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Sat Oct 16, 2021, 08:25 AM

WHO Authors of the March report into Covid-19 emergence warn against further delay. Nature Aug 2021.

Recently in this space someone posted in this space a piece linked to an opinion piece in Murdoch publication, The Wall Street Journal, saying that the cause of the Covid-19 was a laboratory week from a lab in Wuhan.

This was stated as a "done deal." Of course, Murdoch publications and media, which consist entirely of opinion pieces, sometimes disguised as "news," are famous for firing up often violent support of a very stupid racist overly entitled man who spent an entire sybaritic life behaving like an petulant tantrum prone child, and who for some reason - his only real mystery - liked to paint himself the color of an orangutan, thus insulting orangutans world wide, both in the shrinking wild and in zoos around the world. The petulant child, referred to Covid-19 as the "China Virus," this while being allowed to occupy the office of the President United States.

If one types the terms - Origin of sars cov 2 infection - into Google Scholar, without the use of quotation marks, one will get 142,000 hits in a less than seconds. If one uses quotation marks, and the various names for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and/or disease, one can get different large numbers. However, they are large numbers.

It's a little difficult with even a shred of critical thinking to believe that an opinion piece in a Murdoch publication is "the last word."

I personally do not have the time or inclination to read thousands or even hundreds of papers about the origins of Covid, although virology may be somewhat peripheral to my line of work albeit mostly in connection with AAV vectors. I do, however, scan the table of contents of many major scientific journals and if a paper catches my eye - I will open it; I'd guess I open about five or ten Covid papers a month, particularly as I'm on a personal quest to understand the details of immunology.

However the major journals do have nice science focused news sections, in particular both Nature and Science do, and they can offer insight (and often, almost always, references) to the deeper scientific literature with some discussion of social and political implications.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sent a team of highly trained scientists to investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2 at a time when the petulant orangutan colored child was pulling the United States out of that August organization while claiming that he "knew more than the scientists do," cheered on by Murdoch Goebbels wannabes.

They issued a comprehensive report on what they evaluated, and what they learned, stating that given the complexity of the issue they had not yet found a definitive answer to the question. That's science. People can spend their entire lives working on a problem and never reach a definitive answer, although one can make serious advances to the answer.

Nature published a news article focusing on this international team. It is here: Origins of SARS-CoV-2: window is closing for key scientific studies.

Here is the subtitle:

Authors of the March WHO report into how COVID-19 emerged warn that further delay makes crucial inquiry biologically difficult.


I am used to reading scientific papers, and may not notice how straight forward it is for untrained people (who nonetheless hold strong opinions) to read, but I don't think the news article in Nature - which I believe is open sourced - can be regarded with a measure of contempt as "badly written jargon."

Again, the full article is available at the link above. Some excerpts:

Our group was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in October 2020. We have been the designated independent international members of a joint WHO–China team tasked with understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Our report was published this March1. It was meant to be the first step in a process that has stalled. Here we summarize the scientific process so far, and call for action to fast-track the follow-up scientific work required to identify how COVID-19 emerged, which we set out in this article.

The window of opportunity for conducting this crucial inquiry is closing fast: any delay will render some of the studies biologically impossible. Understanding the origins of a devastating pandemic is a global priority, grounded in science.

The mandate

We, all the members of the international expert team, each submitted detailed, confidential statements to the WHO on potential conflicts of interest, including funding, collaborative studies, public statements and other issues around the origins of COVID-19 that could be perceived as conflicts. After the WHO had reviewed these, team members were appointed in their individual capacity, not as representatives of their employers.

So far, our mission has been guided by terms of reference agreed between the WHO and China in 2020, before our involvement1. These terms tasked us with making a detailed reconstruction of the early phase of the pandemic, beginning in Wuhan, China, where the first known cases were reported. Our mandate was to conduct a collaborative study with leading scientists in China to review data they had generated on the basis of initial questions from the WHO. We refined the generic list of questions described in the mandate into a detailed workplan described in the mission report1 (see also Annex A; go.nature.com/3k26jzx)...

...This January, we undertook a 28-day mission to Wuhan to interview clinical, laboratory and public-health professionals and visit institutions involved in the early epidemic response and subsequent investigations. Our work was supported by a team of staff from the WHO China office and from WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland; staff from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); and a WHO-appointed team leader1. The huge burden of preparatory work was shouldered by the team in China, including more than 1,000 health-care professionals who collected, analysed, presented and discussed data and study outcomes during our joint mission.

Scientific discussions between the international and Chinese teams during this mission were lively. Large amounts of information were exchanged on the basis of the work carried out. It took days of discussion to develop recommendations on essential further work and ongoing data sharing. We drafted a model of the potential ‘pathways of emergence’ to structure our thoughts. We listed current evidence for and against these pathways (see Fig. 1 of ref. 1)

We found the laboratory origin hypothesis too important to ignore, so brought it into the discussions with our Chinese counterparts. And we included it as one of the hypotheses for SARS-CoV-2 origin in our report.

We had limited time on the ground in Wuhan and a limited mandate. So we prioritized understanding the role of labs in the early days of the epidemic, the overall lab biosafety procedures and potential staff illness or absenteeism owing to respiratory disease in the late part of 2019. We spoke to the leadership and staff at the three Wuhan labs handling coronaviruses: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Wuhan, and the Hubei provincial CDC. We reviewed published work from these labs to assess their scientific history of working with coronaviruses related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The Chinese team was and still is reluctant to share raw data (for instance, on the 174 cases identified in December 2019), citing concerns over patient confidentiality...


The bold in the sentence "We found the laboratory origin hypothesis too important to ignore" was added by me.

Further on the authors continued...

... The Chinese team was and still is reluctant to share raw data (for instance, on the 174 cases identified in December 2019), citing concerns over patient confidentiality. Access to data on these cases was not specified in the mandate, although the WHO had demanded it during the investigation, and has done so since . The legal and possible other barriers could not be addressed in the short time frame of our visit. Also, by then, it was clear that the 174 cases were not likely to be the earliest ones, so we considered them less urgent for understanding origins.

It was therefore agreed that a second phase of studies would address these concerns and review these data.


Again I added the bold.

The authors then went on to describe the criticisms they endured - "endured" is the right word - because their report did not tell people, including an orangutan colored person who somehow stumbled into the Oval Office, shitting and peeing all over it, what they wanted to hear, that there was someone Chinese to blame.

...Our critics have also suggested that the report dismisses the possibility of a lab leak. A laboratory origin hypothesis is presented in the pathway model in Figure 5 on page 119 of the report; we explicitly state in the report that it is possible. We held frank discussions with key scientists in the relevant Wuhan institutions — a line of inquiry that exceeded our original mandate. When we reviewed the responses to our questions on this issue, and all other available data, we found no evidence for leads to follow up; we reported this fact.

In our report, we state that if evidence supporting any of the hypotheses becomes known following publication, phase 2 studies should carefully examine this. For instance, we described that there was evidence of the presence of live animals in the market at the end of December 2019, but that the data presented to the team did not show definitive evidence of live mammals. This evidence came to light after publication3 (as we discuss in more detail later in this article).

Another criticism was that the potential for introduction of SARS-CoV-2 through frozen food was included owing to pressure from China. The report addressed this hypothesis for three reasons: analysis showed that frozen food imported from all over the world was sold at the Wuhan market, including frozen wild-animal meat; foodborne viral-disease outbreaks are widely documented, including occasionally from frozen foods; and SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious when frozen4. Therefore, the team felt it could not rule out introduction from undercooked meat from infected animals...


Again, it's open, anyone who cares can read the whole thing, written by scientists who were on the ground, this, at the time, at great risk to themselves.

Let's be clear on something, OK? There were good reasons for scientists to be working on the SARS type viruses before the outbreak of Covid, in particular because of the near misses of major epidemics in connection with MERS and related syndromes. MERS was stopped in its tracks by competence. No one at the time of MERS thought that an incompetent clown dressed up the color of an orangutan - again I do not mean to insult orangutans, a valuable and wonderful species, with the comparison - would bring childish ignorance, incompetence, and petulance into the office then occupied by Barack Obama.

Labs all over the world, in Los Angeles, in New York, in San Diego, in Boston, in London, in Paris, in Moscow, and in Dacca work with dangerous virus, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus, because it is essential to do so.

Chinese scientists are by and large excellent scientists. I've personally had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with many of them who were first rate. They are not slobs, and they are not out to take over the world.

A fucking opinion piece in a Murdoch publication has nothing to offer anyone. In my opinion - take it for what it's worth - anything in a Murdoch publication is either propaganda, prurient, and/or sensationalist, in that order.

Have a nice weekend.

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Reply WHO Authors of the March report into Covid-19 emergence warn against further delay. Nature Aug 2021. (Original post)
NNadir Oct 16 OP
Dr. Shepper Oct 16 #1
NNadir Oct 16 #2
myccrider Oct 16 #3
NNadir Oct 17 #4
myccrider Oct 17 #5

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Oct 16, 2021, 08:44 AM

1. K and r and thanks

I was surprise to read that other thread here - in the Science group. Thought maybe this wasn’t a place for me (a scientist).

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Response to Dr. Shepper (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 16, 2021, 09:38 AM

2. In general, the Science forum here is very good. Some of what is posted here comes from...

...better managed popular science websites or, on occasion, press releases by research institutions, but in general the pointing to these topics is pretty good.

The forum is ably managed by a fine scientist, and in general, there isn't much Murdoch type stuff here.

I enjoy this forum very much and often learn things I didn't know or am directed to such things.

I'm glad you're not judging it by one post and the some of the depressing commentary therein the thread. Most of what is here is of higher quality.

Please do visit and participate.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Oct 16, 2021, 10:13 PM

3. Thank you for the info and links.

At this point, scientifically, there is no established cause for the evolution of SARS-CoV-2. Science is the most likely way to actually figure out how the virus came to exist, barring some confession from a human who caused a leak (or something similar).

I don’t see why people are so obsessed with the Chinese lab leak hypothesis except that people need someone to blame. Humans are unhappy with "sh$t happens" as a cause. I’d like to know the actual cause, too, but I’m withholding judgement until there’s further evidence.

I recently read an article about corona viruses found in bats (in northern Laos/Cambodia/Viet Nam, iirc) that had spike proteins genetically and physically very close to the spike on SARS-2 and could also bind pretty well to human ACE2 sites. There was some speculation that there might have been circulation in humans with asymptomatic or mild symptoms that helped SARS-2 develop the final changes that gave us Covid. The authors think a natural origin is not unlikely given their findings.

(Checks to see if I saved the link.) YES! Here’s link to the preprint article. https://assets.researchsquare.com/files/rs-871965/v1/986c09ca-d494-4a7c-a65b-9eec9c0a06b8.pdf?c=1631900665

And the Bloomberg article about the paper with further speculation by other scientists wrt human interactions before the pandemic hit.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-18/bats-in-laos-caves-harbor-closest-relatives-to-covid-19-virus

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Response to myccrider (Reply #3)

Sun Oct 17, 2021, 09:08 AM

4. Nature News had an article on the finding close relatives of SARS-CoV-2 in Laotian and Chinese bats

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Response to NNadir (Reply #4)

Sun Oct 17, 2021, 11:10 AM

5. Thank you, that may well be where I first saw the info! :-D

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