Engineered Viruses: Not a New Concern

The pandemic may well be linked to lab experiments in China. A thorough investigation is warranted.

Ten years ago, Anthony Fauci and his boss, Francis Collins, co-authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled A flu virus risk worth taking.

In that article, these senior US health bureaucrats defended the creation of dangerous, lab-engineered viruses. Such research, they said, could generate “important information and insights” that might “slow or stop an outbreak.”

Admitting that “accidental or deliberate misuse of laboratory pathogens” was a serious concern, they told the public this research was being carried out “in isolated biocontainment laboratories” by “scientists in Europe and the United States.”

A mere 16 months later, in 2013, Science published a description of precisely this type of experiment. But rather than taking place in the above-mentioned locales, the research had been conducted in China. An editor at Science explained:

Borrowing a single gene from a human influenza strain can make a dangerous strain of bird flu [more transmissible]…researchers report in a paper published online today in ScienceThe paper is another example of so-called gain-of-function studies, a controversial field in which researchers deliberately manipulate viruses in ways that can make them more dangerous. Flu scientists argue that such studies are needed to better gauge pandemic risks… [bold added]

When contacted by a newspaper, Lord May, a past president of the UK’s Royal Society, called this Chinese research “appallingly irresponsible.” In his view, it made the world more perilous, while contributing nothing to our understanding of pandemics. “The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring,” he said. “They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses.”

Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, similarly expressed alarm, arguing that this kind of research is “of no use for vaccine development.” While the Chinese lab work was technically impressive, he said, “they haven’t been thinking clearly about what they are doing. It’s very worrying.”

Fast forward four years to early 2017. An article, published in Nature, began this way:

A laboratory in Wuhan is on the cusp of being cleared to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens…Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping…

Two years afterward, in 2019, a pair of prominent academics authored their own Washington Post opinion piece titled The U.S. is funding dangerous experiments it doesn’t want you to know about. They explained that “widespread concern that a lab accident could spark a global pandemic” had led to a moratorium on experiments involving “some of the world’s most lethal viruses.” But without any public notice whatsoever, US funding for such research had since quietly resumed.

Warning that “this is not ordinary science,” Marc Lipsitch and Tom Inglesby said they had “serious doubts about whether these experiments should be conducted at all.” Moreover, they said they had a hard time believing many taxpayers could be persuaded that “the best way to fight the flu is to create the most contagious, lethal virus possible in a lab.”

To recap: In 2011 Fauci and Collins acknowledged that lab-engineered viruses are dangerous. In 2013 it was clear these viruses were being created in China. In 2017 Nature reported concern, in the scientific community, that viruses might escape from a Wuhan lab. In 2019, critics reminded us once again that a lab accident could “spark a global pandemic.”

It is neither fantastical nor far-fetched, therefore, to suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 might be connected to a Chinese laboratory. Knowledgeable people have long worried about such a possibility.

An entirely independent, thorough investigation is warranted.

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Once again, we’ve been ill-served by mainstream media outlets that have spent the past year dismissing the lab origin theory as “something out of a comic book.” Michael Tracey provides numerous examples of this, and aptly observes: “the most obnoxious aspect is the journalists’ utterly unfounded projection of total and complete certainty – as if they’re infallible purveyors of sacred knowledge…”

 

 

 

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May 19, 2021 at 06:33AM

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