Claim:HIV Protein Sequences in Covid-19 (report withdrawn by authors) & other "man made" claims

Dan Wilson

Senior Member.
Moderator deirdre
Readers: this thread is for claims that Covid-19 is engineered or man-made.

Claims regarding a natural source of Covid-19 breaking out of the Wuhan lab should be posted in this thread:
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/natural-covid-19-broke-out-of-wuhan-lab-not-man-made.11212/




Hold onto your hats everyone, we have may have a slew of conspiracy theories coming our way. A pre-print on the bioRxiv server (a server where pre-prints of papers can be viewed before they are peer-reviewed) today claimed the following: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.30.927871v1 (full PDF attached below)

The summary in other words is that the researchers found four short portions of the coronavirus genome that highly resemble pieces of two different proteins from HIV and aren't present in other coronaviruses. They comment that these insertions are unlikely to be fortuitous (happen by chance), implying that this virus could have been designed artificially. This is pretty crazy for even a pre-print to suggest, but we have to keep in mind that this has not yet been peer-reviewed.

For what it's worth, my interpretation is that these Coronavirus motifs that are similar to pieces of HIV proteins aren't super striking. It is never really surprising to find that parts of two different proteins resemble each other. However, it does seem unusual that the specific parts that aren't found in other coronaviruses match with pieces of HIV proteins. I can see this fueling conspiracy theories so keep an eye out for this paper and what peer-reviewers will have to say about it.
 

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deirdre

Senior Member.
For what it's worth, my interpretation is that these Coronavirus motifs that are similar to pieces of HIV proteins aren't super striking. It is never really surprising to find that parts of two different proteins resemble each other. However, it does seem unusual that the specific parts that aren't found in other coronaviruses match with pieces of HIV proteins.
there are a few threads on reddit where it sounds like people in related fields are commenting. (if you want to look at it, i'm too much of a laymen to make heads or tails of any of it
ex:
Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/China_Flu/comments/ewuotw/discussion_biorxiv_preprint_on_2019ncov_spike/fg4jjrq/


??
 

Arugula

Member
*Edit: It looks like the early peer review process is not going well:



Source: https://twitter.com/trvrb/status/1223387421120684032


Here's another source, thinking the pre-print paper was just a faulty analysis by people not very experienced using BLAST: https://massivesci.com/notes/wuhan-...ar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com

 
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Dan Wilson

Senior Member.
thinking the pre-print paper was just a faulty analysis by people not very experienced using BLAST:
Yep, if you BLAST those short sequences against all known proteins you get 100% matches to a lot of different proteins in a lot of different organisms. Like I said, the length of the matches makes this not very striking. Their conclusions were very overstated, but I think it will be enough spawn conspiracy theories. Prominent anti-vaxxer Del Bigtree has already had guests on his show, The Highwire, talking about how they can tell that the virus was engineered by looking at its genome.
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member.
Hold onto your hats everyone, we have may have a slew of conspiracy theories coming our way. A pre-print on the bioRxiv server (a server where pre-prints of papers can be viewed before they are peer-reviewed) today claimed the following: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.30.927871v1.full.pdf
The summary in other words is that the researchers found four short portions of the coronavirus genome that highly resemble pieces of two different proteins from HIV and aren't present in other coronaviruses. They comment that these insertions are unlikely to be fortuitous (happen by chance), implying that this virus could have been designed artificially. This is pretty crazy for even a pre-print to suggest, but we have to keep in mind that this has not yet been peer-reviewed.

For what it's worth, my interpretation is that these Coronavirus motifs that are similar to pieces of HIV proteins aren't super striking. It is never really surprising to find that parts of two different proteins resemble each other. However, it does seem unusual that the specific parts that aren't found in other coronaviruses match with pieces of HIV proteins. I can see this fueling conspiracy theories so keep an eye out for this paper and what peer-reviewers will have to say about it.
I'm surprised that this manuscript passed initial screening:
https://www.biorxiv.org/about-biorxiv
The immediate reaction to the paper from the scientific community (currently 10 comments) tears apart the authors' conclusions (see at the bottom of the page https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.30.927871v1)
Update

The publisher added the following note at the top of the article page:
 
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Trailspotter

Senior Member.
The first author has made the following comment in the discussion of the preprint (emphasis mine):
http://archive.ph/tZgVI
 
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Trailspotter

Senior Member.
Update

This article has been withdrawn. Click here for details
 

Dingo

Member
Not much more to say. Absolute garbage. This is akin to finding two words the same in the Bible and the NIST 9/11 report and then claiming that god did it.
 

Agent K

Senior Member
The "uncanny similarity" here is to the KGB's Operation Infektion disinformation campaign that accused the U.S. of inventing HIV/AIDS as a biological weapon. The accusations were initially published by an Indian newspaper that was set up by the KGB. This was discussed in the Lawfare article, "Is the Threat of ‘Fake Science’ Real?" although it talked about scientific fraud in China, not India.
 

Dan Wilson

Senior Member.
Here is another aspect that may still fuel some conspiracy theorists who have caught onto this story. Chinese scientists started to see that anti-HIV drugs are effective against the coronavirus. However, this is not surprising given that both HIV and the coronavirus are RNA viruses and the drugs target a generic viral protein. I should add that this protein is not the "spike (S)" protein that the focus of the now retracted paper in question in this thread. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/202...r-other-existing-drugs-outwit-new-coronavirus
Also, this same drug cocktail was effective against SARS, which was also caused by a coronavirus.
Although the SARS studies were limited and the new coronavirus studies are not complete, it HIV-drugs having an effect is not evidence that the virus was lab-made.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Would someone please explain why we are using letters like Q,L,K, etc when there are only ATGC and sometimes U?!
2019-nCoV is a RNA virus.

but I think you are asking about the protein sequencing?
from the study paper (PDF linked in Opening Post above)

x.png
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3503725/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-biology1/chapter/the-genetic-code/


not sure if this answers your question. ?
 

Dan Wilson

Senior Member.
Would someone please explain why we are using letters like Q,L,K, etc when there are only ATGC and sometimes U?!
Just to add to the previous post, DNA is read by machinery in the cell and transcribed into RNA (RNA is what has U instead of T). Then the RNA is read by different machinery and translated into proteins, which you can consider to be the functional units of genes. When the RNA is read, three letters of the AUGC sequence correspond to one amino acid in the protein. Proteins can be made up of hundreds of amino acids, which are abbreviated to letters like R, K, P, and E. There are 20 amino acids in all. Here is a great video illustrating this process. Skip ahead to 3:40 Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BwWavExcFI
 

Agent K

Senior Member
From today: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/202...-conspiracy-theories-about-origin-coronavirus

Should we make a new thread about the origin of SARS-CoV-2? This article from 2015 has been making the rounds, forcing the editor to add an Editor's note in March.
https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debate-over-risky-research-1.18787
 

Agent K

Senior Member
New study debunking conspiracy theories
"The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2"
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member.
A new study on probable origin of SARS-CoV-2 published this week in Nature:
 

Dan Wilson

Senior Member.
I briefly reviewed and listed some papers describing the evolution and origins of SARS-CoV-2 in a video a couple of weeks ago, right before that Nature paper was published. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh3apmFrP4Y&t=5s
One of the less talked about points that invalidates this conspiracy theory is that two coronaviruses that most closely resemble SARS-CoV-2 were isolated from bats in 2015 and 2017.
https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa112/5721420
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32007145
By Occam's razor, this alone allows us to discredit the idea that this virus was somehow engineered. This family of coronaviruses has been spreading, mixing, and evolving within bat populations for a very long time. It was only a matter of time until a strain that can efficiently infect humans appeared and was able to make the jump from animal(s) to human. And it is only a matter of time before it happens again, either with a coronavirus or a different virus.
 

vooke

Active Member
Once dismissed as wild conspiracy theory,it seems evidence is mounting that Wuhan Institute of Virology may have played a role in the outbreak.

The laboratory at the centre of scrutiny over the pandemic has been carrying out research on bats from the cave which scientists believe is the original source of the devastating outbreak.

Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday show the Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook coronavirus experiments on mammals captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan – funded by a $3.7 million grant from the US government.

Sequencing of the Covid-19 genome has traced it to bats found in Yunnan's caves.


It comes after this newspaper revealed last week that Ministers here now fear that the pandemic could have been caused by a virus leaking from the institute.

Senior Government sources said that while 'the balance of scientific advice' was still that the deadly virus was first transmitted to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, an accident at the laboratory in the Chinese city was 'no longer being discounted'.

According to one unverified claim, scientists at the institute could have become infected after being sprayed with blood containing the virus, and then passed it on to the local community.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ar...rming-experiments-bats-coronavirus-caves.html

The sentence on sequencing could be referring to this 2017 paper from which I quote part of the Abstract:
We hypothesize that the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV may have originated after sequential recombination events between the precursors of these SARSr-CoVs. Cell entry studies demonstrated that three newly identified SARSr-CoVs with different S protein sequences are all able to use human ACE2 as the receptor, further exhibiting the close relationship between strains in this cave and SARS-CoV.
https://www.researchgate.net/public..._insights_into_the_origin_of_SARS_coronavirus
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
The sentence on sequencing could be referring to this 2017
SARS -Cov is not Covid-19.

and in this article "more closely related" means it is not an exact match to the cave bats in Yennan Cave. So the "evidence" isn't mounting, there could still be a cave samples haven't been taken from...or newer samples from Yennan that haven't been taken yet ? that would show a closer match to Covid-19. ie. a natural source.
https://www.nationalreview.com/corn...to-the-one-in-bats-than-the-one-in-pangolins/
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
SARS -Cov is not Covid-19.

and in this article "more closely related" means it is not an exact match to the cave bats in Yennan Cave. So the "evidence" isn't mounting, there could still be a cave samples haven't been taken from...or newer samples from Yennan that haven't been taken yet ? that would show a closer match to Covid-19. ie. a natural source.
https://www.nationalreview.com/corn...to-the-one-in-bats-than-the-one-in-pangolins/
The National Review quotes the Wallstreet Journal:
Basically, we know how fast these viruses mutate, so we can tell when their common ancestor lived (approximately).

I'd also say that is clear evidence that the virus did not originate from that laboratory: if that is the closest virus they have, then they don't have SARS-CoV-2. If they don't have it, it can't escape.

(The lab also said that the staff member who was exposed to batshit was quarantined for 14 days.)

The WSJ is unequivocal: there is no evidence, they don't have the right virus
The National Review: somehow it could still have happened
Argh!

The key fact is that virologists sequence the viruses. They know the genome. That is like the DNA on a crime scene: if the DNA does not match, it wasn't the guy!
So when the virologists thought, "maybe it's one of ours", all they had to do is look in their database, and then there's either evidence or there isn't, and the absence of evidence clears them.
 

vooke

Active Member
So @Mendel , @deirdre , the closest virus to SARS-CoV-2 is RaTG13 from Yunnan cave bats such as that collected by the lab in 2013, but these two good back’ forty years,right? That’s my understanding.

The researchers‘ goal is to get a closer match than RaTG13 or exact match in wild animals and with that their source.

I think I can see why the article is sensationalism
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
So @Mendel , @deirdre , the closest virus to SARS-CoV-2 is RaTG13 from Yunnan cave bats such as that collected by the lab in 2013, but these two good back’ forty years,right? That’s my understanding.

The researchers‘ goal is to get a closer match than RaTG13 or exact match in wild animals and with that their source.
Yes, if we could find a closer match in some animal population, that would be interesting to virologists, and help prevent reinfection from the same reservoir. As it is, they did detect what looks like pangolin genes in SARS-CoV-2: there is a virus in pangolins that is pretty close to SARS-CoV-2 and codes some key proteins also found in "our" virus, but not in RaTG13. The idea is that the bat virus infected some pangolins and mutated there, and then transferred to humans. If confirmed, that is another piece of evidence that it's unlikely to have "escaped" from a bat laboratory.
https://www.cell.com/pb-assets/jour...BIO_CURRENT-BIOLOGY-D-20-00299-compressed.pdf
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
and the absence of evidence clears them.
no. that is like skepticism 101. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

TO be fair, im hoping it escaped from the lab because then we can eradicate it. But unfortunately I agree with the science i'm reading that it is unlikely they would have engineered covid-19 that way. :(
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
no. that is like skepticism 101. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
In this case, it is, though.
Compare: if the police think a suspect has been shot with a gun stolen from my gun locker, and there is no evidence that any of the guns were stolen, that disproves it. If none of my guns fired the shot, that's it.
If you have the genetic fingerprint of the virus and genetic fingerprints of the viruses in the lab, then the absence of a match clears the lab.
 

Agent K

Senior Member
David Ignatius speculated about the origin of SARS-CoV-2
"How did covid-19 begin? Its initial origin story is shaky."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opin...75d488-7521-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The Lancet noted in a January study that the first covid-19 case in Wuhan had no connection to the seafood market.
Yep. In that study, the first patient fell ill on December 1st. We know now that that was not patient zero.
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6477/492

I can't access https://www.scmp.com/news/china/soc...nas-first-confirmed-covid-19-case-traced-back right now, alledgedly it has a more complete narrative of the early cases?
 

vooke

Active Member
On 27 January, Xinhua reported that researchers have found evidence of the new coronavirus in 33 of 585 environmental samples taken at the market on 1 January—the day it was closed—and on 12 January. They all came from the western end, which had a concentration of booths selling wildlife.

i think with the market closed we may never know if indeed SARS-CoV-2 came from there.

A quick one,
how did they figure out SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13 go back 40 years using two samples? My guess is they measure the rate of mutation of SARS-Cov-2 and divided that by the differences between it and RaTG13 to arrive at how long all the cumulative mutations took. I submit I may be wrong. My question is, is this 40 years a certainty?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
It could've come from a sexton cleaning out a church steeple full of bat shit, who knows? If they ever narrow down the animal population that has the virus, we might learn more.
A quick one,
how did they figure out SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13 go back 40 years using two samples? My guess is they measure the rate of mutation of SARS-Cov-2 and divided that by the differences between it and RaTG13 to arrive at how long all the cumulative mutations took. I submit I may be wrong. My question is, is this 40 years a certainty?
Actually, they did look at the mutation rates for SARS-CoV-1 and MERS and HCoV-OC43 and then estimated off that. For context, this is a statistical method,, much like radiocarbon dating, it depends on events happening at a fixed random rate and averaging out over time. Since we're looking at relatively fewer events than carbon decay over centuries, the uncertainties are larger. For example, if you throw a coin 100 times, you're probably going to be closer to 50% heads than if you only throw it 6 times.
This estimate also depends on having identified the pieces that recombined correctly, and the proportions in which they occur in the population. (As an aside, these researchers think that the pangolin virus genes might have jumped from the pangolins to the bats, and that a bat migt have transferred it to us.)
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.30.015008v1
(This is a preprint that has not been peer-reviewed, but the authors are a large group from different institutes and countries, so it looks pretty good.)

Note the error margins in the bolded section: the lineages might have split a mere 20 years ago. So, 40 years isn't precise: we could say the lineages split between 20 and 70 years ago and be more confident of being correct.
 
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RayLopez

New Member
Hi my first and possibly last post here, but I don't want to invest a lot of time and find my posts deleted due to an over-aggressive moderator, as has happened with other sites. I will see if this post sticks then possibly post more later. Nice site btw, I perused your UFO forum. I'll try and keep this short but with my legal background that's going to be tough...

My background: couple of science degrees, I've done work in patent litigation, now retired, and I firmly subscribe to the Third Law of Litigation ("for every expert there's an equal and opposite expert"). In several decades of experience I have never seen a single litigation in technology, where enough money was at stake, for this law to be violated. E.g. if you are trying to prove the earth is stationary and the sun goes round the earth, which is of course absurd, in litigation you would find a highly distinguished astronomer expert witness, just a distinguished as the opposing counsel's expert witness, to say that indeed the earth is stationary, carefully worded, and possibly not run afoul of the US Fed rules of civil procedure on expert testimony, by saying that for simple navigation you can assume a Ptolemaic model (I believe in fact some maps and/or software still used for simple navigation make this assumption, or indeed after Copernicus, navigators continued to make this assumption since it was convenient to do so). And of course in a US jury trial hope an ignorant jury are not paying attention and/or opposing counsel botches their cross-examination, which happens roughly around 10% of the time regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of one's case (one reason people constantly litigate in the USA). Thus in my opinion in life there's no "Truth" but it's all a function of your priors.

Now on the claims that Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) is a man made chimeric virus (note that's not redundant, since you can have a natural chimeric organism, see here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012160616300902 - 'bizarria' plant chimera from over 400 years ago; but for casual conversation 'chimeric' equals 'man-made' through recombinant DNA technology rather than artificial or natural selective breeding or other non-recombinant DNA lab methods)

[1] Source: https://medium.com/@yurideigin/lab-made-cov2-genealogy-through-the-lens-of-gain-of-function-research-f96dd7413748
- hereinafter the Medium article, this is a the 'go-to' article on chimeric viruses and Covid-19. One purpose for posting today was to cite this article.

The hypothesis and stipulations advanced, in no particular order, from the Medium article, unless otherwise noted, are:

(1)(A) SARS-CoV-2 (the Covid-19 virus) is a Dr. Shi Zhengli (Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) director until early this year, when she was replaced by a Chinese military biotech officer, and a gag order on all talk about the origins of Covid-19 was ordered by the Chinese government) chimeric virus comprising of DNA from three sources: (i) the 2015 chimeric virus Dr. Shi et al created at the Univ of NC (Chapel Hill) with NIH funding, called the SARS-CoV virus (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4797993/), (ii) the RaTG13 bat coronavirus, very similar to the chimeric coronavirus of (i), which Dr. Shi allegedly discovered in the wild in either 2013, but curiously did not disclose until 2020, or in 2016, with the RaTG13 virus possibly being the same as the 2016 published putative natural bat coronavirus RaBtCoV/4991 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26920708), and (iii) a known naturally occurring pangolin coronavirus. See the Medium article on furin cleavage sites, spike proteins, and similarity in amino acid and genome nucleotide positions that shows the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be made from these three viruses with 100% certainty and/or match.

(1)(B) It's stipulated that it is impossible to determine with 100% certainty whether a gene sequence and thus an organism is natural or artificial. Recombinant DNA has been made joining plant DNA with animal DNA for example, which would clearly be deemed artificial, but analogous to the discovery of the platypus, a skilled designer can easily make an artificial DNA organism look natural (more on this later with the March 2020 Nature Medicine article by Kristian Andersen et al allegedly proving the Covid-19 virus was natural and not chimeric).

(2)(A) Dr. Shi and Dr. Ralph Baric, co-authors and co-inventors of the 2015 chimeric virus SARS-CoV, were engaged in a friendly or otherwise competition to design chimeric viruses. Dr. Baric is known as the father of chimeric viruses, and Dr. Shi is also a chimeric virus superstar, known affectionately as "Batwoman".

(2)(B) The WIV had in the fall of 2019 placed an advert for a position for a researcher in bat coronaviruses, as reported in ZeroHedge and elsewhere. This is not unusual since bat coronaviruses are the Drosophila or guinea pig for virus research. In fact, Google Patents lists over 200 hits with keywords "Wuhan", "coronavirus"( https://patents.google.com/?q=coronavirus+Wuhan&oq=coronavirus+Wuhan )

(2)(C) Shi's lab may have raced to beat a December self-imposed deadline, and a chimeric virus escaped the lab, "haste makes waste". Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0VJLYRhPHg
From the comments: "Gen Li @Sebastian K Have you read the genetic analysis in the NEJM? I have. The report makes this theory have a great deal of credence. The ACE2 receptor coronavirus matches the pre-pub announcements of the Wuhan lab [in the fall of 2019]. They were rushing research for a big conference [in December 2019]"

(3) (A) China has been the source of leaks from their biotech labs in the past. Specifically, twice with SARS-CoV in 2004 (Beijing). Other countries labs have also leaked the SARS virus (Singapore, Taiwan), and in the US the biotech / bioweapons lab of Ft. Detrick, MD has been sanctioned last year for having a potentially leaky lab (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/...ak-ebola-anthrax-smallpox-ricin-a9042641.html) (Note nearly all countries subscribe to the 1969 convention against bioweapons but nevertheless advance such bioweapons under the cover of 'defensive' medicine to create a vaccine, the WIV undoubtedly being no exception). This stipulated fact is to show that a bioweapons-grade or otherwise chimeric virus could indeed escape the WIV, a BSL-4 lab, as is the Ft. Detrick, MD lab.

(3) (B) China in 1977 accidentally released a strain of H1N1 virus that infected Russians at their border; the virus was lab created (selected or attenuated in strength) and was, as is common with lab viruses, temperature sensitive. The Covid-19 virus is also temperature sensitive.

(4)(A) a widely published scientific paper allegedly rebutting that the Covid-19 virus is man-made is the Andersen et al. March 2020 Nature Medicine article, key passage here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9#ref-CR20 (March 17, 2020) "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2" by Kristian G. Andersen et al - "While the analyses above suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may bind human ACE2 with high affinity, computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal7 and that the RBD sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding7,11. Thus, the high-affinity binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human ACE2 is most likely the result of natural selection on a human or human-like ACE2 that permits another optimal binding solution to arise. This is strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation."

This article is astonishingly weak yet widely cited. Essentially it is saying that the Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) is not as optimal at infecting humans as the chimeric virus SARS-CoV that Dr. Shi, Dr. Baric and others invented in 2015 in the Univ of NC (Chapel Hill), hence, being sub-optimal in infecting humans, it cannot be the design of a competent gene jockey. But a moment's reflection should indicate, even to somebody unversed in science, that a competent bioweapons lab creating an infectious chimeric virus would not want to create exactly the same virus as before, the SARS-CoV virus of 2015, for fear of the virus being found to be clearly man made. In particular since this 2015 chimeric virus was so controversial that the US NIH, a sponsor, sanctioned the authors, and extended a ban on such "gain of function" (i.e. radical jumps in genetic structure not usually occurring in nature) chimeric viruses for a full two years afterwards, until 2017. Understandably after such sanctions by the NIH, chimeric virus scientists are naturally reluctant to promote any theory that the Covid-19 virus is chimeric, for fear of future sanctions. IMO this is clearly driving the debate from the experts point of view. It's analogous to asking lawyers to reform the legal profession to make it so you don't need lawyers. To put it mildly, it's not going to happen easily. Further, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has in fact been highly successful at infecting humans, even if it is indeed sub-optimal at infecting humans compared to its predecessor virus, the chimeric SARS-CoV virus of 2015 invented by Shi et al.

(4)(B) - appeals to authority are common when dealing with technical issues, as I can personally attest from years of litigation. Again, the Third Law of Litigation. Mental shortcuts are common with most people outside their area of expertise. So read the below passage criticizing the Andersen et al Nature Medicine article, keeping in mind the scientist criticizing is of the opinion that the Covid-19 virus is not man made. Nevertheless, the scientist indicates the Andersen et al authors made numerous assumptions that, in a litigation setting, would not go as unchallenged as they have in the popular press:

"Professor Richard Ebright of Rutgers University’s Waksman Institute of Microbiology, a biosecurity expert who has been speaking out on lab safety since the early 2000s, does agree with the Nature Medicine authors’ argument that the new coronavirus wasn’t purposefully manipulated by humans, calling their arguments on this score strong"

"Ebright points out that scientists in Wuhan have collected and publicized a bat coronavirus called RaTG13, one that is 96 percent genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2. The Nature Medicine authors are arguing “against the hypothesis that the published, lab-collected, lab-stored bat coronavirus RaTG13 [RaTG13 is similar to SARS-CoV, within 3-4% of SARS-CoV-2 - RL] could be a proximal progenitor of the outbreak virus.” But, Ebright says, the authors relied on assumptions about when the viral ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 jumped to humans; how fast it evolved before that; how fast it evolved as it adapted to humans; and the possibility that that the virus may have mutated in cell cultures or experimental animals inside a lab. "

Note Ebright is saying the Andersen et al authors made assumptions, assumptions that can be easily challenged. In fact, the Covid-19 virus has a "gain of function" of four, usual for a natural virus (but not impossible to achieve) and a genetic drift that indicates it would take 25 to 50 years for the Covid-19 virus to occur naturally (numerous cites online). So 18 years after SARS broke out, and only 5 years after SARS-CoV was artificially created, we are to believe that the Covid-19 virus occurred naturally? Possibly, but, it leads to the next and final point.

(5) no intermediate host or prior to a human host has been found for the Covid-19 virus. No animal save man is known to have the Covid-19 virus; not bats, not pangolins. This is not true of other deadly viruses, like H1N1 (pigs are the host), Ebola virus (bats are the host), MERS-CoV virus (camels are the host) or SARS (civet cats are the host). In fact, in all the prior virus outbreaks, the animal host prior to human infection was quickly found. Such is not the case with the Covid-19 virus. Quite possibly, it's because no such animal exists. Covid-19 is a man made virus.

(6) https://project-evidence.github.io/ is concerned with a natural release of the Covid-19 virus, so it belongs to the other thread in this forum, but the passage below supports the assertion that WIV could have created a "lab virus" simply by selective breeding of bats, allowing the coronaviruses to mutate inside the bats rather than using a test tube and recombinant DNA technology. As per stipulation (1)(B) above, that's about the same thing, functionally.

From the paper on the site: "While the phrase "laboratory-based scenario" is abstract, given prior context, we will assume this again refers to the "Manipulated Virus" theory. It remains plausible for a lab animal to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, either prior to arriving at the lab or as part of a spillover event occuring in the lab, afterwards spreading the virus to human Patient Zero. From the layman’s explanation of Paper 1 we remember that: Multiple coronaviruses can infect the same bat (coinfection) Coronaviruses like to mix their genes together (recombinate) If two coronaviruses infect the same bat and recombinate, they can potentially result in a novel (never before recognized) coronavirus It only takes a few changes ("exchange of a relatively small sequence segment") between two coronaviruses to result in a third coronavirus that can infect other animals ("host-switching")
The odds of this happening are pretty good! Indeed, wouldn’t it be far more likely for such a recombination event to occur in a laboratory housing many bats in close quarters, such as the WHCDC, rather than anywhere else in Wuhan?"

Final thoughts:

I could include facts about the destruction of the Wuhan wet market (destruction of evidence that, if it was done in a US litigation after commencement of a lawsuit, would result in a default judgement in favor of the party not destroying evidence, here, the China skeptics); about the alleged patient zero (either a senile old man at the wet market or an employee at WIV who allegedly has disappeared); about the alleged adjunct biotech laboratory not many kilometers form the Wuhan wet market, as is the WIV, but a mere couple of hundred meters away which allegedly was removed from Google Maps and has also been closed; how neither bats nor pangolins were sold at the Wuhan wet market, which in any event are found many thousands of kilometers away from the Wuhan wet market, the directive by CHN president Xi Jinping in early January that tightened safety protocols of biotech laboratories in China, which long-time China observers say is a clear signal a breach of safety occurred (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0VJLYRhPHg
), the stories (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/28/wuhan-laboratory-most-likely-coronavirus-source-us/) that WIV was very lax with their bio-safety protocols, even allegedly selling experimental animals after experiments and even, astonishingly, cooking and eating eggs that were used in experiments (heat inactivates viruses but that's one egg I would not want to crack), the rumors that Dr. Shi in January was upset on social media that her lab may have been responsible for the outbreak, or that she was removed as director of WIV after the outbreak--if that's not a demotion then what is it?--and replaced by a military general and a gag order against Covid-19 origin talk. Further, not just US president Trump is calling for an investigation but also the more neutral EU, reference [*] below.

In US law, the numerous circumstantial evidence surrounding the outbreak of Covid-19 points to a coverup, and of a lab created virus. Without question it would be sufficient to get a grand jury indictment in a criminal case. Whether it would be enough for a conviction is debatable (from a competent jury, I'm not referring to the well-known to US litigators 10% rule that I reference above). Personally, if I was offered 100:1 odds that the Covid-19 virus was chimeric, or even 10:1 odds, I would bet serious money that it is.

The above is not copyright, feel free to cut and paste anywhere without attribution.
--RL

[*] Ursula von der Leyen said the international community should investigate how the coronavirus pandemic started |
The Commission chief says studying the outbreak’s origins is necessary to set up an ‘early warning system.’
By LAURENS CERULUS 5/1/20, 12:00 PM CET Updated 5/1/20, 12:19 PM CET
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the international community should investigate how the coronavirus pandemic started in order to be better prepared for future outbreaks. In an interview with U.S. news channel CNBC published Friday, von der Leyen suggested the international community needed to study the coronavirus outbreak in order to set up an "early warning system." "You never know where the next virus is starting so we all want that, for the next time, we have learned our lesson and we have established a system of early warning that really functions," she said, adding "the whole world has to contribute to that." Von der Leyen's suggestion comes after the Swedish health minister called for an "international, independent investigation" into the origins and the spread of the virus. It also follows a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump, who suggested he had seen evidence that the virus originated in a Chinese scientific lab
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Taiwannews is not an unbiased source when it comes to China. They cite David A. Relman, and you can read his opinon in the PNAS journal:
Article:
Some have argued that a deliberate engineering scenario is unlikely because one would not have had the insight a priori to design the current pandemic virus (3). This argument fails to acknowledge the possibility that two or more as yet undisclosed ancestors (i.e., more proximal ancestors than RaTG13 and RmYN02) had already been discovered and were being studied in a laboratory [..]

Even though strong opinions abound, none of these scenarios can be confidently ruled in or ruled out with currently available facts. Just because there are no public reports of more immediate, proximal ancestors in natural hosts, doesn’t mean that these ancestors don’t exist in natural hosts or that COVID-19 didn’t began as a spillover event. Nor does it mean that they have not been recovered and studied, or deliberately recombined in a laboratory.

The problem with that is that the first paragraph is a conspiracy theory with no evidence to support it. The lab knows its viruses and knows they didn't come from there; it's in contact with bat virus researchers in other countries who also know which virusus this lab has, there is no secret research going on in this field with that lab.

The main thrust of Relman's article (if you read it in full) is to get going to finally make progress on investigating the animal origin of this virus.
I've slept on this, and I now have an opinion on the subtext of this opinion piece in PNAS.

Fairly early on in the pandemic, most virus experts working in the field came to the consensus that the genetic makeup of this virus showed evidence it wasn't engineered. They called for an investigation into the chain of events that led the virus to "travel" from the bats into the human population, with the leading theory being that it transferred onto pangolins, where it acquired the mutation making it dangerous for humans, and then from pangolins to humans via the Wuhan seafood market. (People in China don't usually eat bats.)

These investigations have started. Relman knows this:
Article:
Conflicts of interest by researchers, administrators, and policymakers on all sides must be revealed and addressed, and all relevant global constituencies must be included. Both the World Health Organization and The Lancet COVID-19 Commission (6) have hinted that they have taken some first steps, but their efforts so far have been cloaked in secrecy (7, 8).
[..]

  1. J. D. Sachs et al.; The Lancet COVID-19 Commission. Lancet 396, 454–455 (2020).
  2. World Health Organization, WHO experts to travel to China. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/07-07-2020-who-experts-to-travel-to-china/. Accessed 20 September 2020.
  3. P. Nuki, S. Newey, Scientists to examine possibility Covid leaked from lab as part of investigation into virus origins. The Telegraph, 15 September 2020. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-...sibility-covid-leaked-lab-part-investigation/. Accessed 27 September 2020.

What he wants is for these investigations to be more transparent. He probably realizes that China has seen pressure from the US over this, and its politicians have been trying to spin the narrative that maybe the virus didn't originate in China. The article pushes for these investigations to be transparent, with a veiled threat of "if you don't do this, we'll start saying it originated in a lab again". The opinion was first published on November 3rd, and I don't think it's coincidence that date marks the end of the US election campaign season.

In support of this, read what Relman is calling for, and what he isn't: "The bottom line is simple: We need to identify the immediate parent(s) of SARS-CoV-2, and they’re missing." That's what his article is supporting. He doesn't talk about how the virus might have been created in the lab, and how to best investigate that; he talks about the need to investigate the origins of the virus, and that is in line with being convinced that there was an animal origin, in line with also being convinced that this process needs to be more transparent.

A Google search for "china investigation bat origins sars-ncov-2" turns up plenty of news that these investigations are ongoing.

December 2nd, article in one of the top science papers in the world, portraying the WHO investigation team:
Article:
The investigation aims to find out how and when SARS-CoV-2 first infected people. Strong evidence suggests that the coronavirus originated in bats, but its journey to people remains a mystery. Scientists say the team is highly qualified, but its task will be challenging.

“This is an excellent team with a lot of experience,” says Martin Beer, a virologist at the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health in Greifswald, Germany.

The group will be working with researchers in China and professionals from several other international agencies, and will start the search in Wuhan — the Chinese city where the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was first identified — and expand across China and beyond.


An Al Jazeera article clarifies the political situation that makes this investigation difficult: China really doesn't want to be the "culprit".
Article:
“WHO has put together a team to go to China and to work with colleagues in China to investigate the origins question but that is of course going to require a lot of cooperation with the Chinese government and scientists in China,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University School of Public Health. “It’s going to be a very complicated political situation and political context in which to do a rigorous scientific investigation.”

[..]

But as scientists prepare to head to China, with signs still pointing to Wuhan as the first chief virus cluster, Chinese state media continues to construct an alternative narrative, often cherry-picking data from global studies that appear to support their case.

On November 16, state news agency Xinhua picked up a study published by the Tumori Journal, the publication of the Milan’s National Cancer Institute, that pointed to an Italian screening of lung cancer patients that found coronavirus antibodies in late 2019.

Another article from the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, on December 2 suggested the possible presence of the coronavirus in the United States before it emerged in Wuhan, while further confusion has been made from studies like an analysis of wastewater in Spain that suggested COVID-19 may have been present as early as March 2019.
[..]

Such studies, however, have done little to challenge the mainstream scientific community’s views, points out Claire Standley, an assistant research professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security.

The reason, she says, is that many of the studies are based on serological testing, which looks for virus antibodies. These kinds of tests can cross-react with other coronavirus antibodies, such as those from the common cold, which makes them less reliable than DNA-based testing.


Investigation results take a long time to become public.
Article:
The government is handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to scientists researching the virus’ origins in southern China and affiliated with the military, the AP has found. But it is monitoring their findings and mandating that the publication of any data or research must be approved by a new task force managed by China’s cabinet, under direct orders from President Xi Jinping, according to internal documents obtained by the AP. A rare leak from within the government, the dozens of pages of unpublished documents confirm what many have long suspected: The clampdown comes from the top.

As a result, very little has been made public. Authorities are severely limiting information and impeding cooperation with international scientists.

[..]

Some state-backed scientists say research is proceeding as usual. Famed virologist Zhang, who received a 1.5 million RMB ($230,000) grant to search for the virus’ origins, said partnering scientists are sending him samples from all over, including from bats in Guizhou in southern China and rats in Henan hundreds of miles north.

“Bats, mice, are there any new coronaviruses in them? Do they have this particular coronavirus?” Zhang said. “We’ve been doing this work for over a decade. It’s not like we just started today.”

[..]

Coronavirus expert Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO team, said identifying the pandemic’s source should not be used to assign guilt.

“We’re all part of this together,” he said. “And until we realize that, we’re never going to get rid of this problem.”


National Geographic, November 6th, debunks the notion that the Chinese destroyed evidence at the seafood market.
Article:
Raina MacIntyre, an infectious diseases expert and professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says Chinese scientists have already done significant research on the potential animal origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. China and other countries have contributed genetic sequences of the coronavirus collected from humans to a database for tracking the germ’s evolution. By comparing entries, multiple research groups have reached the conclusion that the novel coronavirus “has probably come from bats, perhaps through an intermediary animal host,” MacIntyre says.

The multitude of SARS-esque viruses that horseshoe bats retain make them a prime suspect in the current pandemic’s origins. And those nocturnal cave dwellers are not only found in China but in the bordering countries of Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. “We need a WHO-sponsored international collaborative network, like the one we had in 2003, and we need to seriously consider investigations beyond China,” Wang says.

[..]

But disease detective Daniel Lucey says there are indications China has already completed considerable legwork.

“Of course they would have done that,” says Lucey, who works at Georgetown University, because “it’s in China’s national interest to do an investigation as quickly as possible, for the sake of public health.”

Lucey points to China’s tracking of the first confirmed pandemic patient to November 17, 2019. Then there was a January investigation conducted by 29 Chinese researchers across a medley of institutions that examined how many early COVID-19 patients could be linked to the Wuhan wet market. Their results indicated that 14 of 41 early cases weren’t exposed there.

Still, some mystery remains around the initial surveys at ground zero. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in late January that it had collected nearly 600 samples at the market, and Wuhan Institute of Virology virologist Shi Zhengli made public statements this past summer about testing samples from the ground, sewage, and door handles at the market.

But new details from the WHO mission plan say nearly 1,200 specimens were collected from the Wuhan market, which had 653 sellers peddling items ranging from seafood and chipmunks to giant salamanders and sika deer. Yet, of the 336 animals sampled at the market, none tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. By contrast, 8 percent of the environmental swabs—many involving drains and sewage—carried the virus.


The BBC published an article on opposition to reporting on this research by Chinese autorities, but they debunk the "lab theory".
Article:
The Chinese government, the WIV, and Prof Shi have all angrily dismissed the allegation of a virus leak from the Wuhan lab.

But with scientists appointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) scheduled to visit Wuhan in January for an inquiry into the origin of the pandemic, Prof Shi - who has given few interviews since the pandemic began - answered a number of BBC questions by email.

"I have communicated with the WHO experts twice," she wrote, when asked if an investigation might help rule out a lab leak and end the speculation. "I have personally and clearly expressed that I would welcome them to visit the WIV," she said.

To a follow-up question about whether that would include a formal investigation with access to the WIV's experimental data and laboratory records, Prof Shi said: "I would personally welcome any form of visit based on an open, transparent, trusting, reliable and reasonable dialogue. But the specific plan is not decided by me."

The BBC subsequently received a call from the WIV's press office, saying that Prof Shi was speaking in a personal capacity and her answers had not been approved by the WIV.

[..]

Peter Daszak, a British zoologist, has been chosen as part of the team because of his leading role in a multimillion dollar, international project to sample wild viruses.

It has involved close collaboration with Prof Shi Zhengli in her mass sampling of bats in China, and Dr Daszak previously called the lab-leak theory a "conspiracy theory" and "pure baloney".

"I've yet to see any evidence at all of a lab leak or a lab involvement in this outbreak," he said. "I have seen substantial evidence that these are naturally occurring phenomena driven by human encroachment into wildlife habitat, which is clearly on display across south-east Asia."

[..]

In what has become the definitive paper ruling out the possibility of a lab leak, RaTG13 has a starring role.
Published in March in the magazine Nature Medicine, it suggests that if there had been a leak, Prof Shi Zhengli would have found a much closer match in her database than RaTG13.

While RaTG13 is the closest known relative - at 96.2% similarity - it is still too distant to have been manipulated and changed into Sars-Cov-2.

Sars-Cov-2, the authors concluded, was likely to have gained its unique efficiency through a long, undetected period of circulation in humans or animals of a natural and milder precursor virus that eventually evolved into the potent, deadly form first detected in Wuhan in 2019.


And there you have it. The idea that the pandemic was man-made has been debunked in March; there hasn't been any new evidence since then to question that; but it's necessary to investigate the origins of the virus, but the researchers need funding for this kind of work.

And that's a possible second motivation for David A. Relman: if he's applying for reasearch grants himself (or friends of his are), it makes sense to put a paragraph in to convince right-wing politicians deciding on these grants that maybe China is to blame after all, in order to make it easier for them to support the grant and get the money flowing.

It's still scientific consensus that this came from animals, and was not created in a laboratory.
 
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