Origin of Covid: The Lab Leak Theory

 

The Lab Leak Theory

On February 19, 2020, The Lancet, among the most respected and influential medical journals in the world, published a statement that roundly rejected the lab-leak hypothesis, effectively casting it as a xenophobic cousin to climate change denialism and anti-vaxxism. Signed by 27 scientists, the statement expressed “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China” …

Katherine Eban, writing in Vanity Fair, assembles a persuasive case that the notion that covid-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology should be taken very seriously.  One reason that it hasn’t been was that statement in The Lancet.  A second reason was the fact that the Lab origin theory was being promoted mostly by right-wing allies of Donald Trump.  Eban notes:

Thanks to their unprecedented track record of mendacity and race-baiting, Trump and his allies had less than zero credibility. And the practice of funding risky research via cutouts like EcoHealth Alliance enmeshed leading virologists in conflicts of interest at the exact moment their expertise was most desperately needed.

The statement in The Lancet was accompanied by the usual assertion that the authors had no conflicting interest.  This was not true, and in fact, the organizer of the statement was head of the EcoHealth Alliance, a major funder of the lab in Wuhan.  The fact that The Lancet statement failed to adduce significant evidence in favor of its claim aroused suspicion in motley bunch of critics.  They, and others, assembled the case, which, I think, includes the following.

1.      The principal alternative, that the virus originated in a Wuhan “wet market” fails because the most likely animal reservoirs of similar viruses were not native to the area and not sold in that marketplace.

2.      The Wuhan lab in question is one of only three in the world carrying out so-called “gain of function” research, in which viruses are deliberately modified to change their infectivity.  Research there included genetic modification of mice to have human like lungs to test the ability of airborne viruses to infect them.

3.      After a bat virus killed several Chinese miners who were removing bat guano from a cave, Wuhan investigators obtained virus samples from the cave and bats, but China failed to report this information to the World Health Organization (WHO) as was their responsibility and obscured the record of the incident.

4.      The prestigious head of the lab has lied about the military research going on at the lab.

5.      Three researchers at the lab fell ill with Covid like symptoms many months before the infection spread to the public.

6.      China has hidden this fact and systematically obstructed investigations of the lab and virus origins.

7.      WHO investigation of virus origins were superficial and China controlled who was permitted to investigate.  The US lacked standing to investigate because our feckless President had pulled us out of WHO.

I found the article fascinating and compelling.  The fact that both the US and the Chinese military were funding the research of the lab is bizaare.

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