By Kaylee McGhee White
A well-respected science writer has published a thoughtful and convincing piece this week that helps confirm what most people with common sense have long believed: Covid-19 wasn’t just randomly discovered in a Chinese wet market; it escaped from a human lab.
The lab-leak theory was always the most plausible one, but those who raised it as a possible explanation were excoriated by Democrats and media know-it-alls. For no good reason at all, the intelligentsia dismissed it as a baseless conspiracy theory. Remember what happened to Sen. Tom Cotton when he dared to suggest the Chinese government was lying about how the coronavirus originated? The New York Times accused him of appealing to tin-foil-hat-wearing kooks with his “fringe theory.” The Washington Post falsely claimed Cotton’s statements had been debunked.
But the evidence supporting the lab-leak theory is there, according to Nicholas Wade, a longtime science writer who has worked for Science magazine and the New York Times. Over at Medium, Wade weighs the evidence of both possibilities: the first being that Covid-19 naturally emerged from an animal species, the second that it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Wade makes a few points that demand consideration. The first is that the bats that Chinese officials claimed to be the source of SARS-CoV-2 have yet to be discovered, even after an intensive search by authorities that included the testing of 80,000 animals. There is also no evidence that the coronavirus jumped from bats to people through an intermediary host, as SARS1 did in 2002 (a bat virus spread first to civets and then to people). Surely, if bats were the original source of COVID-19, scientists could identify the intermediary host through which it was spread. They’ve had no such luck.
Wade also points out a few other holes in the Chinese government’s story. For example, why, if COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan wet market, were there earlier cases of the coronavirus with no link to the wet market? And why should a naturally spread epidemic break out in Wuhan and (at first) nowhere else?
This is where the lab-leak theory starts to make more sense. It is no secret that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was studying coronaviruses, thanks in large part to funding by U.S. agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health. However, what you might not know is that Wuhan scientists were specifically creating novel coronaviruses “with the highest possible infectivity for human cells,” Wade writes. This research wasn’t being conducted maliciously, as far as we know. Wade explains that oftentimes scientists will create and test chimeric viruses to learn how they attack human cell cultures and how they “spill over” from animal species to humans.
It is very likely that research in Wuhan produced the exact coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2, that has now killed more than 3 million people, according to Wade. It is also entirely plausible that this virus escaped from Wuhan’s lab, given what we know about its safety arrangements. In 2018, two years before the pandemic broke out, U.S. State Department officials warned the federal government after touring Wuhan’s facilities that the lab lacked a good number of trained technicians and investigators needed to conduct research safely. Dr. Shi Zhengli, the head of the coronavirus research project, even admitted in an interview with Science magazine that much of her work was conducted at a lower safety level than was required.
So why has much of the scientific community continued to minimize or dismiss outright the lab-leak theory? Because, as Wade points out, many of them have a financial stake in it. One of the first letters published against the lab-leak theory, for example, was published in Lancet in February 2020 and was organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Daszak’s organization happened to be funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s coronavirus research, which means he could potentially be culpable if it was discovered that the lab was responsible for the outbreak.
Like Daszak, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s medical adviser, has also thrown cold water on the lab-leak theory, even though many scientists and government officials have now begun to acknowledge its plausibility. But keep in mind: as head of the NIH’s Allergy and Infectious Diseases department, Fauci was one of the government officials responsible for securing federal grants for Wuhan’s coronavirus research in the first place. He is a more interested party than most people realize.
It doesn’t take much to string together the available facts. What we need now is definitive proof, as Wade argues, but that proof lies in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Chinese government is doing its best to keep the lab under lock and key, and the global scientists who funded its research are helping them do it.
But one day the evidence will emerge, and the scientific community will have a lot of explaining to do.
Credit: Washington Examiner