The debate about the origin of SARS-CoV-2 continues, as does the debate over whether the pandemic could have been quashed had Chinese authorities acted and shared information about the outbreak sooner.
According to a Hong Kong whistleblower scientist who has fled to the U.S., the Chinese government and World Health Organization representatives in Hong Kong covered up the Wuhan outbreak, allowing it to spread unchecked around the world.
In the featured Fox News interview, the whistleblower, Dr. Li-Meng Yan — who worked at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health, a top coronavirus research lab — claims her early investigation into the SARS-like outbreak in Wuhan could have helped prevent a global pandemic from developing, had her supervisors shared her findings.
Yan claims her supervisor, WHO consultant Leo Poon, asked her to, secretly, investigate reports of a SARS-like illness spreading in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019. The Chinese government had refused overseas experts from getting involved, and Poon wanted her to figure out what was really going on.
Human-to-Human Spread Was Recognized From the Start
Yan, who has many professional colleagues in China, turned to a friend who works in the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and had first-hand information about the outbreak. Yan was told there was likely human-to-human transmission occurring, as they had found family clusters of cases.
The WHO, meanwhile, did not confirm the human-to-human spread potential for several weeks. On the contrary, an official WHO statement said the virus “does not transmit readily between people.” In a Tweet, WHO also stated that preliminary investigations by Chinese authorities “found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
January 16, 2020, Yan was again asked to reach out to her contacts in China to see if she could learn more. Her CDC contacts were fearful, but it became clear that patients and front-line doctors were not being properly protected, and that Chinese authorities were trying to keep a lid on the flow of information.
When she updated Poon, he told her to stay silent and not cross the Chinese government, or else they’d both be “disappeared.” Yan felt it was crucial to inform the public, but Poon took no action. The co-director of the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health laboratory, professor Malik Peiris, also stayed quiet.
Yan believes WHO colluded with the China Communist Party (CCP) government to prevent information about the virus from coming out. The WHO quite predictably denies her claims.
Yan describes how, since her escape, the CCP has been trying to smear her name and ruin her professional reputation, saying she’s been kidnapped by Americans, and even that she has a mental disorder. Her professional webpages and affiliations have been deleted and removed.
Yan Doesn’t Provide Any Shocking Revelations
On the whole, though, Yan doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know. It’s been clear that China delayed telling the public about the Wuhan outbreak. She doesn’t indicate having any information about the virus’ origin, and she certainly does not provide any useful recommendations for how to protect ourselves.
In fact, she parrots the recommendations of most governments — staying 6 feet apart, using alcohol-based disinfectants and wearing surgical masks. Aside from disinfectants, which may be useful for killing viruses on hands and surfaces, social distancing and mask wearing have no basis in actual science.
You can learn more about these two interventions in “Why Social Distancing Should Not Be the New Normal” and “Conclusive Proof — Masks Do Not Inhibit Viral Spread.”
Of course, the Chinese have been known to wear face masks in public for some time, but they’ve primarily been worn to protect the wearer against air pollution1,2 — not infectious disease. Just because masks prevent inhalation of dangerous air pollution does not mean they work against viruses.
Based on current data, Yan also seems to exaggerate the dangers of the virus, seeing how the COVID-19 mortality rate is now down to a fraction of a percent and a vast majority — about 90% — of those infected remain completely asymptomatic.
All of that said, she’s certainly correct when saying that the CCP’s attempts to keep details of the Wuhan outbreak from the public allowed the virus to spread, not only through China but also across the world.
SARS-CoV-2 Did Not Evolve Naturally, Scientists Say
With regard to the origin of SARS-CoV-2, scientists keep finding more clues indicating it’s not a naturally-evolved virus. Among them are two recent papers by Norwegian and British researchers Sørensen, Susrud and Dalgleish.
In the first paper,3 “A Candidate Vaccine for Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Developed from Analysis of its General Method of Action for Infectivity,” published in the journal Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, they claim to have identified inserted sections in the spike surface that allows it to bind to and enter human cells.
According to the authors, “The SARS-CoV-2 spike is significantly different from any other SARS that we have studied.”
The second paper,4 “The Evidence Which Suggests That This Is No Naturally Evolved Virus: A Reconstructed Historical Aetiology of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike,” published by the Norwegian periodical Minerva,5,6 July 13, 2020, presents several arguments for why SARS-CoV-2 is likely to have been manipulated in the lab.
As in the first paper, the researchers stress anomalies in the spike protein of the virus. The abstract reads, in part:7
“… SARS-CoV-2 is possessed of dual action capability … The likelihood of this being the result of natural processes is very small. The spike has six inserts which are unique fingerprints with five salient features indicative of purposive manipulation.
We then add to the bio-chemistry a diachronic dimension by analysing a sequence of four linked published research projects which, we suggest, show by deduction how, where, when and by whom the SARS-CoV-2 Spike acquired its special characteristics. This reconstructed historical aetiology meets the criteria of means, timing, agent and place to produce sufficient confidence to reverse the burden of proof.
Henceforth, those who would maintain that the COVID-19 pandemic arose from zoonotic transfer need to explain precisely why this more parsimonious account is wrong before asserting that their evidence is persuasive, most especially when, as we also show, there are puzzling errors in their use of evidence.”
US-China Collaborated on Coronavirus Research
Sørensen also highlights open source studies describing the creation of new chimeraviruses that have SARS-coronavirus as a base. For example, researchers have exchanged properties between bat coronaviruses and human SARS viruses. So, there can be no doubt that the technology and know-how exists. Minerva reporter Aksel Fridstrom writes:8
“Furthermore, Sørensen’s article points to the fact that Wuhan’s Virology Institute again in 2010 took part in gain-of-function experiments with international collaborators, where SARS-coronavirus was provided with additional properties that increase the virus’s ability to infect humans.”
In that research, an HIV pseudovirus was used to express seven bat ACE2 receptors. The binding properties of these bat ACE2 receptors were compared to human ACE2 receptors in order to determine which one would have the greatest ability to bind to and infect human cells.
The international collaborators in this case included researchers at the University of North Carolina. Five years later, in 2015, the University of North Carolina again collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, performing gain-of-function research in which bat viruses were manipulated to create a chimeric virus capable of binding to human upper airway cells. That particular virus was called SHC014-MA15.
“Sørensen and his co-authors write that this work created ‘a chimeric virus with very high infectivity potential targeted to the human upper respiratory tract’ and that what is being described is ‘in fact, precisely SARS-CoV-2 properties,'” Fridstrom writes.9
Virus Origin Papers Are Being Shunned by Scientific Journals
One of the reasons Sørensen, Susrud and Dalgleish chose to publish their science paper in a magazine rather than a scientific journal is because of the difficulty getting papers about the virus’ origin published. There’s tremendous stigma attached to this topic.
The journal Nature was recently caught blocking accounts of people questioning the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 on Twitter, and several papers discussing the lab origin theory or proposing genetic engineering are languishing on preprint servers, seemingly unable to get accepted for formal publication. Several such papers are mentioned in a July 16, 2020, GM Watch article.10
Sørensen, Susrud and Dalgleish had also already gotten the runaround on their first paper. Both the Journal of Virology and Nature rejected it, stating it was “unsuitable for publication.” It was eventually accepted by Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, a journal chaired by Stanford University and University of Dundee scientists.
Why COVID-19 Vaccines Are Likely to Fail
Importantly, in “A Candidate Vaccine for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Developed from Analysis of its General Method of Action for Infectivity,”11 Sorensen et.al. warn that current efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine are likely to fail since the etiology of the virus has been misunderstood:12
“These data reveal the biological structure of SARS-CoV-2 Spike and confirm that accumulated charge from inserts and salt bridges are in surface positions capable of binding with cell membrane components other than the ACE2 receptor.
We have also looked at the naked coronavirus spike protein as a concept for the basis of a vaccine, which we have rejected because of high risk of contamination with human-like epitopes.
Analysis of the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 shows 78.4% similarity with human-like (HL) epitopes. For the avoidance of confusion, a standard protein blast searches for functionalities and homologies to other proteins.
However, antibodies can only recognize 5-6 amino acids and therefore a 6 amino acid rolling window search for antibody epitopes was performed.
A search so tailored to match against all human known proteins will give a 78.4% human similarity to the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein, i.e if all epitopes on the 1255 amino acid long SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein can be used by antibodies then there will be 983 antibody binding sites which also could bind to epitopes on human proteins.
This is what we did and found … [I]n the present context, any vaccine design based on the whole Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 may not be immunogenic due its high human similarity compared to a vaccine with specifically selected NHL epitopes, such as Biovacc-19 does — and is.
COVID-19 candidate vaccines designed without appreciating these problems may run similar risks to those experienced with HIV vaccines that failed to show protection.
The possibility of inducing autoimmune responses or antibody-dependent enhancements, needs to be carefully guarded against because there is published evidence that an HIV candidate vaccine has actually enhanced infectivity:
‘Vaccinations were halted; participants were unblinded. In post hoc analyses, more HIV infections occurred in vaccinees vs placebo recipients in men who had Ad5-neutralizing antibodies and/or were uncircumcised. Follow-up was extended to assess relative risk of HIV acquisition in vaccinees vs placebo recipients over time.’
Such antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) has been observed for coronaviruses in animal models, allowing them to enter cells expressing Fc𝛾R. ADE is not fully understood: however, it is suggested that antibody-dependent enhancements may come as a result of amino acid variability and antigenic drift.”
They also point out that choosing an adjuvant after the primary vaccine design work has been completed, which is how vaccine development is typically done, may be yet another serious mistake that could make a COVID-19 vaccine really dangerous.
Many Different Lab Origin Hypotheses Have Been Presented
Another scientist who questions the natural evolution theory is Jonathan Latham, Ph.D., a molecular biologist and virologist. In a June 2, 2020, Independent Science News article,13 Latham and Allison Wilson, Ph.D., a geneticist, dissect the zoonotic origin theory, showing the research simply does not support this claim.
While they do not dispute the idea that SARS-CoV-2 started out as a bat coronavirus at some point, they dispute the mechanism by which it supposedly gained the ability to infect humans. In his article, Latham lays out several different lab origin hypotheses, which are also reviewed in my interview with him, featured in “Cover-Up of SARS-CoV-2 Origin?”
Is SARS-CoV-2 Really a Novel Virus?
Latham and Wilson continue their search for the truth in a July 15, 2020, Independent Science News article.14
“… enormous scientific attention has been paid to the molecular character of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including its novel genome sequence in comparison with its near relatives,” Latham writes.
“In stark contrast, virtually no attention has been paid to the physical provenance of those nearest genetic relatives, its presumptive ancestors, which are two viral sequences named BtCoV/4991 and RaTG13.”
According to Latham, SARS-CoV-2 may not be an entirely novel virus after all. A highly conserved close ancestor, BtCoV/4991, has been listed in the database for seven years and has been featured in the published literature. When the Wuhan lab later resequenced this sample, they simply renamed it, thereby obscuring its history.
As Latham explains in his article15 — which I encourage you to read in its entirety — BtCoV/4991 was found in samples collected in a mineshaft in Yunnan province, China in 2012-2013.
The samples were collected after six miners contracted a strange respiratory illness that sound remarkably similar if not identical to COVID-19. Three of them died. While the disease had only been described in a Chinese thesis written by the doctor who treated the miners, Latham had the thesis translated into English.
“The evidence it contains has led us to reconsider everything we thought we knew about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Latham writes.16 “It has also led us to theorize a plausible route by which an apparently isolated disease outbreak in a mine in 2012 led to a global pandemic in 2019.
The origin of SARS-CoV-2 that we propose below is based on the case histories of these miners and their hospital treatment. This simple theory accounts for all the key features of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus …”
Key features Latham and Wilson believe can be explained by their theory include:
- The origin of the novel furin cleavage site on the virus’ spike protein that enhances its spread in the human body
- The “exceptional affinity of the virus spike protein for human receptors”
- The virus’ lack of evolution since the pandemic began
- The reason SARS-CoV-2 targets the lungs
While they do not claim SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered, they believe gain-of-function research performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology played “an essential causative role in the pandemic.”
The Mojiang Miners Passage Hypothesis
Latham and Wilson go on to explain their hypothesis, which they’ve dubbed the Mojiang miners passage (MMP) hypothesis. Again, I recommend reading the original article, but for your edification, I’ve chosen to quote a larger than usual section to summarize it for you:
“We suggest, first, that inside the miners RaTG13 (or a very similar virus) evolved into SARS-CoV-2, an unusually pathogenic coronavirus highly adapted to humans. Second, that the Shi lab used medical samples taken from the miners and sent to them by Kunming University Hospital for their research. It was this human-adapted virus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, that escaped from the WIV in 2019 …
Passaging is a standard virological technique for adapting viruses to new species, tissues, or cell types. It is normally done by deliberately infecting a new host species or a new host cell type with a high dose of virus. This initial viral infection would ordinarily die out because the host’s immune system vanquishes the ill-adapted virus.
But, in passaging, before it does die out a sample is extracted and transferred to a new identical tissue, where viral infection restarts. Done iteratively, this technique … intensively selects for viruses adapted to the new host or cell type …
We agree that ordinary rates of evolution would not allow RaTG13 to evolve into SARS-CoV-2 but we also believe that conditions inside the lungs of the miners were far from ordinary. Five major factors specific to the hospitalized miners favored a very high rate of evolution inside them.
The lungs of the miners, we suggest, supported a very high viral load leading to proportionately rapid viral evolution. Furthermore, according to the Master’s thesis, the immune systems of the miners were compromised and remained so even for those discharged. This weakness on the part of the miners may also have encouraged evolution of the virus …
In support of the MMP theory we also know something about the samples taken from the miners. According to the Master’s thesis, samples were taken from patients for ‘scientific research’ and blood samples (at least) were sent to the WIV …
The logical course of such research would be to sequence viral RNA extracted directly from unfrozen tissue or blood samples and/or to generate live infectious clones for which it would be useful (if not imperative) to amplify the virus by placing it in human cell culture. Either technique could have led to accidental infection of a lab researcher …
We propose that, when frozen samples derived from the miners were eventually opened in the Wuhan lab they were already highly adapted to humans to an extent possibly not anticipated by the researchers. One small mistake or mechanical breakdown could have led directly to the first human infection in late 2019.
Thus, one of the miners, most likely patient 3, or patient 4 (whose thymus was removed), was effectively patient zero of the COVID-19 epidemic. In this scenario, COVID-19 is not an engineered virus; but, equally, if it had not been taken to Wuhan and no further molecular research had been performed or planned for it then the virus would have died out from natural causes, rather than escaped to initiate the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As discussed in “Bioweapon Labs Must Be Shut Down and Scientists Prosecuted,” the COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the world to reconsider the wisdom of gain-of-function research. Lab escapes are guaranteed to occur, sooner or later. We got lucky this time, in the sense that SARS-CoV-2 is far less deadly than initially feared. But the government response to the pandemic has been devastating.
Global shut-downs have taken a massive toll on mental and financial health, not to mention the global economy as a whole. Could we survive as a species if something with a really high lethality were to get out? These are crucial questions that deserve public discussion and close scrutiny by lawmakers.