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Sat May 2, 2020, 02:44 AM

THE CONTROVERSIAL EXPERIMENTS AND WUHAN LAB SUSPECTED OF STARTING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

(Credit to DUer JCMach1 for originally posting about this article.)

https://www.newsweek.com/controversial-wuhan-lab-experiments-that-may-have-started-coronavirus-pandemic-1500503

BY FRED GUTERL , NAVEED JAMALI AND TOM O'CONNOR ON 4/27/20
Newsweek

...

By March, the wild-virus theory was still the most likely explanation of the origin of SARS-CoV-2--but it was starting to look a little ragged around the edges. For one thing, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not far from the animal markets in downtown Wuhan, houses the world's largest collection of coronaviruses from wild bats, including at least one virus that bears a resemblance to SARS-CoV-2. What's more, Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists have for the past five years been engaged in so-called "gain of function" (GOF) research, which is designed to enhance certain properties of viruses for the purpose of anticipating future pandemics. Gain-of-function techniques have been used to turn viruses into human pathogens capable of causing a global pandemic.

This is no nefarious secret program in an underground military bunker. The Wuhan lab received funding, mostly for virus discovery, in part from a ten-year, $200 million international program called PREDICT, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other countries. Similar work, funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has been carried out in dozens of labs throughout the world. Some of this research involves taking deadly viruses and enhancing their ability to spread quickly through a population—research that took place over the objections of hundreds of scientists, who have warned for years of the program's potential to cause a pandemic.

...

The answer that Fouchier came up with was a technique known as "animal passage," in which he mutated the bird-flu virus by passing it through animals rather than cell cultures. He chose ferrets because they were widely known as a good stand-in for humans—if a virus can jump between ferrets, it is likely also to be able to jump between humans. He would infect one ferret with a bird-flu virus, wait until it got sick, and then remove a sample of the virus that had replicated in the ferret's body with a swab. As the virus multiplies in the body, it mutates slightly, so the virus that came out of the ferret was slightly different from the one that went into it. Fouchier then proceeded to play a version of telephone: he would take the virus from the first ferret and infect a second, then take the mutated virus from the second ferret and infect a third, and so on.

...

What followed was a fierce debate among scientists over the risks versus benefits of the gain-of-function research. Fouchier's work, wrote Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch in the journal Nature in 2015, "entails a unique risk that a laboratory accident could spark a pandemic, killing millions."

...

The NIH eventually came down on the side of Fouchier and the other proponents. It considered gain-of-function research worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to prepare anti-viral medications that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred.

...

A virus produced with animal passage methods would be much harder to spot. These viruses are not directly manipulated. When the virus passes from one animal to the next, it undergoes something similar to what would happen in the wild during the course of its evolution.

...

18 replies, 2339 views

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Arrow 18 replies Author Time Post
Reply THE CONTROVERSIAL EXPERIMENTS AND WUHAN LAB SUSPECTED OF STARTING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC (Original post)
AntiFascist May 2020 OP
intrepidity May 2020 #1
Squinch May 2020 #4
LisaL May 2020 #6
AntiFascist May 2020 #8
intrepidity May 2020 #11
AntiFascist May 2020 #14
AntiFascist May 2020 #17
AntiFascist May 2020 #18
Thekaspervote May 2020 #2
LisaL May 2020 #5
milestogo May 2020 #7
LisaL May 2020 #9
intrepidity May 2020 #12
AntiFascist May 2020 #3
LisaL May 2020 #10
AntiFascist May 2020 #13
intrepidity May 2020 #15
AntiFascist May 2020 #16


Response to intrepidity (Reply #1)

Sat May 2, 2020, 08:20 AM

4. But don't miss that source's "We don't fact check!" policy.

"Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don’t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see cdc.gov."


This right wing "coronavirus is lab created" theory has been disproved.

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Response to Squinch (Reply #4)

Sat May 2, 2020, 11:46 AM

6. Nothing has been disproved.

I wouldn't trust China to tell the truth either. Pretty clearly they tried to cover it up from the beginning, by trying to forbid doctors to even make public that SARS like virus was spreading again.
Patient zero has not been identified.
Humans are incredibly destructive species. And research into viruses is incredibly dangerous. One of these days, one of our inventions could kill us all.

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Response to LisaL (Reply #6)

Sat May 2, 2020, 02:54 PM

8. I wouldn't be surprised if the US is participating in a coverup...

or at least attempting to shift blame to the Chinese regarding safety procedures in this lab. The fact that Trump had previously cut the Pandemic Response team and other CDC funding may have also reduced the necessary oversight.

Clearly, the US was sponsoring and promoting this dangerous research with little to show regarding results. Also, the book I cite below discussing the risks and benefits of this type of research seems to be somewhat weak in discussing the risks. It's almost as if the researchers were more interested in creating their "chimera" viruses using all their new toys.

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Response to Squinch (Reply #4)

Sat May 2, 2020, 08:42 PM

11. Fortunately, everything in that post is verifiable

if the reader is scientifically adept.

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Response to intrepidity (Reply #1)

Sun May 3, 2020, 10:59 PM

14. Here's a paper from 2018...

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042682217304142

Viral metagenomics, protein structure, and reverse genetics: Key strategies for investigating coronaviruses
...
However, reverse genetic studies involving the creation of these chimeras raise biosafety concerns, particularly in light of the recent pause on gain of function studies associated with influenza and coronaviruses. While risks of research of this nature should not be taken lightly (Weiss et al., 2015), it is important to take into consideration that the experiments described above have provided invaluable information regarding zoonosis (Racaniello, 2016)
...
Research in this manuscript was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease and the National Institute of Aging of the NIH...

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Response to intrepidity (Reply #1)

Mon May 4, 2020, 03:51 AM

17. 2016 article co-authored by Ralph Baric...

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/298330455_SARS-like_WIV1-CoV_poised_for_human_emergence

SARS-like WIV1-CoV poised for human emergence

...
However, building new and chimeric reagents must be carefully weighed against potential gain-of-function (GOF) concerns. Whereas not generally expected to increase pathogenicity, studies that build reagents based on viruses from animal sources cannot exclude the possibility of increased virulence or altered immunogenicity that promote escape from current countermeasures. As such, the potential of a threat, real or perceived, may cause similar exploratory studies to be limited out of an “abundance of caution. ” Importantly, the government pause on GOF studies may have already impacted the scope and direction of these studies.
...
Although limits and standards for these types of experiments must be established, erring on the side of caution is not without its own risks and balancing the benefits of these types of studies must also be weighed against the potential hazards.

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Response to intrepidity (Reply #1)

Mon May 4, 2020, 08:40 PM

18. Here's a 2015 article defending the genetic engineering of a pathological SARS-like virus...

https://www.virology.ws/2015/11/19/bat-sars-like-coronavirus-its-not-sars-2-0/

"Bat SARS-like coronavirus: It’s not SARS 2.0!"
...
While there have been recent lapses in high-containment biological facilities, none have resulted in harm, and work has gone on for years in many other facilities without harm. I understand that none of these arguments tell us what will happen in the future, but these are the data that we have to calculate risk. Bottom line: the risk of these experiments is very low.
...


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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2020, 03:01 AM

2. These accusations have been debunked but the likes of WHO, Bill Gates and dozens of experts

Newsweek can keep their conspiracy theory

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Response to Thekaspervote (Reply #2)

Sat May 2, 2020, 08:23 AM

5. I missed the part where Bill Gates got a

degree in molecular genetics.

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Response to LisaL (Reply #5)

Sat May 2, 2020, 12:11 PM

7. Bill Gates may be the most spectacularly self-educated man on the planet.

Degree or not.

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Response to milestogo (Reply #7)

Sat May 2, 2020, 03:19 PM

9. He is still only a human. Not a god.

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Response to Thekaspervote (Reply #2)

Sat May 2, 2020, 08:43 PM

12. Link? nt

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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2020, 05:14 AM

3. For anyone who questions whether Gain-of-Function research is the product of conspiracy theory...

here is a book from the NIH (2015) covering a symposium discussing the risks and benefits of GoF:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK285579/#sec_28
...

Subbarao presented a list of experiments that encompass all influenza viruses, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV that can be reasonably anticipated to increase pathogenicity or transmissibility in mammalian species (see Box 3-2). Reflecting on this list, Dr. David Relman, Stanford University, and the panelists of Session 2 expressed the view that GoF experiments generating viruses with increased virulence, transmissibility, and pathogenicity would clearly define the line that would prompt the use of alternatives.


also this from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/14/state-department-cables-warned-safety-issues-wuhan-lab-studying-bat-coronaviruses/
...

The research was designed to prevent the next SARS-like pandemic by anticipating how it might emerge. But even in 2015, other scientists questioned whether Shi’s team was taking unnecessary risks. In October 2014, the U.S. government had imposed a moratorium on funding of any research that makes a virus more deadly or contagious, known as “gain-of-function” experiments.

As many have pointed out, there is no evidence that the virus now plaguing the world was engineered; scientists largely agree it came from animals. But that is not the same as saying it didn’t come from the lab, which spent years testing bat coronaviruses in animals, said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Response to AntiFascist (Reply #3)

Sat May 2, 2020, 03:58 PM

10. This type of research sounds incredibly dangerous.

I am not following logic behind it either. How is creating more transmittable viruses helps in fighting potential pandemics? The idea that virus can't escape the lab because of precautions doesn't hold water either. There have been cases of pathogens escaping research labs.

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Response to LisaL (Reply #10)

Sun May 3, 2020, 05:37 PM

13. Apparently the remdesivir and chloroquine treatments arose from this research...

so now it all comes full circle, the treatments are developed, one of the viruses leading to these treatments may have been accidentally released, the treatments are now in high demand.

This research paper co-authored by Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan lab touts the use of remdesivir and chloroquine, which had previously been under investigation at the lab:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7054408/

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Response to AntiFascist (Reply #13)

Sun May 3, 2020, 11:13 PM

15. Look, if you're trying to suggest something nefarious...

....no, please don't go there.

It makes absolute sense that her lab would try those drugs in vitro. Suggesting that it is some conspiracy is what gives us a bad rap. Please don't.

The media et al have already conflated too many things and have contributed to muddying the waters.

It hurts to watch what is happening.

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Response to intrepidity (Reply #15)

Sun May 3, 2020, 11:46 PM

16. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy to make money off of the drugs...

I'm simply pointing out the sequence of events based on the possibility of a lab accident.

But, there is a huge distinction to be made depending on how the virus originated:

If the virus indeed originated in nature all on its own, then these research efforts may be viewed as truly heroic.
If, however, the virus leaked out into the world in the process of developing these drugs, then the efforts can be viewed in a completely opposite way, where researchers were too eager in developing cures for future outbreaks while not taking into account the seriousness of the risks.

There's also the possibility that coronaviruses could transmit to humans in the process of collecting samples, for example by those collecting samples from bat caves and then bringing the virus to Wuhan, so the risks of "the lab" research are not always so clear cut.

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