Political environmentalism frequently warns about the dangers of meddling with nature, warning against the encroachment of human settlements on wilderness areas, mining, fishing or drilling for oil. However it neglects the impact on nature by scientists and environmentalists themselves. Is biosafety is misnomer?
Nicholson Baker’s article in a recent issue of New York Magazine soberly examines the pros and cons of the proposition: What is the real origin? The answer of experts? We don’t know for sure beyond the principle of parsimony.
For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if … there were laboratory accidents. By 1960, hundreds of American scientists and technicians had been hospitalized, victims of the diseases they were trying to weaponize.
In the U.S., “more than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012,” reported USA Today…
And then consider the cautious words of Alina Chan, a scientist who works at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “There is a reasonable chance that what we are dealing with is the result of a lab accident,” Chan told me in July of last year…
Not only that, but they’d figured out how to perform their assembly seamlessly, without any signs of human handiwork. Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature. Baric called this the “no-see’m method…”by Nicholoson Baker
What is Baric’s no-see’m method?
“A few years later, in a further round of “interspecies transfer” experimentation, Baric’s scientists introduced their mouse coronavirus into flasks that held a suspension of African-green-monkey cells, human cells, and pig-testicle cells. Then, in 2002, they announced something even more impressive: They’d found a way to create a full-length infectious clone of the entire mouse-hepatitis genome. Their “infectious construct” replicated itself just like the real thing, they wrote.
Not only that, but they’d figured out how to perform their assembly seamlessly, without any signs of human handiwork. Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature. Baric called this the “no-see’m method,” and he asserted that it had “broad and largely unappreciated molecular biology applications.” The method was named, he wrote, after a “very small biting insect that is occasionally found on North Carolina beaches.”
In 2006, Baric, Yount, and two other scientists were granted a patent for their invisible method of fabricating a full-length infectious clone using the seamless, no-see’m method. But this time, it wasn’t a clone of the mouse-hepatitis virus — it was a clone of the entire deadly human SARS virus, the one that had emerged from Chinese bats, via civets, in 2002. The Baric Lab came to be known by some scientists as “the Wild Wild West.” In 2007, Baric said that we had entered “the golden age of coronavirus genetics.”
“I would be afraid to look in their freezers,” one virologist told Baker.
Baric and Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the two top experts on the genetic interplay between bat and human coronaviruses, began collaborating in 2015.”
Full article published in the New York Mag Intelligencer. An excellent read.
It’s at least a reasonable, “parsimonious” explanation of what might have happened.
The thing that may been the cause of the trouble is put into the position of solving it. The justification for the continuation of no ordinary science Gain-of-Function research is greater than ever.
In April, four months into the coronavirus emergency, a deputy director at the NIH wrote an email to EcoHealth Alliance. “You are instructed to cease providing any funds to Wuhan Institute of Virology,” it said. In response, Daszak and the chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs (a company that sells seamless gene-splicing products to laboratories, among other things) got 77 Nobel Prize winners to sign a statement saying that the cancellation deprived the “nation and the world of highly regarded science that could help control one of the greatest health crises in modern history and those that may arise in the future.” Later, as a condition of further funding, the NIH wrote to say it wanted Daszak to arrange an outside inspection of the Wuhan lab and to procure from Wuhan’s scientists a sample of whatever they’d used to sequence the SARS-2 virus. Daszak was outraged (“I am not trained as a private detective”), and again he fought back. He was reluctant to give up his own secrets, too. “Conspiracy-theory outlets and politically motivated organizations have made Freedom of Information Act requests on our grants and all of our letters and emails to the NIH,” he told Nature. “We don’t think it’s fair that we should have to reveal everything we do.”
But Daszak has survived — even prospered. Recently, The Lancet made him the lead investigator in its inquiry into the origins of the pandemic, and the World Health Organization named him to its ten-person origins investigation. (“We’re still close enough to the origin to really find out more details about where it has come from,” Daszak told Nature.)
The NIH has also set up an ambitious new international program, called CREID, which stands for Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases, and it has put Daszak’s EcoHealth in charge of trapping animals and looking for obscure bat viruses in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Baric is one of Daszak’s partners in CREID. The virus hunting and collecting, which Richard Ebright likens to “looking for a gas leak with a lighted match,” will continue and widen with U.S. funding. “We’re going to work in remote parts of Malaysia and Thailand to get to the front line of where the next pandemic is going to start,” Daszak told NPR.
Controversially, Daszak has been included among a team of experts from the WHO that has finally been allowed by Beijing to investigate the origin of the outbreak of COVID-19, over a year after it started. Scientists such as Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, are condemning Daszak’s participation due to conflicts of interest “that unequivocally disqualify him from being part of an investigation of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Open Letter to the WHO COVID-19 International Investigation Team
Prof. Dr. Thea Fisher, MD, DMSc(PhD) (Nordsjællands Hospital, Denmark)
Prof. John Watson (Public Health England, United Kingdom)
Prof. Dr. Marion Koopmans, DVM PhD (Erasmus MC, Netherlands)
Prof. Dr. Dominic Dwyer, MD (Westmead Hospital, Australia)
Vladimir Dedkov, Ph.D (Institut Pasteur, Russia)
Dr. Hung Nguyen, PhD (International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Vietnam)
PD. Dr. med vet. Fabian Lendertz (Robert Koch-Institute, Germany)
Dr. Peter Daszak, Ph.D (EcoHealth Alliance, USA)
Dr. Farag El Moubasher, Ph.D (Ministry of Public Health, Qatar)
Prof. Dr. Ken Maeda, PhD, DVM (National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan)
Copy to: Peter K. Ben Embarek Scientist – Programme Manager at World Health Organization.
Dear Fellow Scientists,
The COVID-19 pandemic has been ravaging the world for over a year now and it is showing no sign of easing in many countries, with infection cases and death tolls continuing to climb. Millions of our brothers and sisters have lost their loved ones, their jobs, businesses, livelihoods and education opportunities. The economies of many nations have been severely compromised, resulting in great tribulation for many sectors, with many closed or bankrupt businesses and millions of unemployed.
Sadly today, we are all still as much in the dark as to the origins of COVID-19 as we were 10 months ago, despite numerous scientific studies and research conducted around the world since then.
We are glad that the WHO is able to form an investigation team of 10 international experts sitting in the East to undertake the task of unravelling these mysteries and take us from darkness to light.
We, the concerned people around the world, on behalf of all those who have died, widowers, widows, distressed sons, daughters and orphans, therefore call on you to conduct the investigation with transparency, impartiality and bravery without bowing to any pressure or national interest.
Such an investigation, to be both credible and successful must take into consideration all scenarios in a scientific way without giving preference to any default hypothesis, however disturbing this may be.
In support of this investigation, a dedicated group of researchers in various parts of the world have spent months unearthing documents, web pages, papers, and reports to compile a list of relevant and as yet unanswered questions about the origins of COVID-19..
We therefore call on the WHO investigation team to answer the following questions which we feel are of paramount importance to a successful investigation into the origins of SARS-COV-2.
We wish you success and thank you sincerely for your endeavours in search of the truth!
From Concerned People of the World
“Every human being is entitled to know the truth of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic”
Questions for the WHO January 2021 mission
A. Questions about the positive samples from the market
1. What animals in the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market were tested, what types of specimens were obtained (apart from frozen animal carcasses), and what were all the results?
2. Were samples gathered from the Huanan market prior to it being sanitized? If so, have these samples been shared with the WHO and what do they reveal?
3. Recently, a floor plan map of the Huanan Seafood Market was “leaked” to the public. Why did it take 10 months for this map to be published and then only via a “leak”?
4. What does this “One Health” blueprint map of the market reveal in terms of
a. the 33 positive & 552 negative “environmental samples”
b. the 27 + persons epidemiologically linked to the Market
c. all the negative & any positive specimens from specific animals
d. the role of sewage and drainage in the Market outbreak.
5. Why were a further 70 environmental samples obtained on Jan 12 from the market, after the 515 samples obtained on Jan 1st, and what did these later samples reveal?
6. How many of the samples collected on Jan 12th tested positive for SARS-CoV-2?
7. What are the results of testing in other markets in Wuhan such as the North Hankou Seafood Market, and those outside Wuhan in Hubei province, and outside Hubei province?
8. What animal species were tested? For example, those species now known to be susceptible to the virus, such as: ferrets, cats, mink, tigers, dogs and others?
9. What animals were sold on the 22 stalls in the Western Section of the Wuhan Seafood Market where 14 of the 31 positive samples came from?
10. What were the sources and types of wildlife species sold at this Market and why has China still not disclosed this information nearly one year after the events?
11. What information on the investigation of the purported animal source of the virus at the Wuhan Seafood Market was provided in the WHO mission report?
12. Why have antibody tests (IgM & IgG) used to identify infected humans & animals in Wuhan between Sep-Dec 2019 not been made public?
13. What was the destination of the animals after the market was closed?
14. Why has China not published results of their investigation into the 4 key data streams identified by Dr. Alyward in Annex D of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 Report (28-02- 2020)?
- Vendor records of animal sales
- Samples kept from swabbing including gutters where urine & faeces collect.
- Freezers full of animal parts.
- Tracking of earliest patients
B. Questions about the alleged November 17th Patient
15. In light of the confirmed report of the November 17th Covid-19 patient published in the SCMP, why is that patient not officially acknowledged?
16. What has been ascertained from the CCDC regarding contact tracing of that patient?
C. Questions about February 20th data collection of suspected early Covid-19 cases in Wuhan
Reference material: https://bit.ly/2LAaibP
17. Was the WHO actually shown this data?
18. Was the WHO team directed to hospitals with early cases during their one-day visit to Wuhan in February?
19. Given that the very rushed request for medical and admission data still returned some candidates for early Covid-19 cases (going back to the very beginning of October or earlier), did China take the time to do a more thorough and coherent data collection exercise? If not, why not ? If yes, where are the results?
20. Were these early cases followed up to refine their diagnostics, especially in the cases of deaths (for instance by testing any available sample for antibodies), and were early patients’ work unit, location, and residence all recorded? If not, why not? If yes, where are the results?
21. Was that data collection exercise eventually extended to suspected cases prior to the 1st October 2019?
22. How should we interpret the cluster of imaging cases with similarities to Covid-19 pathology at Wuhan Puren Riverside Hospital with admission dates of 1st and 2nd October 2019, in that same collected data?
23. Will the WHO team have access to patient details and files and be able to interview selected cases?
D. Questions about the official national database of Covid-19 managed by Pr. Yu Chanhua
24. Did the official national database of actual and suspected cases managed by Pr. Yu Chanhua (宇传华) and his team contain any suspected October or November cases prior to the Wuhan data collection exercise in February?
25. Were the results of the above data collection added to that national database managed by Pr. Yu Chuanhua, even if starting first as suspected cases (especially for Form 2 and Form 3 cases) before further checks?
26. Were the suspected pre-December cases – such as the 29th Sep CT-imaging case and some November cases he mentioned as being present in the national database – confirmed?
27. Were these conclusions of that verification work eventually shared with the WHO?
E. Questions about the NUDT ‘‘War Epidemic Resumption Big Data” platform and related data
28. Were the ‘‘War Epidemic Resumption Big Data” platform (战疫复工大数据) developed at the NUDT (National University of Defense Science and Technology) and its corresponding epidemic data shown to the WHO mission?
29. Was Pr. Yu Chuanhua’s data work fed into the “War Epidemic Resumption Big Data platform”?
30. Why was a version of the “War Epidemic Resumption Big Data platform” with limited data resolution available only for a while at the web portal of the NUDTy (https://nudtdata.com.cn), before being taken offline?
F. Questions about the proceedings of the WHO February 2020 mission
31. Did the WHO consider the implications on public trust of the inclusion of Pr. Dong Xioaping (董小平) in a prominent role on the Chinese side of the February 2020 WHO mission, given that he had been sanctioned for his role in the multiple SARS leaks at the Beijing CDC P3 lab in 2004??
32. Why was the WHO visit of Wuhan delayed until after the rushed completion of the Data Collection (point C above)?
G. Questions about deleted Wuhan Institute of Virology Viral pathogen databases
33. Why are all the Wuhan Institute of Virology databases (including the 61.5 Mb SQL version) still offline? Pr. Zhengli Shi claimed they were offline for cybersecurity issues and would be made available “when they felt safe”. This was 5 months ago. There are at least 100 unpublished sequences of bat betacoronaviruses on these databases which need to be analysed by international scientists.
a. WIV Database 1: http://batvirus.whiov.ac.cn/ (Archive seems to be unavailable)
b. WIV SQL online Database 2: http://csdata.org/p/308/
c. WIV Database 3: http://www.viruses.nsdc.cn/vri.jsp
- Archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20200125203943/http://www.viruses.nsdc.cn/vri.jsp
- Discussion of significance here:
Guoke Faji 2019/236 and the SARS-CoV-2 Outbreak http://archive.is/uHqSw#selection-29.0-29.47
d. WIV Database 4: http://www.viruses.nsdc.cn/chinavpi
Referenced in a paper by Zhiming Yuan of the Key Laboratory of Special Pathogens and Biosafety, Wuhan Institute of Virology, (+86-27-87197242, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Investigation of Viral Pathogen Profiles in Some Natural Hosts and Vectors in China”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6178075/
e. WIV Database 5: http://www.wfcc.info/ccinfo/collection/col_by_country/c/86/
- Archived:https://web.archive.org/web/20200515223251/http://www.wfcc.info/ccinfo/collection/col_by_country/c/86/ which in turn links to: http://wfcc.info/ccinfo/collection/by_id/613
- Archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20200108181714/http://wfcc.info/ccinfo/collection/by_id/613 links to:http://www.virus.org.cn/ (404 for the database in question)
- Archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20191230091754/http://www.virus.org.cn/
- And an archived description of the WIV database: https://web.archive.org/web/20200117011358/http://www.whiov.ac.cn/xwdt_105286/zhxw/201804/t20180423_5000795.html
In order to clarify the deletion of these databases, please note that these are under the management of:
Prof. Fei Deng and Prof. Zhihong Hu:
address: Xiaohongshan NO. 44,Wuhan,Hubei,430071
tel: (86) 27-87168465 Fax: (86) 27-87168465
e-mails: Prof. Fei Deng: email@example.com and Prof. Zhihong Hu firstname.lastname@example.org
34. Why were the description and many keywords in the online SQL version of the WIV database altered by Professor Zhengli Shi on Dec 30th while she was returning from Shanghai to Wuhan on the night train?
- Version 1 of the SQL database description: ”Wildlife-borne Viral Pathogen Database”
(Release time: July 17th, 2019) Originally available here: http://csdata.org/p/308/2/
Can be seen here: https://web.archive.org/web/20200507214437/http://csdata.org/p/308/2/
- Version 2 of the same SQL database: “Bat and rodent-borne viral pathogen database”
(Updated on December 30th 2019 from Shanghai to Wuhan night train by Pr. Shi)
Originally available here: http://csdata.org/p/308/4/
H. Question about Chinese BatCoV vaccine development programs
35. Can China provide details about any specific strategy followed to prepare for Disease X (a combination of pre-emergent BatCoV features which would represent the most threatening evolutionary front)?
I. Questions about RaTG13 and the 8 SARSr of the Ra7896 Clade
37. Some RaTG13 amplicons include a “7896” label. So, was Ra7896 in fact used for sequencing RaTG13?
38. Why did WIV not fully sequence the 8 SARSr of the 7896-clade further than their RdRp when they were the second closest viruses to SARS-CoV-2?
39. Were these 8 remaining SARSr from the 7896 clade collected from the same Tongguan mine as RaTG13?
40. Will Ecohealth publish the initial draft of Latinne et al. (2020)
41. There is a correlative series of isolates from WIV but two are missing from the series. Specifically, why were the WIV6 and WIV15 isolates never disclosed? See numbered series.
J. Mojiang Miners Pneumonia Cases
42. Can WIV clarify the full details of the 2012 pneumonia outbreak among the Mojiang miners, especially regarding the subsequent samplings and all blood and BALF results?
43. Can WIV clarify what happened to the samples collected from the Mojiang miners between 2012 and 2019 and whether they are still available for independent analysis?
44. Did WIV culture any virus from the Tongguan mineshaft pneumonia cases in animals or cell lines? If so, were the sequences used as “backbones” for creating other viruses?
K. Laboratory Questions
45. Professor Zhengli Shi recently stated that she would welcome any kind of visit to her Laboratory in order to clarify the origins of SARS-COV-2 (BBC 2020). In light of this declaration, will the WHO investigation team therefore inspect or organise inspections of the following laboratories in Wuhan:
a. WCDC Pathogen BSL-2 at 288 Machang Road
b. Wuhan University Institute of Model Animal ABSL-3 at 115 Donghu Road
c. Huazhong Agricultural University ABSL-3
d. Hubei CDC BSL-3 and Hubei Animal CDC ABSL-3 (in Wuhan)
e. Wuhan Institute of Virology BSL-2 and BSL-3 in Xiaohongshan park
f. Wuhan Institute of Virology BSL-2, BSL-3, ABSL-3, BSL-4 at Zhengdian park
g. Wuhan Institute of Biological Products (vaccine development & production platform) Zhengdian park and its former location (see map)
46. Will the WHO have access to the laboratory records which are supposed to be exhaustive and kept for 20 years at least? Specifically:
- Lab notebooks
- Safety procedures, safety audit reports and safety incident reports,
- Project proposals, status updates and project reports,
- Environmental audit reports and environmental incident reports
- Facility improvement projects and monthly reports
- Purchasing records by department for supplies and new equipment
- Facility and equipment maintenance logs and records
L. Miscellaneous Questions
47. Are any of the 10 members of the WHO investigation team fluent in Mandarin?
48. Has the CCDC shared primary isolates of SARS-CoV-2 with the WHO and the international community? If not, why not?
49. Why was the WIV unable to transfer samples to the University of Texas Medical Laboratory in Galveston in line with their request? (House Foreign Affairs Committee Report on the Origins of the COVID-19)
50. In light of the “leak” of hospital data which revealed an investigation by the Chinese health authorities into early cases of covid-19 in Wuhan & Hubel province, will the WHO team query the patient details & files to further clarify the putative cases of covid-19 in October at Wuhan Hospitals.
Extra Question (Recent Update). One of WIV’s researchers, Ben Hu, ran a state funded project at WIV: “Pathogenicity of 2 new bat SARS-related covs to transgenic mice expressing human ACE2” Which 2 new bat SARS related CoVs were used?
INQUIRIES AND ANSWERS
Queries, requests for supporting archived links and answers to any of the above questions should be forwarded to:
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