Is the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus the result of an unsanitary cross-species transfer of the virus or a potential massive f**k up?
What We Know So Far
The virus started in Wuhan which is a centrally located city in China with a large population and a sizeable amount of flights to other locales in China and around the world. The coronavirus spread silently right before the lunar new year and within this transportation/visitation hub of China.
Wuhan also has a Level 4 Bioweapon Lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located conveniently about 20 miles from the Huanan Seafood market where the current claim of “someone ate a bad bat” in the market is coming from.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology was founded to “study the world’s most dangerous pathogens”. It’s a maximum-security (level 4) bio lab that was ironically studying… you guessed it, bat resistance to coronaviruses.
The Recruitment Ads
In an employment ad posted by the institute in Wuhan, they said they were “Using bats as the research object.” They also stated they were studying how they relate to Ebola and SARS. SARs, which is a coronavirus. And Ebola, which is from bats.
Here are the ads for recordkeeping as I’m sure they’ll be deleted quickly now that they have been discovered online (you can directly access them here if they’re still up):
Translated by google translate:
So maybe they were working on or with this virus and it escaped? It definitely wouldn’t be the first time. China lost the SAR virus multiple times (which as we mentioned is a coronavirus similar to the Wuhan Virus):
Worries surround the Chinese lab. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy.
The Press Release
Add on the fact that the Wuhan Institute also held a press release where they were talking about bats and the pathogens they carry:
Bats are known to harbor highly pathogenic viruses like Ebola, Marburg, Hendra, Nipah, and SARS-CoV, and yet they do not show clinical signs of disease. In a paper published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe on February 22, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China find that in bats, an antiviral immune pathway called the STING-interferon pathway is dampened, and bats can maintain just enough defense against illness without triggering a heightened immune reaction.
“We believe there is a balance between bats and the pathogens they carry,” says senior author Peng Zhou. “This work demonstrated that in order to maintain a balance with viruses, bats may have evolved to dampen certain pathways.”
In humans and other mammals, an immune-based over-response to one of these and other pathogenic viruses can trigger severe illness. For example, in humans, an activated STING pathway is linked with severe autoimmune diseases.
“In human history, we have been chasing infectious diseases one after another,” says Zhou, “but bats appear to be a ‘super-mammal’ to these deadly viruses.” By identifying a weakened but not defunct STING pathway, researchers have some new insight into how bats fine-tune antiviral defenses to balance an effective, but not an overt, response against viruses.
The authors hypothesize that this defense strategy evolved as part of three interconnected features of bat biology: they are flying mammals, have a long lifespan, and host a large viral reservoir.
“Adaptation to flight likely caused positive selection of multiple bat innate immune and DNA damage repair genes,” Zhou says. These adaptations may have shaped certain antiviral pathways (STING, interferon, and others) to make them good viral reservoir hosts and achieve a tolerable balance.”
Wuhan Coronavirus Conspiracy
So to recap:
- Public is told the Wuhan virus originated from the seafood market.
- Public is not told that there is a level 4 bio lab that was specifically studying coronaviruses and immunity in bats 20 miles from seafood market.
- China has a history of accidentally releasing coronaviruses from level 4 bio labs.
It will surely be called a “conspiracy”, but it’s rather obvious to me what happened here.
Either we aren’t getting the full information or this is literally the biggest coincidence our world has ever seen in regards to virology.
But hey, I get it. If I was a researcher in China and I accidentally let out a virus, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to tell anyone. The Chinese government would probably throw me in a labor camp with a speed we never knew existed.
Likewise, if it was released from the lab and had pandemic potential I’m not sure the Chinese government would have an incentive to say it was themselves, either. They would then be on the hook for letting it get out in the first place.
No one in the lab or out of the lab would want it to be tied to the lab. It’s really that simple.
No one in this mess has an incentive to talk. So we’ll probably never learn the truth of what actually happened. I doubt it was intentional by the Chinese government, though. More likely if it was from the lab it’d probably be an accidental release or a terrorism-related release. Similarly, a worker could have contracted it and unknowingly spread it since it is infectious during the incubation period, which lasts a couple weeks.
For now they’ll stick to the script and say it is the seafood market. Rather keep the public calm than to cause a storm.
Regardless, this is a yet another example of why we shouldn’t be messing with things that will ultimately destroy us. Coronavirus presents the same bioterrorist threats that every other risky agent brings. Nature already knows how to kill us. Bioengineering nature just speeds up that process.
Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.Dr. Ian Malcolm
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