Hello everyone, I joined the forum because I have a few things to say in regards to this thread. I also work for a medical device manufacturer which has BSL accredited labs, and on of them is housed in the facility I work in. So I have some insight on the topic.
Personally speaking, I don't currently hold a very high opinion of any of the news outlets regarding coverage of Covid19 from the very beginning. Whether mainstream or independent, I have seen very little useful information from come from any entity claiming an association with journalism. That said, I am even more disappointed with our (the U.S.) response to this pandemic at nearly every level. It really is a sad state of affairs.
There is a plethora of misinformation from all sides regarding covid19 so admittedly, I was at first very skeptical regarding the notion that covid19 originated from a lab in Wuhan. Like many here, I figured it was a conspiracy theory that people latched on to so as to shift blame away from a certain someone for failing to act in time. Whether or not this claim is true doesn't shift responsibility from government officials. The origin of the virus doesn't change how we prevent the spread. What it does change is how we might prevent something like this in the future. That is if we intend to learn from our mistakes and..... yeah.
Now with that out of the way, I am going to point out a few things regarding the specific claim that covid19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan as I don't think it should be readily dismissed as false or as 'likely false' until further investigations are conducted. Some have taken this a step further suggesting that intentions behind it's creation are malign.
Other labs have successfully reproduced this virus artificially which proves that it is possible to create, but doesn't prove that it is what happened here. The rebuttal against claims stating the artificial origin of the virus is that it is unlikely or impossible that someone would have created this based on computer models. This doesn't prove anything either and I'm not even sure if it is possible to prove whether a virus is artificial or natural. That said, I'm sure that creating viruses and a controlled lab environment for observation can indeed provide scientific value to virology so I don't think that discussing whether the virus was artificial or natural is worthwhile.
However, the possibility of an accidental leak due to an oversight is worthwhile. We all know that accidents do happen and some of those accidents lead to disasters which result in many casualties. Historically speaking, it isn't unusual for those at fault to deny their responsibility for obvious reasons. The bottom line is that is usually possible to prove an accident and determine the cause (and perhaps the responsible parties) as the truth regarding such matters is often revealed in time.
So far, I'd say the most significant element which adds weight to the claim is the close proximity of the WHCDC lab to the source of the outbreak which is less than 10 miles. This could be a coincidence in of itself, but the fact that they were studying coronaviruses that originate in bats. To add to this, the WHCDC was criticized for conducting field research on bats without proper PPE as indicated in a video dated December 2019. The defense for this is that coronaviruses found in bats don't infect humans very well.
This evidence is circumstantial, but it is significant and I have some very big problems dismissing the possibility that the virus leaked from this lab without further evidence.
The statement that coronaviruses found in bats don't infect humans very well" of course does not mean that it is impossible. that doesn't mean it It is also generally understood that the first SARS outbreak was a bat to human species jump. We aren't positive regarding which species made the jump for Covid19, but bats are still reported as the source of covid19 in humans. Either way, we have been well aware that viruses do jump from species to species for a long time. This was a very careless act to say the least.
And on that topic of a being a BSL-4 accredited lab. I see that referenced in articles as evidence of the unlikelihood that this lab leaked the virus.
I don;t think BSL-# means what people seem to think it means. I'm not trying to say that BSL accreditation is worthless, but being certified to BSL shouldn't be taken as proof of anything any more than a driver's license should be taken as proof that someone is safe driver.
At my work, we have a BSL-2 accredited lab on site and a BSL-3 accredited lab off site. I am not an expert on the entire subject, but I am familiar with it and the steps involved to acquire certification. The purpose of our labs is the study of pathogens for medical devices for infection control and devices which can potentially harbor or spread pathogens. Animal handling is not involved, but we do receive specimens of human tissue and tissue from other animals that are commonly consumed by humans.
In the eyes of a BSL auditing agency, a specimen is handled according to the pathogen(s) that it is infected with. Not the likelihood of of the host transmitting the pathogen. In this case, it was a coronavirus infected bat which means it should have been handled according to the guidelines for handling coronavirus specimens. Therefore, proper PPE should have been utilized by the person in that video and failure to do so would have been a significant violation on their part. When blind studies are performed regarding infected and non infected specimens of a certain pathogen. All specimens should be handled as infected specimens.
However, although it would have been a major finding according to a BSL auditing agency. That would only be the case if an audit were taking place at that moment and the auditors had actually observed it taking place. A future auditor aware of the event may ask for evidence that the person was disciplined, but that's about the extent of it after the fact. I presented a little more info regarding BSL in the spoiler tags.
From an evidence standpoint, a BSL accreditation basically means that said facility has the equipment, the capacity and personnel trained in the handling of pathogens and that safe scientific lab practices are being followed according to their documented evidence. How closely they actually follow those practices is entirely another story.
Granted, I do not have experience with BSL-4, but based on the nature of the BSL program I can say that will follow the similar guidelines as the preceding levels. The main thing they would want to see is more thorough documentation practices to prove adherence to those stricter guidelines. Review of the facility and equipment will be mostly visual aside from verifying service history, calibration, training records, etc.
There are numerous private agencies which can certify a lab for BSL and certification basically consists of an audit. The nature of the audit can vary depending on the size, scope and nature of the operation. In each case, only about 10% of the audit actually involves observation of the facility, equipment and personnel. The other 90% is documentation and process review. This can go on for several days and it mostly involves looking through the paper trail for evidence that we're following safe guidelines and scientific practices. Which is mostly self-reported.
Several years ago, one of our manufacturing facilities closed down and they had an on-site BSL-2 accredited lab like we do. Their lab handled specimens of human bone tissue. Specifically, human skulls. Though the skulls were sterilized and they were not part of their projects involving pathogenic research. The issue was when we tried to figure out how they were disposing of these skulls when they were finished with them. Because it turns out they were disposing of the skulls with ordinary municipal waste.
Granted, nobody was put at risk as the skulls were sterilized. It is still human tissue which should have been disposed of as bio-hazardous material nonetheless. On top of that disposing of human remains (like skulls) in ordinary waste is flat out illegal. It blows my mind to this day that someone thought it was okay to do that. But hey, BSL-2 certified!
Again, there is no proof one way or another whether this was an accidental leak. But I think to state anything other than "I don't know" is irresponsible journalism. There is evidence that the lab failed to observe safe laboratory practices, and due to their close proximity to the initial epicenter, this is something that should be investigated thoroughly and independently.