The support of the society is growing among the scientific community of the world thoroughly exploring the possibility The coronavirus may have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, causing a global outbreak that killed more than 3.7 million people worldwide.
The theory of laboratory leakage has largely been left out of the public science discourse for the first few days after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in China in December 2019.
In the following months, observers said, the hypothesis was intertwined with the administration of former US President Donald Trump’s anti-cognitive rhetoric’s xenophobic fabrication of the epidemic, causing a shocking impact on the scientific community.
“The cause of the lab crash is that the issue has been trapped in this hyper-politicized context,” J. Steven Morrison, director of the Center for Global Health Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Al Jazeera.
“When Trump was instrumentalizing the issue as part of an anti-recognition, anti-Asian campaign, people did not want to be associated with it. And so they kept their distance. ”
A significant increase in public support for the study of the theory comes amid a global health study commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Wuhan, which to mock Unfortunately, the information gathered by Chinese officials from a number of Western powers, known to scientists, as inadequate.
The February report said it was “very, very likely” that the virus was caused by natural zoonotic or animal-to-human transmission, while it was “extremely unlikely” to complete the theory of accidentally leaking from the laboratory. China has repeatedly denied that it was responsible for the leak.
Relevant field virologists and scientists who acknowledge that the virus may have leaked from Wuhan’s laboratory և support a full, transparent investigation and differ greatly in how well they consider the scenario.
Many argue that the theory that the outbreak was transmitted from animal to human remains more plausible. Others say there is no direct evidence that one scenario is more likely than the other. One of the further discussions is whether the sequence of the virus genome precludes human manipulation in the laboratory.
However, the latest change in outlook includes Anthony Fauche, the US government’s best infectious disease expert, who last year mainly was fired the idea that science “strongly shows” that the virus originated naturally.
He recently said that he was “not convinced” that the virus had not come out of Wuhan’s laboratory and that he was supporting the investigation.
Last week, rarely public announcement President Biden, detailing the thinking of the US intelligence community and calling for a further investigation, said the agencies had “united around two possible scenarios.” Zoonotic Transfer և Wuhan Random Laboratory Leak.
“While (in the intelligence community) two elements rely on the previous scenario (zoonotic) և one relies more on the second (laboratory leak), each with low or moderate confidence, most elements do not believe there is enough information to rate one more likely than the other. the other, ”the statement said, quoting directly from parts of the intelligence report that were not made public.
On Sunday, May 30, the Sunday Times reported that UK intelligence officials had changed their minds about the Wuhan accidental laboratory leak, calling it “feasible”.
“Both remain viable”
Richard Ebritt, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, says little has changed in terms of scientific evidence since the virus’ genome sequence was first published in January 2020.
He said that “there is no safe basis for comparing the hypothesis of natural disasters (from humans to animals) to the hypothesis of a laboratory accident.”
“In particular, all the scientific data on the epidemiology of the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence և COVID-19 coincide equally with the origin of a natural accident or a laboratory accident,” he said in an e-mail to Al aze Azira. “It was already clear in January 2020, it was clear at every moment of time, from January 2020 until now.”
Ebritt, one of 21 international scholars who explained what a comprehensive, “interdisciplinary” investigation into Wuhan should look like open letter He said in March that the origin of the coronavirus “could only be answered through forensic examination, not scientific speculation.”
At the same time, some scientists say they still believe the virus was unlikely to be manipulated by humans before the outbreak. Robert Gary, a microbiologist at the University of Tulan who took part in a March 2020 study that said the virus was more likely to have come from the wild, told National Public Radio (NPR) in late May that he believed the evidence was still there. greatly contribute to these conclusions.
“I am more convinced than ever that this is a natural virus,” he told the news agency.
The top 18 biologists studying the May 14 epidemic published a letter In the journal Science, he called for further investigation, saying that “accidental release of the laboratory և zoonotic fluid both remain viable.”
Experts criticized the WHO-commissioned inquiry, saying the two theories were “not considered balanced”, while noting that only four of the 313 pages in the report concerned the possibility of a laboratory crash.
Others cited circumstantial evidence that they said supported either theory.
In the case of zoonotic theory, virologists have long argued that the Wuhan Wildlife Market, which sells large numbers of exotic animals nearby, would be an ideal place for a zoonotic outbreak that was responsible for past coronavirus outbreaks, including coronaviruses caused by SARS և MERS previous outbreaks. It can take years to find the species responsible for spreading these viruses.
At the same time, Shi heng-engli, a well-known scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, wrote in a journal in Science last July that it was impossible for the virus to leave his laboratory, saying his team had “never communicated, never studied the virus,” “everyone.” tested negative for coronavirus antibodies. However, he noted that at the time, the lab did not sequence the genome on all of the virus samples it collected.
To support the theory of random laboratory leakage, observers have: pointed out An extensive study of new bat viruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology at the Wuhan Disease Control and Prevention Center (WHCDC), noting that the first is known to have a virus known to coronavirus that caused the current outbreak. arguing that there were standard security questions in the lab. Chinese authorities suppressed the information throughout the outbreak.
Some intelligence officials also have is reported has questioned the transparency of a so-called “function acquisition” study in China, which may suggest that it deliberately increases the transmission of the virus to study how it develops.
On May 23 The Wall Street Journal reports that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became ill enough with COVID-19-like symptoms to require hospitalization in November 2019. Pessimists noted that the diseases occurred during the regular flu season.
On Thursday, Fauci called on China to release the researchers’ medical records.
Change of administration
However, Eurasia Group CEO Lon Liber said the biggest change in the acceptance of the laboratory leakage theory was a change in the US administration, saying that Trump’s lack of credibility had a shocking effect on scientists. in “bias”.
“Including social media, which banned many accounts from talking about it on Twitter և Facebook or for flag-bearing people as provoking misinformation,” he told Al Jazeera. “I think the real failure of the scientific community, the media and others could not even be taken seriously because they did not like the messenger.”
A Facebook spokesman said last week that the company “will not remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our software.” The decision was made “in the light of ongoing investigations into the origins of COVID-19 after consulting with public health experts,” the spokesman said.
“The change of opinion should not be seen as an excuse for the Trump administration,” Lieber said.
“It’s a complete failure on the part of Trump’s White House,” he said. “If they had any credibility, if they had the ability to persuade someone of something, a year ago they would have been able to discover it as a story of legitimate origin.”
The decision to call for a further investigation for Biden pursues an internal goal. “It’s ‘weak for China’ to neutralize Republican criticism of running in the 2022 congressional by-elections,” said Matthew Burroughs, director of forecasting for the Atlantic Council.
At the same time, when issuing a statement at the World Health Assembly, Beijing և the WHO is once again paying attention, he said.
“The United States is again a player in the WTO,” Burroughs said. “So I think they want to tighten the WTO by not measuring China.”