Viral, a review – Growing with that?

By Andy May

Alina Chan is a molecular biologist specializing in gene therapy and cell engineering at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She teamed up with the famous science writer, Matt Ridley, to write Viral, Searching for the Origin of COVID-19. The book was published on 16 November 2021, and the combination of Dr Chan’s expertise and Dr Ridley’s impeccable writing skills makes it read like an Agatha Christie book. It is an engaging, educational and entertaining book. Well worth your time. This review is based on the Kindle version.

The book is about the search for the origin of the coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — that causes COVID-19 by a small group of amateur and professional investigators who call themselves “Drastic.” The name means “Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Group Investigating COVID-19.” The organization traces its beginnings on Twitter, and it gained considerable credibility when Facebook labeled its posts as “misinformation.” Nearly all of Drastic’s findings were later proven correct. There is no solid evidence that COVID-19 has been genetically modified in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), but the book does a good job of presenting the evidence.

In early January 2020, as the severity of COVID-19 was becoming apparent, Dr. Shi of WIV, found that the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence almost perfectly matched (96.2%) with one of her Institute’s bat viruses, named 4991, aka RaTG13. However, when she published made this discovery February 3, she omitted her own citation 2016 paper describe the origin of the virus. The sample was collected in 2012 at a copper mine in Mujiang County, Yunnan Province, 1,800 kilometers from Wuhan, where three people from the mine died of respiratory illness of unknown cause. A 2013 thesis concluded that miners died from a SARS-like virus from bats in the mine. At that time the virus could not be transmitted from person to person, only from bats to humans. This is the beginning of the China-led data cover-up needed to determine the origin of SARS-CoV-2. The cover-up was supported by an American, Dr Peter Daszak of the Ecological Health Alliance, who received a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for WIV.

In November 2020, nature publish one Appendix acknowledges the existence of the 2013 thesis and the story of the death of the Mo Giang copper mine in 2012 and the virus sample. Courageously discovered all these important truths and nature appendix confirms the results of their investigation, which has been derided by the mainstream media, Daszak and other prominent virologists as a “conspiracy theory”. It seems that the only serious investigative journalism done on the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is that of bloggers.

There are two crucial truths that play an important role in this mystery. When a virus moves from animal to human (known as an zoonotic event), it must adapt to its human host through a rapid series of mutations. It first needs to adapt to the human cells it will invade, and finally it has to change to be able to pass from person to person. These steps have not been found for SARS-CoV-2, which appeared in 2019 to be fully formed and already adapted to humans. Usually, the animal-to-human source for a new virus is found very quickly, as for SARS in 2003, as these required mutations can be seen in samples from both animal and human sources. in the first human-to-human victims, but no animal source was found. found for SARS-CoV-2. The question is why?

Dr. George Gao, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, initially thought that the new SARS-CoV-2 virus came from the Wuhan seafood market, but later discovered that the seafood market As a result, the virus exists and has been transmitted from person to person long before it has been observed in humans or animals on the market. It was humans who brought the virus to market, not vice versa.

There is no surefire way to distinguish genetically engineered viruses from natural mutants. As Chan and Ridley wrote, “Today’s technology allows for the seamless construction of entire viral genomes.” However, strange and unnatural gene sequences can provide clues to investigators. Interestingly, Dr Kristian Anderson emailed Dr Fauci on January 31, 2020, saying that “some (potentially) feature has been designed.” Many other prominent virologists think so. However, in public, they say the opposite. Seven days later, Dr Daszac wrote: “We together strongly condemn the conspiracy theories that 2019-nCoV has no natural origin.”

Techniques for zoonotic viruses to spread through the air from person to person have been done before. In May 2012, the research team of Dr. Yoshiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tokyo published a paper about how they engineered a highly lethal version of the avian H5N1 virus to spread through the air from mammals to mammals. Kawaoka’s result is duplicated by Dr Fouchier at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

These two articles have caused an uproar in the medical community, why are researchers creating deadly diseases in the air? When H5N1 infects humans, it is 60% fatal. It is only caught directly from birds during their slaughter, it has not been mutated (naturally) to spread from person to person. These are not rogue researchers working in secret military laboratories, but prominent researchers in major NIH-funded universities. The researcher’s motive is to see if it can be done, the NIH funds them for that purpose, interesting, but is it worth the risk?

Given the long list of labs that have unknowingly released deadly viruses and bacteria that later kill people, is this a sensible and safe expenditure of NIH funds? Smallpox and foot-and-mouth disease have escaped from laboratories in England, Marburg from laboratories in Russia and Germany, among others. U.S. laboratories notified federal authorities of 1,500 accidental releases of pathogens between 2006 and 2013. Evasion is not uncommon. The H1N1 outbreak almost certainly stemmed from a random release in a laboratory in China during vaccine testing, as Chan and Ridley explain in their book on page 150.

How is the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to be engineered in the laboratory? It has never been found in an animal that has not been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 and the closest animal virus is the aforementioned RaTG13. RaTG13 matched only 96% to SARS-CoV-2, not close enough to be a direct source. This is questionable, but not definitive. There is no evidence that Chinese researchers have adapted RatG13 to humans through culture of human cells or humanized animal tissues, and without that, we do not know whether SARS-CoV-2 can designed or not. Viruses can magically appear, completely adapted to humans, with no intermediate versions present in any animal species, but very unlikely. That’s the point of the book, draw your own conclusions.

It should also be noted that no evidence of a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged. This is extraordinary when we consider how quickly the natural origin of the 2003 SARS outbreak was found in Guangdong. Locating the animals infected with SARS 2003 initially took several months, but antibodies were found in animal dealers in Guangdong very quickly and nothing like it was found in markets. animals in Wuhan. 80,000 animal samples, from dozens of species and hundreds of carcasses from seafood markets all tested negative for the virus.

Chan and Ridley remind us that although the WIV has published many articles on the different viruses it has controlled and tested, not a single paper has mentioned a virus like SARS-CoV-2. . If we conclude that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered there, we must believe that it was done in the short time between the genetic engineering process and the first paper of the new virus.

Are from Popular published, published, Taiwan News Yes report Chen Shih-chung, head of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed that the Delta variant of the virus infected a researcher in a Biosafety Level 3 laboratory. . The genetic sequence of the Delta variant with which the researcher had the infection matched the samples she was studying and did not match the local Taiwan Delta strain. Lab accidents do happen.

Chan and Ridley are not accusing China or the WIV of intentionally releasing the virus, in their view that the release, if it happens, is accidental, like in the Level 3 lab in Taiwan. However, the absurd secrecy that the Chinese government imposes is odd, if they have nothing to hide. The location of the cave where RaTG13 comes from is well known but remains completely off-limits to journalists, scientists and those trying to access the mine. There are always people who try to reach the mine who are tracked down and arrested by the police. Requests by WHO and CDC to participate and assist in China’s investigations into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 were denied. Likewise, requests for critical data are denied.

Even if there is no convincing evidence for the laboratory leak theory or the natural theory, there is no reason to withhold evidence and data about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Viruses cause death, suffering and loss all over the world. China has a moral obligation to share whatever it can to help find the cause. Withholding data and access to the starting point might just make them look buggy and help no one.

The book is well organized, bright, and well-written, as we’ve come to expect from Matt Ridley. The book is authoritative due to the excellent evidence of Dr. Alina Chan. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the source of COVID-19, probably everyone.

Chan and Ridley testified about the origins of COVID-19 before the UK Parliament and the video is here. Their testimony began after about 18 minutes.

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