The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

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The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Woodchopper » Wed May 05, 2021 10:01 pm

I haven’t had time to read this article yet. But it’s been recommended by someone who is usually sensible and the publication is respected if somewhat obscure.

https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-ori ... -at-wuhan/

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by monkey » Wed May 05, 2021 11:37 pm

I had a look at it, saw how long it is, did a tl;dr.

I did notice the author though. Think it's the same Nicholas Wade who wrote "A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History", which was roundly poo-pooed for being racist by anyone who seemed to have the Knowings of Things.

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu May 06, 2021 12:30 am

It's a persuasively written piece. I will confess that the general behaviour of the Chinese regime doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

I'm no virologist, but when he starts talking about the ecology of natural spillovers (to dismiss the hypothesis) he gets a lot of basic stuff wrong. e.g.:
Beta-coronaviruses, the family of bat viruses to which SARS2 belongs, infect the horseshoe bat Rhinolophus affinis, which ranges across southern China. The bats’ range is 50 kilometers, so it’s unlikely that any made it to Wuhan. In any case, the first cases of the COVID-19 pandemic probably occurred in September, when temperatures in Hubei province are already cold enough to send bats into hibernation.
Beta-coronavirus infect all sorts of things, not just Rhinolophus affinis. Camels, hedgehogs, mice, cows, civets and various genera of bat.

Also, a lot of bats are migratory, but there's hardly any data on migratory movements of east Asian bats. I'd find a northward migration in autumn surprising, but life does occasionally surprise. (Plus, of course, the whole trade in wildlife meat thing.)
What if the bat viruses infected some intermediate host first? You would need a longstanding population of bats in frequent proximity with an intermediate host, which in turn must often cross paths with people. All these exchanges of virus must take place somewhere outside Wuhan, a busy metropolis which so far as is known is not a natural habitat of Rhinolophus bat colonies.
Busy metropoles often have sizable bat populations. They are fond of rooftops with gaps in, and insects. I've surveyed Rhinolophus coming out of buildings countless times.

The Wiki page for the genus says:
They roost in a variety of places, including buildings, caves, tree hollows, and foliage. They occur in both forested and unforested habitat,[17] with the majority of species occurring in tropical or subtropical areas.[9] For the species that hibernate, they select caves with an ambient temperature of approximately 11 °C (52 °F).[45]
So it's really not so unlikely that they'd be in Wuhan. I bet if I actually googled I could find examples of urban horseshoe bat roosts in China, probably in Wuhan. (Plus, of course, the whole trade in wildlife meat thing.)


He makes the circumstantial virology sound very convincing, as a decent writer can. Is his virology solid?
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Woodchopper » Fri May 14, 2021 7:46 pm

Investigate the origins of COVID-19
Letter published in Science by 18 scientists.

more investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic. Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable. Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.

[...]

As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general (5), the United States and 13 other countries (6), and the European Union (7) that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve. We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data. A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest. Public health agencies and research laboratories alike need to open their records to the public. Investigators should document the veracity and provenance of data from which analyses are conducted and conclusions drawn, so that analyses are reproducible by independent experts.
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/ ... 694.1.full

Press coverage

https://www.reuters.com/business/health ... 021-05-14/

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by bob sterman » Mon May 24, 2021 9:13 am

Wall Street Journal is reporting that a US intelligence report claims that 3 researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became "sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care"...

https://www.wsj.com/articles/intelligen ... 1621796228

The Institute of Virology is not next door to the seafood market - so I think lab workers picking up something while popping out for lunch there is not likely to be the explanation.

But as is pointed out later in the article - apparently in China it's not unusual for people to go straight to a hospital when ill rather than see a GP. So this might not be that significant.

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by dyqik » Wed May 26, 2021 12:40 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 9:13 am

But as is pointed out later in the article - apparently in China it's not unusual for people to go straight to a hospital when ill rather than see a GP. So this might not be that significant.
It's normal in the US as well. Only those rich enough to afford low deductable health insurance go to the GP. Assuming that there is one in their county.

So obviously it seems weird to WSJ writers.

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by bob sterman » Sat May 29, 2021 12:03 pm

Apparently there's a new paper about to appear in Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 arose from "gain of function" research...

https://metro.co.uk/2021/05/29/covid-19 ... -14672640/

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Millennie Al » Sat May 29, 2021 11:52 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Sat May 29, 2021 12:03 pm
Apparently there's a new paper about to appear in Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 arose from "gain of function" research...

https://metro.co.uk/2021/05/29/covid-19 ... -14672640/
From that, there's a link to the Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... laims.html which has some images of parts of the paper (aumsingly, with "EMBARGOED UNTIL PUBLICATION" across them). It seems it's called "A reconstructed historical aetiology of the SARC-Coronavirus-2 Spike" and will appear in QRB Discovery (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/qrb-discovery). Is it common for scientists to give exclusive interviews to the Daily Mail before their papers are published? I think I'll wait to read the real thing.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by raven » Tue Jun 01, 2021 12:24 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Sat May 29, 2021 12:03 pm
Apparently there's a new paper about to appear in Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 arose from "gain of function" research...

https://metro.co.uk/2021/05/29/covid-19 ... -14672640/
From the article it doesn't sound much different from what they published in 2020. Fullfact looked at that:

https://fullfact.org/health/richard-dea ... us-claims/

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sat Jun 19, 2021 2:06 pm

Piece in the Graun saying that the preponderance of evidence favours natural spillover. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/ ... eak-theory

Very frustrating that China's been restricting access to market workers. Presumably it was full of all sorts of smuggled endangered wildlife that authorities were tolerating in breach of international agreements, but in trying to suppress that open secret they've unwittingly fanned the flames of a wilder conspiracy theory.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by raven » Sun Jun 20, 2021 11:59 am

From that article:
But Robertson says the fact that Wuhan is a city is explanation enough. Unlike the rural areas where the virus might have infected people previously, Wuhan has the population density – 11 million people – to sustain an outbreak.
Yeah, my gut feeling all along has been that if it spilt over somewhere rural, caused a few local cases that got missed, and then someone perhaps asymptomatic carried it into Wuhan, it would be very hard to track it back. And with China unwilling to be transparent, we might never have definite proof of something like that.

Nice to see that article also mentions an increase in wild meat trading after the culling of pigs in China due to the swine flu outbreak.

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Sep 24, 2021 1:04 pm

Big news piece in Science on this. As more evidence comes to light, it's increasingly strengthening the zoonosis hypothesis, and weakening the lab-leak one.

https://www.science.org/content/article ... d-lab-leak

For instance:
One specific finding bolsters that case, Wang says. The [WHO] report describes how scientists took many samples from floors, walls, and other surfaces at Wuhan markets and were able to culture two viruses isolated from Huanan. That shows the market was bursting with virus, Wang says: “In my career, I have never been able to isolate a coronavirus from an environmental sample.”

The report also contained a major error: It claimed there were “no verified reports of live mammals being sold around 2019” at Huanan and other markets linked to early cases. A surprising study published in June by Zhou Zhao-Min of China West Normal University and colleagues challenged that view. It found nearly 50,000 animals from 38 species, most alive, for sale at 17 shops at Huanan and three other Wuhan markets between May 2017 and November 2019. (The researchers had surveyed the markets as part of a study of a tick-borne disease afflicting animals.)

Live animals can more easily transmit a respiratory virus than meat from a butchered one, and the animals included masked palm civets, the main species that transmitted SARS-CoV to humans, and raccoon dogs, which also naturally harbored that virus and have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 in lab experiments. Minks—a species farmed for fur that has acquired SARS-CoV-2 infections from humans in many countries— were also abundant. “None of the 17 shops posted an origin certificate or quarantine certificate, so all wildlife trade was fundamentally illegal,” Zhou and his colleagues wrote in their paper. (Zhou did not respond to emails from Science.)

It’s unclear why the international members of the WHO joint mission were not told about the live market mammals by their Chinese counterparts. “I’m really disappointed that came out after [the report],” says WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove, who acknowledges contributing to the oversight herself because she mistakenly ignored a draft of the paper that the authors sent her when they first submitted it in October 2020.

Worobey says the paper played a key role in tilting his thinking away from the lab-origin hypothesis. “The fact that early [COVID-19] cases were linked to the market, and that the market was selling what were very likely intermediate hosts?” he says. “All of that is probably trying to tell us something.”
I think it's pretty clear that the pandemic arose due to the appalling biosecurity standards in China's farming and trade of live animals, that the Chinese authorities know this, and are trying to avoid international pressure and loss of face by hiding evidence and spreading FUD.

Getting through 50+ million animals a year just for pelts is obscenely risky. It's not like China can't manufacture fabrics.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Chris Preston » Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:06 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Sep 24, 2021 1:04 pm

Getting through 50+ million animals a year just for pelts is obscenely risky. It's not like China can't manufacture fabrics.
The animals sold in these markets are mostly for food.

China has downplayed the size and impact of the wild food trade as a way of not losing face through admitting that it was their failure to deal with this problem resulted in COVID-19 spilling over from the markets. Unfortunately, the outcome has been people focussing on a leak from WIV. One of the unintended consequences of trying to hide things.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Millennie Al » Sun Sep 26, 2021 1:49 am

Chris Preston wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:06 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Sep 24, 2021 1:04 pm

Getting through 50+ million animals a year just for pelts is obscenely risky. It's not like China can't manufacture fabrics.
The animals sold in these markets are mostly for food.

China has downplayed the size and impact of the wild food trade as a way of not losing face through admitting that it was their failure to deal with this problem resulted in COVID-19 spilling over from the markets. Unfortunately, the outcome has been people focussing on a leak from WIV. One of the unintended consequences of trying to hide things.
One of the important factors is the number of live animals sold. Live animals can spread diseases better than dead ones. While China has made huge advances at the end of the 20th century, it does not yet have a meat trade where almost all meat is slaughtered in specialist locations, with expert inspections and supervision, and with the resulting meat being kept fresh by refrigeration while being transported to the end user.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by apogee » Sun Sep 26, 2021 10:56 am

Peter Daszak and Shi Zhengli both claimed there was no gain of function research at Wuhan but we know that is not true.

'...we do know one thing now beyond debate: speculative “gain-of-function” experiments on mutant bat viruses were taking place in Wuhan laboratories.

This research, carried out in labs that did not have maximum level of biosafety, was increasing the infectivity of laboratory-created diseases by constructing chimeric coronaviruses — despite strong denial of such practices by the key Chinese scientists. And the bio-engineering was being funded by United States taxpayers — channelled through a charity run by a British scientist — despite similar denials from America’s most senior public health officials that they supported such science fiction activities in Chinese labs.
...
900 pages of documents [obtained by Freedom of information request] detailing two research grants in 2014 and 2019 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to EcoHealth Alliance.
...
Analysis of these papers show US funds supported construction of new chimeric Sars-related coronaviruses, which combined a spike gene from one with genetic material from another — and then showed the resulting creation could infect human cells and mice engineered to display human-type receptors on their cells.

One new virus had increased pathogenicity over the original virus and three new viruses increased viral load in lung tissues up to ten thousandfold, which is most definitely “enhanced activity.” As scientists pointed out to me, these results demonstrated increased pathogenicity of SARSr-CoVs with different spike proteins in humanised mouse models.'

https://unherd.com/2021/09/is-this-proo ... -cover-up/

This was from The Telegraph a few days ago:
'Wuhan scientists were planning to release enhanced airborne coronaviruses into Chinese bat populations to inoculate them against diseases that could jump to humans, leaked grant proposals dating from 2018 show.

New documents show that just 18 months before the first Covid-19 cases appeared, researchers had submitted plans to release skin-penetrating nanoparticles containing “novel chimeric spike proteins” of bat coronaviruses into cave bats in Yunnan, China.

They also planned to create chimeric viruses, genetically enhanced to infect humans more easily, and requested $14million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to fund the work.

Papers, confirmed as genuine by a former member of the Trump administration, show they were hoping to introduce “human-specific cleavage sites” to bat coronaviruses which would make it easier for the virus to enter human cells.

When Covid-19 was first genetically sequenced, scientists were puzzled about how the virus had evolved such a human-specific adaptation at the cleavage site on the spike protein, which is the reason it is so infectious.

The documents were released by Drastic, the web-based investigations team set up by scientists from across the world to look into the origins of Covid-19. In a statement, Drastic said: “Given that we find in this proposal a discussion of the planned introduction of human-specific cleavage sites, a review by the wider scientific community of the plausibility of artificial insertion is warranted.”'

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by bob sterman » Sun Sep 26, 2021 6:12 pm

apogee wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 10:56 am
Papers, confirmed as genuine by a former member of the Trump administration...
8-)

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by apogee » Mon Sep 27, 2021 4:35 pm

😆 that's not even lazy.
Why would you do desperately want it *not* to be the result of a lab-leak that you would post a response as feeble as that?

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by bob sterman » Mon Sep 27, 2021 6:21 pm

apogee wrote:
Mon Sep 27, 2021 4:35 pm
😆 that's not even lazy.
Why would you do desperately want it *not* to be the result of a lab-leak that you would post a response as feeble as that?
It wasn't a response to the theory as a whole - just that gem of a line!

"...confirmed as genuine by a former member of the Trump administration"

Just imagining it being used as an advertising tag line / slogan.

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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:58 pm

Chris Preston wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:06 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Sep 24, 2021 1:04 pm

Getting through 50+ million animals a year just for pelts is obscenely risky. It's not like China can't manufacture fabrics.
The animals sold in these markets are mostly for food.
Sure. The article cites 53.5M pelts of fox, mink and raccoon dogs too (unless those species are primarily bred for food, with pelts as a side product?).

At least food is vaguely useful.
Chris Preston wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:06 am
China has downplayed the size and impact of the wild food trade as a way of not losing face through admitting that it was their failure to deal with this problem resulted in COVID-19 spilling over from the markets. Unfortunately, the outcome has been people focussing on a leak from WIV. One of the unintended consequences of trying to hide things.
Agreed.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Sep 27, 2021 11:05 pm

apogee wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 10:56 am
This was from The Telegraph a few days ago:
'Wuhan scientists were planning to release enhanced airborne coronaviruses into Chinese bat populations to inoculate them against diseases that could jump to humans, leaked grant proposals dating from 2018 show.

New documents show that just 18 months before the first Covid-19 cases appeared, researchers had submitted plans to release skin-penetrating nanoparticles containing “novel chimeric spike proteins” of bat coronaviruses into cave bats in Yunnan, China.

They also planned to create chimeric viruses, genetically enhanced to infect humans more easily, and requested $14million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to fund the work.

Papers, confirmed as genuine by a former member of the Trump administration, show they were hoping to introduce “human-specific cleavage sites” to bat coronaviruses which would make it easier for the virus to enter human cells.

When Covid-19 was first genetically sequenced, scientists were puzzled about how the virus had evolved such a human-specific adaptation at the cleavage site on the spike protein, which is the reason it is so infectious.


The documents were released by Drastic, the web-based investigations team set up by scientists from across the world to look into the origins of Covid-19. In a statement, Drastic said: “Given that we find in this proposal a discussion of the planned introduction of human-specific cleavage sites, a review by the wider scientific community of the plausibility of artificial insertion is warranted.”'
The bolded bit is carefully worded but misleading. Per the Science article,
The “smoking gun” evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered, in the words of virologist and Nobel laureate David Baltimore, has not held up either. Spike has a cleavage site, a spot where a human enzyme named furin cuts the protein, which helps SARS-CoV-2 infect cells. Since early in the pandemic, lab-origin proponents have claimed that no SARS-related bat coronaviruses have this feature, leading to speculation that a lab added the site to a virus so it could infect humans. When retired New York Times writer Nicholas Wade made the case for a lab leak this spring, the furin cleavage site, buttressed by Baltimore’s provocative words, was an essential part of the argument.

But it’s dead wrong, say many coronavirus specialists and evolutionary biologists. The SARS-related coronaviruses are in the beta genus, one of four in the Coronaviridae family. Several members of that genus feature furin cleavage sites, which appear to have evolved repeatedly. And one SARS-CoV-2–related virus, described in a Current Biology paper last year by a team led by Shi Weifeng of Shandong First Medical University, has three of the four amino acids that constitute the furin cleavage site, which is “strongly suggestive of a natural zoonotic origin” for SARS-CoV-2, the authors concluded.
So scientists were puzzled, but they're not any more. Evidence shows the cleavage site is consistent with a natural origin. So I'm not massively inspired by the scientific underpinning of the article's claims.

I wouldn't like to guess what secret research, if any, was taking place in Wuhan. But it's clear that the conditions in the meat market were exactly the kind that appear in textbooks about conditions for emerging zoonoses.

The market was clearly the origin, so we have to believe that the researchers deliberately infected a public market in the city they lived and worked in, as opposed to say, Xinjiang. Occams razor suggests that the thousands of stressed wild animals stacked in cages in each others' blood, piss and sh.t are a likelier origin I think - though I'd like China to stop hiding the evidence.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Millennie Al » Tue Sep 28, 2021 1:21 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:58 pm
Chris Preston wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:06 am
The animals sold in these markets are mostly for food.
Sure. The article cites 53.5M pelts of fox, mink and raccoon dogs too (unless those species are primarily bred for food, with pelts as a side product?).
It's a lot less convenient to transport live animals than dead ones, so you try to avoid it unless you're keeping them alive to keep the meat fresh. There is no need to keep skins fresh.
At least food is vaguely useful.
Animal skins are also useful.
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Re: The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

Post by Martin_B » Tue Sep 28, 2021 4:12 am

bob sterman wrote:
Mon Sep 27, 2021 6:21 pm
apogee wrote:
Mon Sep 27, 2021 4:35 pm
😆 that's not even lazy.
Why would you do desperately want it *not* to be the result of a lab-leak that you would post a response as feeble as that?
It wasn't a response to the theory as a whole - just that gem of a line!

"...confirmed as genuine by a former member of the Trump administration"

Just imagining it being used as an advertising tag line / slogan.
I guess the equivalent would be: "Beef! As recommended by 8 out of 10 vegetarians"
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