A Canadian molecular biologist on Wednesday told cross-party members (MPs) of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that a leak from a laboratory in China’s Wuhan region is now a possible source of the Kovid-19 global epidemic. Dr. Alina Chan, an expert in gene therapy and cell engineering and co-author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, told a parliamentary panel of scientific research evidence that the epidemic was caused by unique features. The coronavirus is called the Furin Cleavage site, which is affiliated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
When asked by the panel about the possibility of a lab being leaked as a source of the epidemic, Chan said that at this time a lab source is more likely than a natural source. We all agree that there was a critical event at the Huanan Seafood Market, which was a man-made superspreader event. There is no evidence to point to the natural source of the virus in that market, he noted.
On the question of his level of confidence that the world would finally be able to establish the true source of COVID-19, Chan said it was only a matter of time. At the moment, it is not safe for those who know the origin of this epidemic to come forward. It may be five years from now, it may be 50 years from now, but we are living in an age where a lot of information is being collected and stored … we just need a credible, systematic investigation, he said.
Regarding whether the virus was modified in a lab before it was leaked, Chan said: “We’ve heard from many top virologists that the genetically engineered origin of this virus is reasonable… including the virologists who first mutated the SARS virus themselves.” We now know that this virus has a very unique feature, called furine cleavage site, which makes it an epidemic pathogen. So, without this feature, there is no way to create this epidemic.
“Only in September a proposal was leaked that showed that scientists from the EcoHealth Alliance, in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, were developing the pipeline. The work could lead to an investigation into SARS-COV2, the virus behind COVID-19, and documents provided by the US-based EcoHealth Alliance.
His co-author, Lord Matt Ridley, was asked similar questions about the lab leak theory, and he agreed with Chan’s claim that it was more likely not to be the cause of the epidemic. We have to face the fact that two months later we knew the source of SARS through the market and a few months later we knew the source of MERS through camels. In this case, two years later we still have not found a single infected animal that could be the ancestor of this epidemic; It’s amazing, he said.
Ridley, along with Chan, agrees that any leaks were probably an accident because he sought out scientists a few years ago to bring viruses like SARS back to Uhan for testing. It must be taken seriously. It is unfortunate that in 2020 there was a pretty systematic attempt to close this issue, he noted.
Ridley added: “We need to find a way to prevent further epidemics.” We need to know whether we should tighten the work in our laboratories or the rules related to the sale of wildlife in the market. At the moment we are not really doing that. We also need to know how to stop bad actors who are watching this episode and thinking that revealing an epidemic is something they can get away with.
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet Medical Journal, also agrees that the lab leak theory behind COVID-19 is a hypothesis that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated, as noted by the World Health Organization (WHO). The evidence session forms part of the “Reproducibility and Integrity of Research” inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee, which is expected to produce its results in 2022.
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