The lab leak finally gets attention

In a post I made first on April 30, 2020, then again on May 27th 2021, I suggested we should focus on the possibility of a laboratory leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a source of he COVID-19 pandemic. There finally appears to be bipartisan interest in this, supported by intelligence assessments that suggest it is the most probably pandemic source.

Today (May 2020)I want to highlight two articles from different news sources. The first is from the Associated Press and outlines findings from the US intelligence community (IC) that have definitively concluded the current coronavirus outbreak was not caused by a purposely engineered virus. However, it says the IC is still examining whether the pandemic may have resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab in Wuhan.

The bothersome part of this article is that the AP states this investigation is being pushed by “President Donald Trump and his allies” who have touted the “as-yet-unproven theory” that an infectious disease lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Chinese outbreak, was the source of the global pandemic.” The impression given is that this investigation is inappropriate and this theory is preposterous.

Scenes from laboratory facilities at the time of the 1979 Sverdlovsk accident.

Most people are probably not aware that accidental releases of bacteria and viruses from laboratories have happened before. There was an anthrax release in Sverdlovsk, Russia that sickened and killed a number of local townspeople. This 1979 accident was never acknowledged by the soviet government. There was also an Ebola virus infection of a laboratory worker in Novosibirsk that resulted in an apartment building quarantine, as well as a recent explosion at the laboratory there. None of these events involved a respiratory virus, like COVID-19, so the spread was limited.

I am not arguing this type of release happened in Wuhan; however, it is certainly not “inappropriate” to consider it and investigate. At times, the manner in which stories are presented makes it difficult to understand the rationale behind the government’s actions. I for one am not bothered by the US investigating whether this virus came from a Chinese research facility, and neither should the Chinese.

A completely different story is presented in the Wall Street Journal, which uses “Coronavirus Mutations Map the Global Outbreak”.  It is one of the most remarkable interactive presentations I’ve seen on a newspaper website. It uses a coronavirus mutations map to trace the spread of the global coronavirus outbreak.

Mutations show where a COVID-19 strain originated and how it spread! The purple dots are China, while red ones are USA. Clearly some viral strains in the USA came directly from China while others came first through Europe (green dots).

The number and location of mutations in COVID-19 can determine where the virus in a particular region originated and how it spread. This shows that the earliest cases in the US came directly from Wuhan, as expected, but that later infestations (particularly on the East Coast) came from Europe and the Middle East.

I strongly recommend that you look at this article if only for the beauty of its graphics and animation, and how they help to understand the global spread.

Regardless, you cannot conclude from any of these articles that the virus was not the result of an accidental release from the Wuhan lab.

Finally, it is important to understand what is “Gain of function research” and how it can create a dangerous virus. I recommend you to another post I made that explains this concept.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

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