Lab Leak Theory: Biological Hazard First Found in 2019

An interim report from the US Senate just concluded that “the Covid-19 pandemic was, more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident”. The 35-page report, prepared by the minority oversight staff of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), used publicly available documents to substantiate the findings. However, it did not include the 236-page report submitted by the language expert Reid Toy, which analyzed Chinese Communist Party dispatches between scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and their supervisors in Beijing.

Katherine Eban vanity lounge and Jeff Kao of ProPublica had advanced access to documents from Senate researchers and spent months conducting their own investigation. They interviewed Reid, spoke with members of the Senate committee and verified the committee’s analyzes with outside experts. They also used emails, obtained in July of last year, between scientists affiliated with the WIV and the NIH that were obtained by Judicial Watch as part of a FOIA trial over the period from January 1, 2013 to April 22, 2020, the date the application was filed and was received by NIAID.

What followed was the last post in Katherine Eban’s series on COVID-19[FEMININE En juin 2021, Eban a écrit sur la théorie des fuites de laboratoire et pourquoi le sujet était tabou entre scientifiques et journalistes. Puis en mars 2022, Eban a écrit un exposé sur EcoHealth Alliance et son fondateur, Peter Daszak, s’adressant à ses liens à l’Institut de virologie de Wuhan et au NIH.

Ce dernier épisode rassemble un récit qui montre que le WIV subissait une pression intense de la part des autorités politiques pour obtenir des résultats, même si son laboratoire de biosécurité n’avait ni l’équipement ni l’expertise nécessaires pour mener des recherches à haut risque avec un agent pathogène du SRAS.

Le laboratoire de biosécurité WIV avait du mal à désinfecter l’acier inoxydable

Le laboratoire BSL-4 de l’Institut de virologie de Wuhan a été construit en partenariat avec des experts français et achevé en 2015. Le laboratoire a été approuvé pour la recherche sur les agents pathogènes à haut risque, ou la recherche avec des agents pathogènes potentiellement pandémiques, en 2018. Après l’approbation d’un laboratoire de biosécurité pour la recherche à grande échelle, le laboratoire nécessite toujours une maintenance et un entretien réguliers par une équipe qui peut à la fois décontaminer l’équipement et reconnaître les points faibles potentiels du système.

Les e-mails obtenus de la poursuite FIOA montrent qu’en 2016, Yuan Zhiming, directeur du laboratoire BSL-4 du WIV, avait écrit à Jens Kuhn du NIH pour lui demander quelles étaient les meilleures façons de désinfecter les équipements et les surfaces étanches et de purifier l’air ambiant. l’air (Voir page 5.) Un problème était que le nouveau laboratoire a été construit avec des murs en acier inoxydable. L’acier inoxydable est sujet à la corrosion, ce qui risque de compromettre l’intégrité des joints d’étanchéité, entre autres.

Habituellement, la meilleure façon de nettoyer l’acier inoxydable est avec de l’eau et du savon ou un nettoyant en poudre doux. Le personnel de nettoyage ne peut pas utiliser d’eau de javel ou de nettoyant à base de chlorure sur l’acier inoxydable, même s’il est dilué avec de l’eau, car il finit par enlever la couche d’oxyde protectrice de la surface. Les nettoyants à base d’ammoniac peuvent également endommager l’acier inoxydable au fil du temps, et la plupart des nettoyants industriels ou des produits de nettoyage courants sont soit à base de chlorure, soit à base d’ammoniac.

Cependant, comme les laboratoires de biosécurité traitent des agents pathogènes, ils ont besoin de désinfectants puissants qui sont fréquemment utilisés. Certes, un laboratoire en acier inoxydable nécessiterait des procédures de nettoyage spéciales et des produits de nettoyage coûteux.

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En 2019, Yuan a noté dans un article de revue sur l’avenir des laboratoires de biosécurité en Chine qu’il y avait un manque de coordination nationale sur les matériaux et les réglementations de biosécurité ainsi qu’une incertitude concernant le soutien financier pour la construction, le fonctionnement et l’entretien des laboratoires. Il note que «[t]These bottlenecks hamper the ability of well-established laboratories to respond quickly to public health emergencies. Later in the article, he also says that maintenance costs tend to be overlooked in Chinese biosafety labs, and some BSL-3 labs operate without running costs.

Larry Kerr, a virologist who retired as director of the United States Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats for Health and Human Services and expert adviser to the report Told Vanity Fair/ProPublica:

My hunch is that the WIV wasn’t ready to get hot when they turned everything on [at the BSL-4] and started experimenting in early 2018… Even the WIV people are saying, “We don’t have the resources and the capabilities to keep this going. It’s like, holy shit, if you’re working in a lab like that, I don’t understand why people don’t shut it down.

Katherine Eban, Vanity Fair, and Jeff Kao, ProPublicaOrigins of COVID-19: Investigation of a “complex and serious situation” in a laboratory in Wuhan” at ProPublica (October 28, 2022)

Dispatches analyzed by Reid indicate that something happened in November 2019 that was a “serious and complex situation” prompting an emergency visit from the director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

What happened in 2019? Patent applications can help complete the story

Some have questioned Reid’s translation of the dispatches and, at the time of this writing, vanity lounge and ProPublica are double check its translations with Chinese language experts. Notably, Reid made it clear that he deciphers “party talk” which is opaque even to native Chinese speakers. Once vanity lounge and ProPublica comes out with a statement, we’ll add it here.

Meanwhile, patents have offered further clues to the problems of the WIV’s biosafety lab.
Eban and Kao report it on December 11, 2019, WIV researchers filed a patent application in China for a device to filter and contain hazardous gases inside a biological chamber, such as those used to transport infected animals. The patent mentions how faulty air hoses on animal carriers can lead to “multilevel risks when airborne pathogens are involved” and the need for a corrosion-resistant frame. . In November 2020, the WIV filed another patent application, this time for a new disinfectant that would reduce corrosion, especially of stainless steel. The article quotes the patent application, translated into English:

Long-term use will cause metal components such as stainless steel to corrode, reducing the protection of…facilities and equipment. This may not only shorten its service life and lead to economic loss, but also lead to the leakage of highly pathogenic microorganisms into the environment outside the laboratory, resulting in loss of life and property and serious social problems.

Katherine Eban and Jeff KaoOrigins of COVID-19: Investigation of a “complex and serious situation” in a laboratory in Wuhan” at vanity lounge (October 28, 2022)

If the reports are accurate, there were other troubling practices at the biosafety lab, such as working long hours in a pressure suit. Dispatches said some researchers had been in the pressure suit for four to six hours continuously. Usually two hours is the maximum time a researcher should be in costume.

Biological hazard

A colleague of mine, who worked in an infectious disease laboratory, told me that pressure suits are very uncomfortable because the wearer, despite the heat, cannot drink, eat or use the toilet. She also reports that all lab work takes twice as long when the worker is wearing a pressure suit. Spending more than two hours in a pressure suit would no doubt be distracting and tiring, and – anyone who’s worked in a lab will tell you – when you’re tired you can make mistakes.

Eban and Kao’s article, if the translations and interpretations turn out to be true, paints a consistent picture of a pathway for the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in 2019. However, not everyone is convinced. Some people argue that zoonic origin, or transmission from animals to humans, cannot be ruled out.

There is historical precedent for their view. Historically, pandemics have occurred through animal-to-human transmission, including the original SARS-Cov pandemic in 2003. Other analysts concluded that the circumstantial evidence of a laboratory accident, taken together, seems to form a picture of scientists who were forced to produce in the name of political goals in a setting that was not suited to the kinds of experiments that were taking place .

The problem of reconstructing a past event in an authoritarian country

There shouldn’t be anything particularly partisan about investigating both possibilities of the origins of the pandemic. Either SARS-CoV-2 originated in an animal and was transmitted to humans, as has been the case in the majority of infectious diseases that have caused pandemics, or a laboratory accident occurred resulting in a accidental transmission and an epidemic. Lab leaks have also historical precedent, including two cases in 2004 in a Beijing lab studying SARS-CoV, and lab leaks have occurred in US labs.

What gets lost in the political rhetoric, however, is the larger problem: the outbreak has not been contained when it could have been. The Hubei local government did not report an outbreak when it should have. And then, when it did, authorities in Beijing failed to report the outbreak to the global public health community, violating the country’s obligation as a World Health Organization (WHO) member state.

The text zero covid on the Chinese flag 3d rendering

Second, the Chinese authorities did not authorize a comprehensive investigation into the Huanan Market or WIV. If an outbreak had occurred in another part of the world where a BSL-3/4 lab was located, external experts would investigate as part of due diligence. Ideally, outside experts would have scoured the Huanan Market before it was sanitized and cleaned, and then they could have spoken to WIV officials, perhaps checked to make sure all the intricate parts of the lab were working and that there were no leaks. or mishaps.

Instead, shifting blame and cover-ups in hopes of “sweeping the problem under the rug” coupled with a propaganda campaign led to many deaths in Wuhan and an outbreak that turned into a global pandemic.

Xi Jinping portrayed China’s authoritarian government as better able to handle a public health emergency, but it was this highly authoritarian system that incited secrecy and cover-up during the early days of the pandemic.

You can also read:

Covid-19 Lab Leak Theory upgraded from conspiracy for plausible.
Many scientists were discouraged from openly discussing the possibility of a lab leak, which hampered a serious investigation. Ironically, with COVID-19, the same groups that call out the spread of misinformation conspiracy theories, judged by their own standards, have been found wanting. (Heather Zeiger)


Lab Leak Theory Confirmed: What does this mean for fight against COVID-19. What was the role of the US government in downplaying the lab leak theory? Several papers have been published showing why a lab leak is a possible explanation for the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (Heather Zeiger)

Sharon D. Cole