Because everything we know about the pandemic leads more and more to the hypothesis that it was caused by an engineered virus and then leaked from the laboratories of Wuhan. The in-depth analysis by Enzo Reale for Atlantico Quotidiano
It is the questions that make the difference: what are you looking for, how you are looking for it, when you are looking for it. The phrase is not my sack flour but that of Fabrizio Gatti, journalist of L’Espresso and author of the book dedicated to the origins of the pandemic “The infinite error”, released a few weeks ago for La nave di Teseo. He will guide us at times in this necessary summary of a year lived dangerously and, too often, unconsciously. The problem is that it is the simplest questions, the most obvious ones, the ones that are often not formulated. For laziness, for lack of interest, for political and ideological reasons. The origin of Sars-CoV-2, the Wuhan coronavirus, is the key question of our time. But, curiously, until a few weeks ago, it was not formulated officially. On the contrary, those who dared to suggest its relevance were treated with the sufficiency that is reserved only for the unfortunates who live in a parallel dimension, made up of plots, conspiracies and obsessions. Or to those who do not yield to the indisputable truth of the Chinese Communist Party and its media and political appendages abroad: interest groups, editorial offices, think tanks.
We at Atlantico Quotidiano have chosen to deal immediately – since February 2020, as the world closed in the face of the advancing pandemic – of the silences and lies of the Chinese regime, of the personal stories of the few who had dared to challenge its censorship, of the alternative hypotheses to the universally accepted one on the genesis and spread of the disease. At the basis of this decision there was not only an instinctive mistrust towards the propaganda of the dictatorship but the awareness that, the more we read, studied and compared data and documents, the less likely the thesis that placed the beginning of the planetary emergency at the inside the Wuhan fish market: a modern metropolis of 11 million inhabitants, in which two of the most important research laboratories in the country operated (and still operate),
Today, more than a year later, the initial version has aged so badly that it is practically not mentioned even by the most ardent defenders of Xi Jinping, while we are witnessing a progressive but inexorable change of perspective in favor of the possible accidental release of the virus. from one of the aforementioned laboratories, specifically from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). It is the same means of communication that had long snubbed this possibility that today offer it to their public as plausible, without however carrying out that necessary exercise of self-criticism which would contribute to making their conversion more credible. On what determined this sudden need for truth after months of conformity, Federico Punzi wrote exhaustively in last Saturday’s issue,
However, if it were a sincere turning point with concrete consequences in the search for the real causes of the pandemic, the exploitation and misappropriation of others’ requests are also welcome. But given the objective difficulties of a now belated investigation, first closed and then reopened by the Biden administration, and the adverse context in which it should take place (China considers it a hostile act), there is to fear the worst: nothing in fact, it cleanses Western consciences, avoids recalling China to its responsibilities and satisfies an easily malleable public opinion. In short, the opposite of the search for truth.
Let’s say right away that no reasoning or clue, however compelling, will ever convince the skeptics or the prejudiced. Probably the definitive proof of the escape from one of the Wuhan laboratories will never be found, it being completely unlikely that the evidence that would show that the WIV or similar research centers were actually developing Sars still exists or is made available by the Chinese authorities. -CoV-2 or its precursor. Having said this, we must concentrate on the possible alternative hypotheses that the scientific community and the political ruling classes are facing at the moment, in order to identify which is the most probable scenario.
In recent months, new elements have emerged, even in the midst of a general ostracism, which strongly lean towards the thesis of the virus leaking from a Wuhan laboratory. But the most important development, which a new study about to be published in the Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery (University of Cambridge) would confirm (authors Dalgleish and Sorensen), is that Sars-CoV-2 would be the result of a series of experiments carried out in the context of research on the enhancement of coronaviruses to test their ability to infect human cells. In short, Covid-19 would have been caused by the accidental release of a virus consciously manipulated and modified in the laboratory during a process technically called gain-of-function.
It is precisely on this that American intelligence has been investigating for some time and this is the perspective that China, with the complicity of the World Health Organization (WHO) and a large group of conveniently tamed scientists, has sought from the beginning. to ward off. But there is more. On the aspects related to the financing of the gain-of-function processes by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), of which he has been director since 1984, Anthony Fauci, the great flogger of the leak theory at the time of Trump, today instead desically more possibilist and forced on the defensive. Because this story seriously risks overwhelming him too.
In fact, from June 2014 to May 2019, the NIAID subsidizes the EcoHealth Alliance, an NGO chaired by the British zoologist Peter Daszak. Daszak turns these funds, about $ 600,000, to Shi Zhengli, now known in the news as a bat-woman, the main head of coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Together with prof. Baric, of North Carolina University, Dr. Shi has focused her research in recent years on the creation of new coronaviruses capable of infecting human cells: they are chimeric viruses, obtained from carcasses of natural viruses through the artificial interposition of genetic structures. Once produced, the engineered viruses are tested on in vitro cell cultures or on “humanized” rats. In short, in short,
The Daszak-Shi tandem will return many times throughout this story. On February 19, 2020, with surprising anticipatory timing, The Lancet magazine publishes a letter signed by a group of virologists in which the theses on the unnatural origin of the coronavirus qualify as “conspiracy theories”. A sort of excusatio non petita promoted and signed by Peter Daszak through the EcoHealth Alliance. A year later, we are in February 2021, as a member of the WHO mission on the sites of the pandemic, Daszak makes it known in the final report that he considers an artificial origin of the virus “highly unlikely” and shifts the focus to a possible and not better specified outbreak originating from “South-East Asia”. Too bad that in December 2019, shortly before the outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan, Daszak himself explained with some satisfaction in an interview how researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had reprogrammed the spike protein and generated chimeric coronaviruses capable of infecting “humanized” mice. Daszak knew what he was talking about. And Fauci also knew this when, back to 2012, he wrote in an article for the American Society for Microbiology that the risks associated with gain-of-function procedures were “amply offset by the benefits of virus manipulation.” Washington, we have a problem. back to 2012, he wrote in an article for the American Society for Microbiology that the risks associated with gain-of-function procedures were “largely offset by the benefits of virus manipulation.” Washington, we have a problem. back to 2012, he wrote in an article for the American Society for Microbiology that the risks associated with gain-of-function procedures were “largely offset by the benefits of virus manipulation.” Washington, we have a problem.
Fifteen months after the onset of the health emergency there is no trace of the natural origin of Sars-CoV-2. There are no confirmed cases of infection among the Chinese population prior to December 2019, there are no records of atypical pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus in areas other than Wuhan before that date, the famous “intermediate host” that would have caused it has not been identified the leap of species. Today we know that the fish market theory is totally discredited and that the pangolin was used as a scapegoat for merely diversionary purposes. Also because Chinese scientists have known since 2013 that coronaviruses can be transmitted directly from bats to humans without the need for intermediate steps.
Fabrizio Gatti, in his book, cites an article in the Nature magazine dated November 28 of that year signed by the usual suspects Daszak and Shi, at the beginning of their collaboration: the two scientists communicate that they have identified the genome of two new coronaviruses, coming from from the horseshoe bats of the Yunnan caves (RsSHC014 and Rs3367), able to exploit the human enzyme ACE2 as a receptor to infect the cell and cause disease. Dr. Shi calls it the “missing link” she has been looking for for ten years and concludes: “(…) direct bat-human infections are a plausible scenario for some coronaviruses.” That’s why a year earlier some copper miners had died from atypical pneumonia contracted in the bat-infested caves of Mojiang, also in Yunnan province, at 1. 500 kilometers from Wuhan. The missing link, another virus genetically similar to Sars-CoV-2 (RaTG13, we’ll talk about it again).
There is a problem, however: that between these coronaviruses and Sars-Cov-2 there is a great similarity but there is no identity. The coronavirus of the three and a half million (official) death pandemic has not currently been isolated in any animal species and, at the present state of knowledge, it is not proven that it exists in nature as such. We need to get there at Sars-Cov-2, through a series of steps and genetic combinations that can occur in the environment in very specific circumstances. Or in the laboratory, thanks to human action. On balance, scientists agree in identifying three types of coronaviruses with a genome similar to that of Sars-Cov-2: the pangolin coronaviruses (isolated in 2017 and 2019), the bat coronaviruses of the SARS family and the RatG13 .
The news that brought world attention to the Wuhan Institute of Virology re-launched the Wall Street Journal last week: according to American intelligence documents, three researchers from the center were reportedly hospitalized at the beginning of November. 2019 with symptoms similar to those of Covid-19. In reality it is not news: last March The Australian had already revealed this circumstance, even if not supported by concrete evidence. It is clear that if two months before the start of the epidemic, cases of disease compatible with the new coronavirus had really been registered in the WIV, the probabilities that the infection originated right inside the laboratory would increase exponentially.
But already at the beginning of the epidemic, the name of Huang Yanling, also a researcher of the WIV, was circulating on the net as a possible patient zero. Since then, traces of her have been lost, her photo has disappeared from the Institute’s database and no one knows where she is or if she is still alive. According to David Asher, former head of the State Department task force in charge of investigating the origin of the coronavirus, the wife of a researcher from the same laboratory died of Covid-19 already in December, anticipating the official confirmation of transmissibility by more than a month. of the disease between people. Speculations, of course, but official silence does not help dispel them.
Let’s get back to the facts, then. FACT N.1
The close relatives of the Sars-CoV-2 (but not the Sars-CoV-2) were located during subsequent expeditions carried out mainly in the caves of Yunnan, 1,500 kilometers from Wuhan. How a Sars-like virus arrived there, incubated in a bat, in the city of coronavirus research laboratories without infecting anyone in the meantime, neither in the vicinity of the caves nor elsewhere
A bat’s flight does not seem likely. In other words: if coronaviruses are born and develop in the mountains of Yunnan, why did the pandemic break out in Wuhan FACT # 2
The genetic structure of Sars-CoV-2 has highlighted from the beginning the predisposition of the virus to adapt to human cells, infecting them, without needing the subsequent steps that characterize zoonoses of natural origin, such as the first Sars. A study by the team led by virologist Alina Chan reads: “When Sars-CoV-2 was first detected in late 2019, it was already pre-adapted to human transmission to a similar extent to the epidemic SARS-CoV in late phase “. A finding that is difficult to associate with natural causes (in any case currently unknown) and completely compatible with cell cultures or the use of humanized mice in gain-of-function experiments. FACT # 3
Furin is an enzyme that activates the spike protein, through a process of splitting its two main units (S1 and S2). In practice it is the decisive element in the cell infection process. Sars-CoV-2 is the only coronavirus of the SARS family that shows a cleavage point perfectly positioned at the two units, so as to make the activator action absolutely precise. It is difficult to hypothesize that this mechanism is the result of a natural process of combination and mutation, also because there is no evidence to this effect in recent virology and even less associated with pathologies compatible with SARS viruses. While, says Dr. Steven Quay, “at least eleven gain-of-function experiments, in which a furin cleavage point is added to make a virus more infectious,
The Italian researcher Rossana Segreto also dwells on the peculiarity of the furin cleavage point. Last November, in collaboration with Yuri Deigin, she published a study which I recommend reading in full. It is the first work, at least among those I have consulted, in which a concrete hypothesis is formulated on the laboratory origin of Sars-CoV-2. According to Segreto and Deigin, the new coronavirus would be the result of the artificial combination (chimera virus) of the structure of a virus similar to RaTG13 (remember the miners of Yunnan
) with the RDB vector isolated in pangolins, a necessary and in this case sufficient tool for the first binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the human ACE2 cellular receptor. This would also explain another peculiarity of the new coronavirus, namely the uniqueness of the sequence of amino acids that determine the protein substance, which would have been specially modified so that the two components were compatible (on the same line the virologist Giorgio Palu, of the University of Padua). FACT # 4
Dalgleish and Sorensen also focus on furin and the exceptional characteristics of amino acids, able to take root in the cell like a magnet, increasing the infectious potential in their forthcoming study. However, the two scholars also introduce another element that throws a disturbing light on the WIV experiments: after the outbreak of the pandemic, Chinese virologists would have “retro-designed” the Sars-CoV-2 in order to credit its natural origin. The probable reference, which we also find in the work of Segreto and Deigin, is the sudden introduction in the WIV database and in the international one – we are at the beginning of 2020 – of a strain of the virus isolated seven years earlier, that RaTG13 already more times quoted. Because it is important
First of all because it is not known why from 2013 to 2020 Dr. Shi Zhengli and her staff did not consider it appropriate to make its existence known. Secondly, because, from that moment, the RaTG13 becomes the closest officially recognized relative of Sars-CoV2, ousting the precursors ZXC21 and ZC45, isolated in 2015 and 2017 by the People’s Liberation Army technicians.
From facts to assumptions: by relating what has just been described with the work of Rossana Segreto, it is likely to hypothesize that the WIV did not mention the RaTG13 as it was precisely the virus that was being used in the gain-of function processes
And, as for her belated and hasty revelation, it is reasonable to think that Dr. Shi, aware of the risk of being held accountable for the spread of a manipulated pathogen, resorted to a virus identified more than seven years earlier in a mine in Yunnan to divert attention to a possible direct (and therefore natural) transmission from bat to man
The lesser evil, in that case. The fact is that the RaTG13 is adopted as a standard by the WHO, by official science, by governments and obviously by the Chinese regime, of which Shi Zhengli is a faithful official. However, the usual double problem remains open: that RaTG13 is not yet Sars-CoV2 (it just looks like it) and that the direct bat-man passage still fails to explain the peculiarities of furin and the amino acid chain. There is again a missing passage. FACT # 5
The participation of the military in the hunt for coronaviruses deserves a long separate chapter. Let’s see only the essential aspects. In the same years that Shi Zhengli and his aides are engaged in Yunnan, scientists from the Third Military Medical University (a direct emanation of the Chinese army) are sent to Daishan County, not far from Shanghai. It is there that they discover two new coronaviruses of the SARS family, the aforementioned ZXC21 and ZC45. They take them to the Command of the Military Research Institute of Nanjing where, at the end of a series of experiments, they verify that these pathogens – which will later reveal a close relationship with Sars-Cov-2 (except in the decisive factor of adaptability to human cells) – they are capable of attacking the brain cells of mice as well. A direct leap of species,
The question, however, is political: why the People’s Liberation Army is directly involved in the research and development of new viruses
According to David Asher, Sars-CoV-2 emerged precisely in the course of experiments on vaccines to be used as an antidote in the event of attacks with biological weapons. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutger University and a staunch critic of the safety conditions of Chinese laboratories, says that institutes like the WIV would always be destined for dual use, civil and military. But the virologist Li-Meng Yan, forced to emigrate to the United States following threats from the Beijing government, insisted more strongly on military involvement in the development of lethal coronaviruses. The thesis that she has kept up to now at the risk of her own safety is that Sars-CoV-2 is a synthetic sequence that starts from the bat coronavirus and reaches humans through a series of manipulations carried out in the laboratory:
But Li-Meng Yan goes further. The new coronavirus would be a biological weapon with three essential characteristics to fulfill its function: direct contagion between humans, high resistance to medium-environmental conditions, the possibility of transmission through asymptomatic patients. What is certain is that, in the long chain that leads from the collection of samples in the bat caves to the worldwide spread of Sars-Cov-2, the Chinese armed forces have played a leading role. It is no coincidence that at the end of January 2020, the General of the People’s Liberation Army, Chen Wei, a specialist in biological warfare, was sent to Wuhan to effectively direct the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the midst of Covid-19 storms. FACT # 6
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has a Level 4 Biosafety Laboratory (BSL-4), the most airtight of all. Inaugurated in 2017, in a joint venture with France, modeled on the P4-Inserm laboratory in Lyon, the flagship of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. How can a lethal virus escape from such a fortress
Perhaps because the gain-of function experiments do not take place in the BSL-4 but in a BSL-2 or a BSL-3. How do we know this
Shi Zhengli herself tells us this in a recent written interview with the journal Science, when in commenting on the level 4 activities she acknowledges that: “The research on coronaviruses in our institute is conducted in the BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories”. In 2018, US Embassy officials visiting WIV reported that “the new laboratory has a serious shortage of adequately trained technicians and investigators necessary to operate safely”.
But the most sensational and most sensationally silenced denunciation comes from the very heart of the WIV and is the work of Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosecurity Laboratory, in practice the head of Shi Zhengli. Fabrizio Gatti reports this in a chapter of his book dedicated to “The threat of Chinese laboratories”. On October 24, 2019, two months before the official outbreak of the pandemic, Dr. Yuan delivers a scientific article in which he debunks the safety myth of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the other 53 biosecurity laboratories active in China: inadequate control systems, insufficient resources for the operation of the laboratories, lack of professional skills. The document falls silent, until – on February 16, 2020 – in the midst of the pangolin emergency the Global Times strangely published an editorial with the significant title of “Biosecurity guidelines to solve chronic flaws in the management of virus laboratories”. When it comes to timing. An internal warning, before covering the core of the irradiation
Meanwhile, Yuan Zhiming is normalized and he is entrusted with the reply to the article of the WSJ on sick researchers. Rossana Segreto writes, in conclusion of the aforementioned paper:
“It is possible to hypothesize a series of scenarios that cause Sars-CoV-2 to escape from a laboratory. For example, an infected animal could have escaped or it could have scratched or bitten a worker (…), or a researcher could have accidentally inoculated the virus. Until 2020, CoVs weren’t considered particularly lethal or virulent. SARS-like CoVs did not require BSL-4 and could be handled under BSL-2 and BSL-3 conditions, making accidental leakage more likely. Aerosol experiments with CoVs could also lead to laboratory leaks (…). Finally, the virus could potentially have leaked through the sewage system if the correct waste disposal and / or decontamination procedures had not been followed ”.
Accidents happen, and not only in China, where they are quite frequent. In 2004, two students from China’s National Institute of Virology Laboratory (NIVL) in Beijing became infected with the SARS virus and caused an outbreak that was quickly contained. But there is a case closer to us, less well known. It concerns another pathogen, the brucellosis bacterium, which leaks from the Veterinary Research Institute in Lanzhou, in the north-west of the country. Ninety-six students and researchers infected in a level 3 biosecurity laboratory, at the end of November 2019.
Three months later, already in full Covid-19 emergency, the scientific dissemination site ResearchGate publishes a short article by two researchers from Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology, Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao (we wrote about it at the time). The content is explosive and anticipatory, which is why the document is withdrawn after a few hours. Botao and Lei note the proximity of the other laboratory where coronavirus are studied in Wuhan (the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention – WHCDC) with the Union Hospital, where the first cases of infected doctors were recorded: “It is plausible – they conclude – that the virus has entered circulation and that some doctors have infected the first patients “. Their conclusions are peremptory:
“In summary, someone has been involved in the evolutionary process of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus. (…) The killer coronavirus probably comes from a laboratory in Wuhan. It may be necessary to strengthen the safety level of high biohazard laboratories. It is advisable to move the laboratories away from the city center and other densely populated places ”.
Official silence also falls on their complaint, as on those of the doctors and activists in the meantime already fallen from grace (Ai Fen, who first sounded the alarm, now invalid following a strange eye operation that ended badly, and Li Wenliang , who relaunched the news of the first cases of atypical pneumonia on WeChat and a few days later died of Covid-19 in a hospital bed where he worked).
In the light of the facts presented, it can be concluded that in order not to contemplate the possibility of an escape from the laboratory it was necessary to cover one’s eyes, mouth and ears. And this is what many have done in these months of the pandemic. No, it is not irrelevant that the disease that brought the world to its knees resulted from an error in a Chinese laboratory, and not only because the confirmation of this circumstance would imply a huge global backlash for China, the Party Communist and its leader. It is not, especially if related to the systematic work of concealment, misdirection, censorship and disinformation that the Beijing regime has implemented since the first days of the emergency, creating the conditions for its global expansion: the delay in confirming the first cases , the elimination of samples and compromising documents,
A picture of grave responsibility emerges in what has turned out to be one of the greatest massacres of civilians in peacetime. But also of co-responsibility: of those who knew and kept silent out of interest, of those who funded potentially dangerous experiments in inadequate structures, of a scientific community that has failed in its duty to consider all the options on the table to get as close as possible to an objective truth, of a press unable to overcome its ideological prejudices, of a political class that has preferred not to ruin relations with an emerging great power, of a public opinion that has given up asking questions. Accident or not, this is the story of an infinite error that immediately took on the appearance of a crime.
Article published on Atlantico Quotidiano, here the full version.
Because everything we know about the pandemic leads more and more to the hypothesis that it was caused by an engineered virus and then leaked from the laboratories of Wuhan. The in-depth analysis by Enzo Reale for Atlantico Quotidiano