered.  The scientific and genetic analysis, which despite a year of genetics in college, is way above this writer’s expertise, so I shall just take their word for it.  Most of the evidence suggests that genetic mutations within Covid-19 are consistent with what one would find without human intervention.  According to those studies, it appears that Covid-19 in its current form has likely been present in bats for about 70 years.

What is more recent is its presence in humans and it is only recently and primarily in China that there has been this surge in interest.  There are one of two possibilities: (1) the Chinese are studying it as a bioweapon, or (2) the Chinese are studying it to develop vaccines and treatments which they then hold a monopoly on.  To this writer, given their penchant for world economic domination, the more likely option is the second one.  And there is evidence for this notion.

On February 4th, before the virus got its official name of Covid-19 from the World Health Organization, an article published in Cell Research stated:

our findings reveal that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro. Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease.

This article was written by researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and one author was Shi Zhengli, known as “bat woman” in research circles for her knowledge of bat viruses.

Zhengli has been collecting and studying bats for over 16 years.  She had originally believed that if there was to be an outbreak of a bat coronavirus, it would have occurred in a more subtropical part of China such as Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan.  That is, this particular strain of virus and ones like it were not likely to be transmitted to humans in Wuhan in central China.  

According to an article in the New Yorker:

Analyses of the SARS-CoV-2 genome indicate a single spillover event, meaning the virus jumped only once from an animal to a person, which makes it likely that the virus was circulating among people before December. Unless more information about the animals at the Wuhan market is released, the transmission chain may never be clear. There are, however, numerous possibilities. A bat hunter or a wildlife trafficker might have brought the virus to the market. Pangolins happen to carry a coronavirus, which they might have picked up from bats years ago, and which is, in one crucial part of its genome, virtually identical to SARS-CoV-2. But no one has yet found evidence that pangolins were at the Wuhan market, or even that vendors there trafficked pangolins.

There is some more evidence for this also, but one must consider the source (a pro-PRC publication, the South China Morning Post) who stated: “…according to the government data seen by the Post, a 55 year-old from Hubei province could have been the first person to have contracted Covid-19 on November 17.”  So, did the 55-year-old unidentified person eat a bat, travel to a subtropical area of China, or what?  Are they in any way connected to the lab, or come into contact with someone from the lab?

Chinese laboratories are at the forefront, in many respects, when it comes to infectious disease research.  It makes sense since many of these diseases originate in China.  But, it is also well-known that Chinese laboratories are less than perfect in their biosafety procedures.  In 2004, a man-made epidemic caused by a release of the SARS virus from a lab in Beijing was thankfully contained before it spread further.  In fact, the laboratory at the center of this virus was built in response to that 2004 incident.   In 2017, according to Nature, many biologists and safety experts outside China were worried about pathogens escaping the Wuhan lab and were sounding the alarm.

Finally, China’s own leader, Xi Junping, spoke not only of a need to contain Covid-19, but also a national system to control biosecurity risks.  Although it may have been a precautionary comment and not an admission that Covid-19 escaped from a lab in China, the very next day the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology issued a new directive: “Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.”

There is only one such “microbiology lab” that fits that description in China and it just so happens to be in Wuhan.  Hence, a lot of the evidence suggests that Chinese researchers have a problem keeping infectious pathogens in test tubes and Petri dishes.  They have a proven track record of their failures in the past with SARS.

While no one is suggesting that this was an intentional leak, or that the Chinese are developing advanced bioweapons, there is mounting evidence that the likely source of Covid-19 now wreaking havoc around the world can be traced back to that lab in Wuhan.  Giving the Chinese a large benefit of a doubt (even though they are notorious liars), perhaps they were researching these viruses for noble reasons- developing vaccines and cures should the need ever arise.  Conversely, giving the alleged conspiracy theorists (like Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Tucker Carlson, and Steve Bannon, to name a few) the benefit of less doubt, the evidence clearly points to the laboratory in Wuhan and a leak from there, most likely accidental and unknowing.

Naturally, the Chinese will never admit it, the WHO will accept their explanations, and the domestic media will declare the case closed.