Does the origin of SARS-CoV-2 matter? Yes, it does. The reason it matters is because if the virus responsible for COVID-19 and the subsequent response to it came from a lab, then we need to reassess the future of so-called gain-of-function research that allows for the weaponization of viruses.
As you might expect, thereâ€™s big money involved in this kind of research, so it shouldnâ€™t come as a surprise that vested interests would try to cover up its origin, were it indeed a lab creation, simply to protect their funding and future careers.1 Whatâ€™s surprising, however, is the finding that a top medical journal appears to have aided and abetted efforts to hide SARS-CoV-2â€™s origin.
Top Medical Journal Caught in Massive Cover-up
According to Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, SARS-CoV-2 has not evolved in the manner youâ€™d expect had it jumped from an animal to a human.
It sprang into action fully evolved for human transmission, leading Chan to conclude that the missing intermediate phase of evolution from animal to human transmissibility must have taken place in a lab. Chan published her theory,2 â€œSARS-CoV-2 Is Well Adapted for Humans. What Does This Mean for Re-Emergence?â€� on the preprint server bioRxiv May 2, 2020.
But thereâ€™s more, much more, as it now appears the top medical journal Nature has allowed authors to secretly alter data sets in their papers without publishing notices of correction.
Chan Questions Scientific Sequence of Events
In an extensive October 25, 2020, Twitter thread,3,4 Chan lays out an intriguing timeline in which she details key publications related to the origin and genetic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2.
â€œEven today, I still hear people saying that SARS-CoV-2 came from pangolins and a Seafood market in Wuhan. I hope this analysis will help to clear things up. It will refresh us on significant early pandemic events and major publications discussing the origins of the virus,â€� Chan writes.5
In her Twitter thread, Chan goes through the sequence of scientific papers published relating to SARS-CoV-2, showing how a small group of researchers have been involved in writing key papers that describe the original data on either bat or pangolin coronaviruses that are closely related to SARS-CoV-2.
Below is a summary of that timeline. I’ve also included one of Chanâ€™s many graphs at the end that visually illustrates these details. Of particular note is the cross-publication by certain authors.
If you find the whole thing confusing, youâ€™re not alone. It is complex (and it almost feels like itâ€™s meant to be so muddled that people wonâ€™t be able to figure out the truth), but if you really want to dig into the details, I recommend carefully going through Chanâ€™s Twitter thread6 where you have both graphic illustrations and text walking you through each twist and turn.
October 24, 2019, the first key paper7 was published in the journal Viruses. The authors were Ping Liu, Wu Chen and Jin-Ping Chen. December 12, 2019, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, and January 12, 2020, the first SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence was published.
January 20, 2020, China confirmed human-to-human transmission. That same day, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) researchers (Zhou et. al.) submitted a paper to the journal Nature detailing the genome of SARS-CoV-2, as well as the genome of a bat virus called RaTG13, which is 96% identical to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
RaTG13 is the most closely related virus to SARS-CoV-2, and was discovered by the WIV in 2013 after it was reported that six miners had contracted a mysterious viral infection that resulted in severe pneumonia. Three of the miners died.
January 22, 2020, Chinese officials said the virus likely spread from animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan. That same day, Liu et. al. reuploaded the pangolin virus data into the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database that was originally published in the journal Viruses October 24, 2019. â€œWhy? Are the two datasets identical?â€� Chan asks.
January 31, 2020, China admitted none of the animals at the Wuhan seafood market tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Then, during the week of February 7 through February 14, 2020, four separate papers are submitted to three journals:
- Nature, Lam et. al.
- Nature, Xiao et. al.
- Current Biology, Zheng et. al.
- PLOS Pathology, Liu et. al.
All four papers describe a pangolin coronavirus that shares a very similar spike receptor-binding domain with SARS-CoV-2. Liu is the co-author of two of these papers, one Nature paper and the PLOS Pathology paper.
Whatâ€™s more, all four of these papers â€œrelied heavily or solely on the Liu et al. Viruses paper,â€� Chan notes. Interestingly, Xiao et. al.â€™s Nature paper â€œrenamed samples, failed to attribute them properly,â€� and â€œproduced a profile that did not match any sample in their paper,â€� Chan writes.
Liuâ€™s PLOS Pathogen paper was also missing data. All four manuscripts were posted on the preprint server bioRxiv between February 18 and 20, 2020, sending â€œthe public into a frenzy, speculating that pangolins were the intermediate hosts who had given SARS2 to humans in a Wuhan wet market,â€� Chan writes.
March 17, 2020, Current Biology released a preprint of a paper describing a bat virus, RmYN02, that closely resembles SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine also published correspondence proposing SARS-CoV-2 is of natural origin. Both of these papers share an author with Lam et. al., which was submitted to Nature February 7, 2020.
Between January 29, 2020, and May 6, 2020, four different papers were accepted by scientific journals even though they did not share amplicon data, and some didnâ€™t even report the raw data that scientists would need to independently assemble the published genomes.
May 19, 2020, Zhou et. al. deposited amplicon data for RaTG13, which most closely resembles SARS-CoV-2, onto the NCBI without explanation. Zhou et. al. had initially submitted their paper to Nature January 20, 2020.
This new data revealed that the sample had actually been sequenced in 2017 and 2018 â€” not post-COVID-19 as Zhouâ€™s Nature paper suggested. Whatâ€™s more, the new data also did not match the already published RaTG13 genome sequence, and no explanation for this discrepancy was given. So, â€œwhich private virus database had these sequences been stored in for years?â€� And are there â€œother SARS viruses we donâ€™t know about?â€� Chan asks.
May 25, 2020, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control announced the seafood market may not be the site of spillover (transmission from animal to human) as initially thought.
Studies Updated Without Notice of Correction
A month later, June 22, 2020, Liu et. al. posted a new paper describing a pangolin virus on the preprint server bioRxiv.
The paper shares authors with the Nature Medicine paper (touting a proximal origins theory), Current Biology (which proposed a natural insertion theory) and both of the Nature papers (which draw parallels to a pangolin coronavirus). And, since the two Nature papers were based on Liuâ€™s Viruses paper, this new preprint paper also ties back to Liuâ€™s original Virus paper.
The same day, a new pangolin sample was added to Xiao et. alâ€™s already published Nature paper, even though this sample had not been described, in any way, in the original paper (submitted February 16, 2020). Instead, this new sample resembled that found in Liuâ€™s June 22 preprint paper.
July 7, 2020, Chan preprinted her findings that the pangolin virus genomes shown in the four papers (two Nature papers, Current Biology and PLOS Pathology) were based on data and samples from the same batch of pangolins collected in March 2019 in Guangdong, and that key data points were inaccurately reported by Xiao in Nature and Liu in PLOS Pathogens. According to Chan, â€œNature was notified about the potentially duplicated and unattributed pangolin sample.â€�
July 24, 2020, the WIV confirmed RaTG13 was not a novel virus. Its genome had actually been published in 2016, at which time it was named btCoV-4991.
The original sample had been sequenced again in 2018, at which time the sample was used up, leaving nothing for independent verification once SARS-CoV-2 broke out. In other words, RaTG13 was actually btCoV-4991, and had been known since 2016. Chan writes:
â€œThis raised questions about why RaTG13 had been inaccurately reported and attributed in Zhou et. al. in Nature, and even the recent review by Shi in Nature Reviews Microbiology. As well as its connections to mysterious SARS-like cases in 2012, Yunnan, investigated by top Chinese labs.â€�
In August 2020, Current Biology was notified about the missing data (both raw and amplicon) for RmYN02. The paper made the authors share the raw data, but the amplicon data remains missing, so the published genome for RmYn02 still cannot be independently assembled.
By September 2020, scientists were starting to point out that there was a mismatch between the RaTG13 genome and the raw data and the amplicon data. Then, October 13, 2020, Zhou et. al. (Nature) updated the RaTG13 genome data on NCBI for the second time, again without explanation for how the mismatch had occurred or how the sample had been processed.
Critical Data Still Missing
At the end of her Twitter thread, Chan notes:8
â€œIt’s very frustrating that critical information on SARS2 origins is coming out almost on a need-to-know basis. And we have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes among the journals, authors, peer reviewers.
Where are we today? The published GD pangolin CoV genome and RmYN02 genome still cannot be independently assembled because of data not shared with the pubic. Isnâ€™t it important to get this data from the authors?
We still donâ€™t understand how the original RaTG13 genome did not match the raw amplication data. More importantly, why RaTG13 sample history was inaccurately reported by Zhou et. al. @Nature and why a correction to the paper hasnâ€™t been issued despite public admission RaTG13 = 4991.â€�
Why Was Database Taken Offline?
In related news, an October 12, 2020, article9 by Annette Gartland in Changing Times, an independent journalism site, highlights yet another anomaly. She writes:
â€œWorking behind the scenes, there is a team of scientists, journalists, and other independent researchers who refer to themselves collectively as DRASTIC (Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating Covid-19). They investigate anomalies in the narratives about SARS-CoV-2, collect and present evidence, and put forward questions and hypotheses.
One of the issues raised by the DRASTIC team is the fact that a database containing unpublished information about the sequencing of samples collected by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on trips to an abandoned copper mine in Yunnan has been taken offline.â€�
The samples sheâ€™s referring to are those from the bat cave in Yunnan, China, where six miners contracted a pneumonia-like illness in 2013. Three died. All exhibited symptoms now associated with COVID-19.
The virus identified in those samples was the btCoV-4991 bat virus initially published by WIV researchers in 2016 and later renamed RaTG13, which is 96% identical to SARS-CoV-2. Considering how important it is to correctly identify the source of SARS-CoV-2, why was the database containing unpublished data about btCoV-4991/ RaTG13 taken offline?
Many Scientists Argue for Manmade Origin
Gartland goes on to review some of the leading hypotheses brought forth by scientists who do not buy the natural evolution theory, including Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilsonâ€™s theory, reviewed in my interview with Latham, featured in â€œCover-Up of SARS-CoV-2 Origin?â€�
The work of researchers Birger Sorensen, Angus Dalgleish and Andres Susrud, who point out that 78.4% of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein has human-like domains with matured transmission adaption. In other words, the virus is remarkably well-adapted for human infection.
Sorensen, Dalgleish and Susrud are particularly concerned about how the features of SARS-CoV-2 might impact vaccine safety, as its high similarity to humans â€œimplies a high risk for the development of severe adverse events/toxicity and even Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) unless specific precautions are taken when using the spike protein in any vaccine candidate.â€�10
Aside from Latham/Wilson and Sorensen/Dalgleish/Susrud, many other experts in various fields have also presented arguments for a manmade or laboratory origin for SARS-CoV-2, including but not limited to:
Professor Giuseppe Tritto, an internationally recognized expert in bio and nanotechnology. Heâ€™s also the president of the World Academy of Biomedical Sciences and Technology, founded under UNESCO.
According to Tritto, author of the newly released book, â€œChina COVID-19: The Chimera That Changed the World,â€�11 SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered in WIV in a program supervised by the Chinese military. He believes the creation of SARS-CoV-2 began in the aftermath of the 2003 SARS epidemic, when Chinese researchers started working on a SARS vaccine. The scientist in charge of that Wuhan Institute of Virology program was Shi Zhengli, Ph.D.
Tritto claims Shi used reverse genetics to produce a SARS-like virus with increased pathogenicity with the help from the French Pasteur Institute, which showed her how to insert a segment of the HIV virus into a horseshoe bat coronavirus.12
Australian researcher Nickolai Petrovsky and his team has sought to identify a way by which these animals might have co-mingled to give rise to SARS-CoV-2. Their conclusion was that it could not be a naturally-occurring virus.
Petrovskyâ€™s team points out you can alter a virus in a laboratory, without genetic engineering, by growing it in different kinds of animal cells. To adapt it to humans, you would then grow the virus in cells that have the human ACE2 receptor. Over time, the virus can thereby adapt and gain the ability to bind to that receptor.13,14
Dr. Michael Antoniou is a London-based molecular geneticist who has noted that enhanced-infectivity viruses can be engineered in the lab without using a previously used virus backbone.
Using a method called â€œdirected iterative evolutionary selection process,â€� you can generate â€œa large number of randomly mutated versions of the SARS-CoV spike protein receptor,â€� and then to select those protein receptors most effective at infecting human cells. If this technique was used, there would be no trace of the virus having been genetically engineered or manipulated.15
Dr. Richard Ebright is an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University who has pointed out that both U.S. and Chinese researchers have genetically engineered bat coronaviruses using methods that â€œleave no sign or signature of human manipulation.â€�16
Dr. Meryl Nass, who in 1992 published a paper17 in which she identified the 1978-1980 Zimbabwe anthrax outbreak as a case of biological warfare, also isnâ€™t buying the all-natural argument. In an April 2, 2020, blog post, she detailed several different ways by which a virus can be altered to produce a new, more virulent version.18
Chris Martenson,19 who has a Ph.D. in pathology, in the video below details the science behind his assertion that SARS-CoV-2 must have undergone laboratory manipulation. I also did a write-up on this in â€œThe Smoking Gun Proving SARS-CoV-2 Is an Engineered Virus.â€�
Canadian researchers Shing Hei Zhan, Benjamin E. Deverman and Yuji Alina Chan, from the Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Research Center at the University of British Columbia, published a study in May 2020, in which they note:20
Lancet COVID-19 Commission Is Compromised
In my opinion, the strongest pieces of evidence all point toward SARS-CoV-2 being a laboratory creation. How it got released, however, is anyoneâ€™s guess. Now, The Lancet has organized a COVID-19 Commission, charged with investigating the origins of SARS-CoV-2 so that the matter can conclusively be put to rest.
Alas, this Commission is clearly compromised from the start, seeing how itâ€™s being led by Dr. Peter Daszak,21 a scientist who has already concluded the virus is natural.
As the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, Daszak is also steeped in conflicts of interest, seeing how EcoHealth Alliance received grants from the National Institutes of Health for coronavirus research that was then subcontracted to the WIV. He has every reason to make sure SARS-CoV-2 ends up being declared natural, because if it turns out to be a lab-creation, his own livelihood is at stake.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, safeguarding the continuation of dangerous gain-of-function research is a powerful motivator to preserve the zoonotic origin narrative.