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Wuhan lab leak more likely origin of Covid, UK MPs are told

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A Canadian molecular biologist told cross-party members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday that a leak from a lab in China’s Wuhan region is now the more likely origin of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

According to Dr. Alina Chan, there is also a chance that Covid-19 is an engineered virus.

Dr. Alina Chan, co-author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19‘ and a specialist in gene therapy and cell engineering, told a Parliament panel hearing evidence on scientific research that the pandemic was caused by a unique feature of the coronavirus known as the furin cleavage site, which has been linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

When asked about the likelihood of a lab leak as the cause of the pandemic, Chan said that at this point, a lab origin is more likely than a natural origin.

We can all agree that a critical event occurred at the Huanan Seafood Market, which was a superspreader event caused by humans. She stated that there is no evidence pointing to the virus’s natural animal origin at that market.

When asked if she was confident that the world would eventually discover the true origins of COVID-19, Chan said it was simply a matter of time.

It is currently unsafe for people who have information about the origins of this pandemic to come forward. It could be five years or 50 years from now, but we live in an era where so much data is being collected and stored…all we need is a credible, systematic investigation, she said.

On whether the virus was modified in the lab prior to the leak, Chan stated, “We have heard from many top virologists that a genetically engineered origin of this virus is reasonable…and this includes virologists who themselves modified the first SARS virus.”

We now know that this virus has a very distinct feature known as the furin cleavage site, which is what makes it a pandemic pathogen. So, without this feature, there is no way that this pandemic could have occurred.

“Only recently in September did a proposal get leaked showing that scientists from the EcoHealth Alliance were in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology developing this pipeline for inserting novel furin cleavage sites, these genetic modifications, into SARS-like viruses in the lab.

Chan emphasised that the onus was on the scientists in question to demonstrate that their work did not result in the creation of SARS-COV2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, and that an investigation of documents made available by the US-based EcoHealth Alliance could hold the key.

Her co-author, Lord Matt Ridley, was also questioned about the lab leak theory, and he agreed with Chan that it was more than likely the cause of the pandemic.

We must face the fact that we knew the origins of SARS through markets after two months, and we knew the origins of MERS through camels after a couple of months. In this case, he said, “we haven’t found a single infected animal that could be the progenitor of this pandemic after two years,” which is “extremely surprising.”

Ridley and Chan agreed that any leak was most likely an accident as he recounted scientists’ journey a few years ago to bring SARS-like viruses back to Wuhan for experiments.

It must, however, be taken seriously. It is regrettable that there was a fairly systematic attempt to shut down this topic in 2020, he noted.

Ridley went on to say, “We need to find out so we can prevent the next pandemic.” We need to know whether we should tighten up work in laboratories or tighten up regulations pertaining to wildlife sales in markets. At the moment, we aren’t doing either.

We also need to know this in order to deter bad actors who are watching this episode and believe they can get away with causing a pandemic.

As referenced by the World Health Organization, Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet’s medical journal, agreed that the lab leak theory behind COVID-19 is a hypothesis that needs to be taken seriously and investigated further (WHO).

The evidence session is part of the Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament’s inquiry into “reproducibility and research integrity,” which is expected to produce its findings in 2022.


About the author

Brendan Taylor

Brendan Taylor was a TV news producer for 5 and a half years. He is an experienced writer. Brendan covers Breaking News at Insider Paper.

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