We need global awareness of the hazards posed by bio-laboratories, in particular gain-of-function studies, and proximal location to urban areas.

 

There have been countless laboratory leaks around the world and We The People need to end this nonsense.  With that being said we dedicate this to the victims of Coronavirus Pandemic & the lives it has and will continue to harm. 

  • Coronavirus: In this context, the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In the real world, there are hundreds of other coronaviruses.


  • SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.


  • SARS-CoV-1: The original SARS virus that struck China in 2003.


  • MERS-CoV: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a variant of SARS that originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012.


  • SARS-CoV-2: The current coronavirus resulting in the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • 2019-nCoV: The original name for SARS-CoV-2 before being renamed by the World Health Organization.


  • COVID-19: (CoronaVirus Infectious Disease 2019) The name of the disease that results from a SARS-CoV-2 viral infection. In severe cases, it leads to fatal pneumonia.


  • Zoonotic virus: A virus that is capable of spreading from an animal to a human.


  • Patient Zero: the very first person involved in the spillover event that introduces the virus to humanity. At this time, Patient Zero for SARS-CoV-2 is not widely known, if at all.


And finally, the most important definition you must understand:


  • Spillover Event: A moment in time in which a zoonotic virus “jumps” from an animal host to a human host.


We believe that a spillover event is the most likely explanation for the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 to the human populace.

What we will question is whether this spillover event occurred at a market in Wuhan, at a bio-laboratory in Wuhan, as a result of interacting with a lab animal from one of these bio-laboratories, or somewhere else entirely.

 

Was SARS-CoV-2 Present At A Bio-Laboratory in Wuhan, China?

At this time, it is widely believed that Patient Zero was infected in Wuhan, China with SARS-CoV-2.


What is not so certain is where exactly in Wuhan Patient Zero was infected, and how he/she was infected.

The competing theories are:

  • From eating wild animals at the Huanan Seafood Market


  • From doing work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which performed gain-of-function research on the original SARS virus


  • From doing work at the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, which performed experiments on and housed many bats known for carrying coronaviruses


  • From somewhere elsewhere entirely; they were not in Wuhan at all


Patient Zero would then go on to spread the infection, likely asymptomatically, to many people before any defensive measures were taken.

This would eventually cause the pandemic now known as COVID-19 and resulting worldwide lock-down.

Huanan Seafood Market

The seafood market gained prominence after a study in the New England Journal of Medicine referred to it as a possible origin point:

 

A Novel Coronavirus from Patients with Pneumonia in China, 2019 (January 24, 2020)

 

Four lower respiratory tract samples, including bronchoalveolar-lavage fluid, were collected from patients with pneumonia of unknown cause who were identified in Wuhan on December 21, 2019, or later and who had been present at the Huanan Seafood Market close to the time of their clinical presentation.

 

Source: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2001017 (archived)

 

Indeed, as SARS-CoV-2 and the original SARS-CoV-1 are zoonotic viruses (meaning they spread from animals to humans), it is possible someone may have been in close proximity or even eaten an animal containing the virus.

 

This would constitute a spillover event, many of which have occurred in the past and resulted in the introduction of new diseases to humanity. So, it is not unprecedented.

 

However, a later paper from The Lancet reported that many initial patients were not directly exposed to the Huanan Seafood Market:

 

Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China (January 24, 2020)

 

27 (66%) patients had direct exposure to Huanan seafood market (figure 1B). Market exposure was similar between the patients with ICU care (nine [69%]) and those with non-ICU care (18 [64%]).

 

The symptom onset date of the first patient identified was Dec 1, 2019. None of his family members developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases.

 

The first fatal case, who had continuous exposure to the market, was admitted to hospital because of a 7-day history of fever, cough, and dyspnoea.

 

5 days after illness onset, his wife, a 53-year-old woman who had no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalized in the isolation ward.

 

Source: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext (archived)

 

Because 34% of cases did not have exposure to the market yet were exposed to the virus, it is highly unlikely the market is the origin point of SARS-CoV-2.

 

Indeed, the study confirms “No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases” – meaning that the first patient at the market was not responsible for spreading the virus to other cases.

 

It is possible that these later cases contracted the virus through community transmission.

 

However, if we consider that community transmission was already prevalent by the time of the seafood market outbreak, it is equally possible that the virus originated somewhere else entirely, and was brought to the market by an infected person.

 

Thus, it can not be definitively claimed that the virus originated at the market.

 

What is clear is that the spread of the virus began to rise exponentially after it arrived at the Huanan Seafood Market.

 

According to the Wall Street Journal quoting the Chinese Center for Disease Control, the virus was present in “environmental samples” at the market:

 

Virus Sparks Soul-Searching Over China’s Wild Animal Trade (January 26, 2020)

 

Health officials took specimens from the site and found evidence of the virus in 33 out of 585 samples, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CCDC.

 

The virus had been found not just in people’s bodies, but on wild-meat stalls, Gao Fu, the CCDC director told Chinese state television on Thursday.

 

“We must thus call on everyone not to eat wild animals,” he said.

“It is only a matter of time to find out which is the specific animal.”

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/virus-sparks-soul-searching-over-chinas-wild-animal-trade-11580055290 (archived)

 

While Mr. Fu here seems to believe the virus originated from the market, we know from the Lancet study that it is unlikely.

 

So, if SARS-CoV-2 did not originate at the market itself, where could it have come from?

 

Suspected Laboratories

 

The first calls to examine the laboratories began when it emerged that the Wuhan Institute of Virology,

China’s only BSL-4 bio-laboratory, was only 8.6 miles away from the seafood market.

 

Additionally, the Wuhan Center for Disease Prevention & Control is located a mere 2.6 miles away. We can easily confirm this with Google Maps:

 

Directions from Huanan Seafood Market to Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Huanan+Seafood+Market,+Fazhan+Avenue,+Jianghan+District,+Wuhan,+Hubei,+China/China,+Wuhan+Institute+of+Virology,+CAS

Directions from Huanan Seafood Market to Wuhan Centers for Disease Prevention & Control

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Huanan+Seafood+Market,+Fazhan+Avenue,+Jianghan+District,+Wuhan,+Hubei,+China/Wuhan+Centres+for+Disease+Prevention+%26+Control

While the simple existence of these laboratories does not make them suspects, their proximity to the Huanan Seafood Market does.

 

We will prove it is entirely possible, and even likely, that an accident at either of these labs could have resulted in Patient Zero.

 

For now, let us prove that both of these labs have conducted experiments on the SARS-CoV-1 virus, some of which have resulted in variants of the virus, and may still be holding such viruses today.

 

Furthermore, we will prove both labs have conducted experiments involving SARS-CoV-1 on live animals.

 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology will hereby be referred to as WIV and the Wuhan Center for Disease Prevention & Control as WHCDC.

 

Bio-warfare

 

This document does not make any attempt to link the work done at these laboratories as part of a “bio-weapon” or “bio-warfare” program.

 

The research that has been conducted in these labs,

specifically in regards to peer reviewed papers from the WIV and less documented

 

experiments at the WHCDC,

may well have advanced our understanding of virology as a species. The sheer existence of such work does not equate to a “bio-warfare program.”

 

Furthermore, even if these labs are engaging in “bio-warfare” research, depending on the type of research, it would still be permissible under international law:

 

Biological Weapons Convention

The scope of the BWC’s prohibition is defined in Article 1 (the so-called general purpose criterion).

 

This includes all microbial and other biological agents or toxins and their means of delivery (with exceptions for medical and defensive purposes in small quantities).

 

Subsequent Review Conferences have reaffirmed that the general purpose criterion encompasses all future scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention.

 

It is not the objects themselves (biological agents or toxins), but rather certain purposes for which they may be employed which are prohibited; similar to

Art.II, 1 in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

 

Permitted purposes under the BWC are defined as prophylactic, protective and other peaceful purposes.

 

The objects may not be retained in quantities that have no justification or which are inconsistent with the permitted purposes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_Weapons_Convention

China, and indeed any country that is a signatory to the BWC, is allowed to develop offensive bio weapons, in

 

“quantities that are consistent with the permitted purposes,” as long as the purpose of doing so is to develop defenses against them.

 

Strategically, it would be a foolish choice to perform illegal bio-warfare research in the most closely monitored, internationally-linked biological lab in China.

 

Western intelligence agencies are obviously aware of its existence, and the Chinese government knows that.

 

Such illegal work, if done at all, is much more likely to be done in confidential military bases and covert labs that are not made known to the public.

 

In this claim, it is irrelevant whether the research being performed was for bio-warfare purposes or not.

 

We could not find any direct evidence supporting the theory that SARS-CoV-2 was intentionally released from a laboratory.

 

Bio-Safety Levels

 

As previously mentioned, the WIV has a BSL-4 lab. The WHCDC also operates BSL-2 labs. What does this mean?

 

The Bio-Safety Level (BSL), also known as the Pathogen or Prevention level (P) in the European Union, dictates the regulations and requirements present in a bio-laboratory.

 

These precautions are necessary to prevent harm to employees, the people who interact with them, and life as a whole.

 

The BSL of a given laboratory, at least in the United States, limits the type of pathogens it can operate with. For example, Ebola, smallpox, and plague can only be present in BSL-4 environments due to their potential to cause harm.

 

According to both the WHO and CDC, activities relating to SARS-CoV-1 must be performed in at least a BSL-2 lab. For 2019-nCoV (now SARS-CoV-2), the CDC recommends most activities be carried out with “BSL-3 precautions”.

 

The CDC also provides a BSL infographic.

 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

 

The WIV has existed for decades; its Wikipedia page lists its formation year as 1956.

 

It was only in 2014 that it finished construction of its BSL-4 lab, making it the only public institution operating a BSL-4 lab in China:

 

Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world’s most dangerous pathogens (February 22, 2017)

It will focus on the control of emerging diseases, store purified viruses and act as a

 

World Health Organization ‘reference laboratory’ linked to similar labs around the world.

“It will be a key node in the global biosafety-lab network,” says lab director Yuan Zhiming.

The lab’s first project will be to study the BSL-3 pathogen that causes Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever: a deadly tick-borne virus that affects livestock across the world, including in northwest China, and that can jump to people.

 

Future plans include studying the pathogen that causes SARS, which also doesn’t require a BSL-4 lab, before moving on to Ebola and the West African Lassa virus, which do.

 

Some one million Chinese people work in Africa; the country needs to be ready for any eventuality, says Yuan. “Viruses don’t know borders.”

 

Source: https://www.nature.com/news/inside-the-chinese-lab-poised-to-study-world-s-most-dangerous-pathogens-1.21487 (archived)

Since its inception, the global bio-safety community has had concerns about this particular BSL-4 lab. From the same article:

But worries surround the Chinese lab, too.

 

The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey.

 

Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Bio-safety and Bio-security Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in

China, where society emphasizes hierarchy.

 

“Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.

 

Yuan says that he has worked to address this issue with staff.

“We tell them the most important thing is that they report what they have or haven’t done,” he says. And the lab’s inter­national collaborations will increase openness. “Transparency is the basis of the lab,” he adds.

Has the WIV ever conducted experiments involving the SARS-CoV-1 virus?

 

Indeed, it has. In fact, it worked with the SARS virus years before establishing the BSL-4 lab (this, by itself, is fine, as SARS-CoV-1 is not a BSL-4 pathogen).

 

Paper 1 Claim 1

 

Difference in Receptor Usage between Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus and SARS-Like Coronavirus of Bat Origin (2007)

 

A group of SARS-like CoVs (SL-CoVs) has been identified in horseshoe bats.

 

SL-CoVs and SARS-CoVs share identical genome organizations and high sequence identities, with the main exception of the N terminus of the spike protein (S), known to be responsible for receptor binding in CoVs.

In this study, we investigated the receptor usage of the SL-CoV S by combining a human immunodeficiency virus-based pseudovirus system with cell lines expressing the ACE2 molecules of human, civet, or horseshoe bat. In addition to full-length S of SL-CoV and SARS-CoV, a series of S chimeras was constructed by inserting different sequences of the SARS-CoV S into the SL-CoV S backbone.

 

Several important observations were made from this study. First, the SL-CoV S was unable to use any of the three ACE2 molecules as its receptor.

 

Second, the SARS-CoV S failed to enter cells expressing the bat ACE2. Third, the chimeric S covering the previously defined receptor-binding domain gained its ability to enter cells via human ACE2, albeit with different efficiencies for different constructs.

 

Fourth, a minimal insert region (amino acids 310 to 518) was found to be sufficient to convert the SL-CoV S from non-ACE2 binding to human ACE2 binding, indicating that the SL-CoV S is largely compatible with SARS-CoV S protein both in structure and in function.

 

The significance of these findings in relation to virus origin, virus recombination, and host switching is discussed.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2258702/ (archived)

 

The three most important phrases in this abstract as they relate to SARS-CoV-2 are:
 
  • “First, the SL-CoV S was unable to use any of the three ACE2 molecules as its receptor.”

 
  • “we investigated the receptor usage of the SL-CoV S by combining a human immunodeficiency virus-based pseudovirus system with cell lines expressing the ACE2 molecules of human, civet, or horseshoe bat”

 
  • “Third, the chimeric S covering the previously defined receptor-binding domain gained its ability to enter cells via human ACE2”

In layman’s terms:

 

  • We found this SARS-like virus (“S”) that couldn’t infect human cells.

 
  • So, we combined S with parts of HIV, which does infect human cells, to see if this new S could infect human cells.

 
  • The new S (“chimeric S”) can infect human cells.

We find that WIV was involved in this study in the Materials and Methods section:

 

Materials and Methods

A MAb against p24 of HIV was generated by the HIV group of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (unpublished results).

 

Rabbit polyclonal antibodies against ACE2 of the bat R.pearsonii (RpACE2) was generated using a recombinant RpACE2 protein expressed in Escherichia coli at our laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, following standard procedures.

 

All 10 scientists who are associated with this paper are also associated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. From the paper’s Author Information tab:

Finally, we would like to highlight this prophetic paragraph in the Discussion section:

 

Considering the documented observations of co-infection of the same bat species by different CoVs, the same CoVs infecting different bat species (26, 29, 39),

 

the high density of bat habitats, and the propensity for genetic recombination among different CoVs,

 

it is not unreasonable to conclude that bats are a natural mixing vessel for the creation of novel CoVs and that it is only a matter of time before some of them cross species barriers into terrestrial mammal and human populations.

 

 

The findings presented in this study serve as the first example of host switching achievable for G2b CoVs under laboratory conditions by the exchange of a relatively small sequence segment among these previously unknown CoVs.

 

The papers referenced in this paragraph are provided below:

 

In layman’s terms:

 

 

  • Multiple coronaviruses can infect the same bat (co-infection)

 
  • Those same viruses can infect different kinds of bats

 
  • There’s a lot of bats everywhere

 
  • Coronaviruses like to mix their genes together (recombination)

 
  • If two coronaviruses infect the same bat and recombination, they can potentially result in a novel (never before recognized) coronavirus

 
    • It only takes a few changes (“exchange of a relatively small sequence segment”) between two coronaviruses to result in a third coronavirus that can infect other animals (“host-switching”)

  • The odds of this happening are pretty good!

Indeed, as we know now, the odds were pretty good.

 

 

Of course, what we don’t know is whether this spillover event happened in the wild (currently unproven) or in the WIV (this paper proves that they have successfully done it before, in this very location).

 

Paper 2 Claim 1

 

WIV didn’t stop researching SARS back in 2007, either.

 

A second paper, from 2015, not only reiterates the first paper’s findings, but outright claims they “synthetically re-derived an infectious full-length SHC014 recombinant virus and demonstrate robust viral replication both in vitro and in vivo.”

 

A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence (2015)

 

The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV underscores the threat of cross-species transmission events leading to outbreaks in humans.

 

Here we examine the disease potential of a SARS-like virus, SHC014-CoV, which is currently circulating in Chinese horseshoe bat populations.

 

 

Using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, we generated and characterized a chimeric virus expressing the spike of bat coronavirus SHC014 in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone.

 

The results indicate that group 2b viruses encoding the SHC014 spike in a wild-type backbone can efficiently use multiple orthologs of the SARS receptor human angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2), replicate efficiently in primary human airway cells and achieve in vitro titers equivalent to epidemic strains of SARS-CoV.

 

 

Additionally, in vivo experiments demonstrate replication of the chimeric virus in mouse lung with notable pathogenesis. Evaluation of available SARS-based immune-therapeutic and prophylactic modalities revealed poor efficacy; both monoclonal antibody and vaccine approaches failed to neutralize and protect from infection with CoVs using the novel spike protein. On the basis of these findings, we synthetically re-derived an infectious full-length SHC014 recombinant virus and demonstrate robust viral replication both in vitro and in vivo.

 

 

Our work suggests a potential risk of SARS-CoV re-emergence from viruses currently circulating in bat populations.

 

 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26552008 (archived)

 

Three important definitions to understand this in layman’s terms:

 

  • “in vitro” means an experiment using cells (i.e. petri dishes and test tubes)

  • “in vivo” means an experiment using real, living organisms (i.e. mice)

  • “chimera virus” means it is a genetic mixture of two separate viruses

Once again, in layman’s terms:

 

  • We found a virus in bats called SHC014-CoV that is similar to SARS.

  • We constructed a chimera virus using SHC014-CoV as a basis that could also infect mice cells.

  • We found the same virus can infect “human airway cells” and impact them the same way as “epidemic strains of SARS-CoV” in vitro. (paraphrased: “it’s as bad as SARS”)

  • We tested the same virus on real mice (“in vivo”), and found it could infect their lungs.

  • We tried to fight the virus using antibodies and vaccines that help fight SARS, and couldn’t find anything that helped. (“poor efficacy”)

  • We synthetically cloned this chimera virus and tested it both in vitro and in vivo, and found it works well.

And the tie to WIV, in the Author Information:

 

Rather than dissect these findings, here is a Nature article describing the controversy over this paper:

 

Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research (November 12, 2015)

 

But other virologists question whether the information gleaned from the experiment justifies the potential risk.

 

Although the extent of any risk is difficult to assess, Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, points out that the researchers have created a novel virus that “grows remarkably well” in human cells. “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory,” he says.

In their paper, the study authors also concede that funders may think twice about allowing such experiments in the future.

 

“Scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue,” they write, adding that discussion is needed as to

“whether these types of chimeric virus studies warrant further investigation versus the inherent risks involved”.

 

Source: https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debate-over-risky-research-1.18787 (archived)

At this point, you may notice the list of authors for these two papers are quite similar.

 

You will be able to find many of these authors in our next set of papers.

 

In particular, Dr. Shi Zhengli is a recurring name in every single paper we cite from the WIV (which is to be expected – she is a director at the institute).

 

Paper 3 

Both papers mention the receptor “angiotensin-converting enzyme-2.”

 

In Paper 1, WIV took a virus that previous could not bind to ACE2 and modified it slightly to enable it to bind to ACE2 receptors.

 

In Paper 2, they synthetically developed a virus that could do the same thing.

 

SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 also bind to the ACE2 receptor:

 

Comparative genetic analysis of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV/SARS-CoV-2) receptor ACE2 in different populations (February 24, 2020)

 

The ACE2 gene encodes the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2, which has been proved to be the receptor for both the SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the human respiratory coronavirus NL63.

Recent studies and analyses indicate that ACE2 could be the host receptor for the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV/SARS-CoV-21,2.

 

Previous studies demonstrated the positive correlation of ACE2 expression and the infection of SARS-CoV in vitro3,4. A number of ACE2 variants could reduce the association between ACE2 and S-protein in SARS-CoV or NL635.

 

Therefore, the expression level and expression pattern of human ACE2 in different tissues might be critical for the susceptibility, symptoms, and outcome of 2019-nCoV/SARS-CoV-2 infection.

 

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41421-020-0147-1 (archived)

While it is possible, and even likely, for a SARS-like coronavirus to develop the ability to bind to ACE2 receptors in the wild (as Paper 2 claims), this unfortunately also means we cannot rule out the connection to WIV.

 

If SARS-CoV-2 had bound to different receptors, that would make the contents of these papers less suspicious for the claims at hand.

 

Paper 4

In an internationally renowned discovery in 2017, the WIV found a cave in Yunnan Province that almost certainly held the first SARS-CoV-1 virus:

 

Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus (November 30, 2017)

 

In addition, we report the first discovery of bat SARSr-CoVs highly similar to human SARS-CoV in ORF3b and in the split ORF8a and 8b.

 

Moreover, SARSr-CoV strains from this cave were more closely related to SARS-CoV in the non-structural protein genes ORF1a and 1b compared with those detected elsewhere.

 

Recombination analysis shows evidence of frequent recombination events within the S gene and around the ORF8 between these SARSr-CoVs.

 

We hypothesize that the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV may have originated after sequential recombination events between the precursors of these SARSr-CoVs.

 

Cell entry studies demonstrated that three newly identified SARSr-CoVs with different S protein sequences are all able to use human ACE2 as the receptor, further exhibiting the close relationship between strains in this cave and SARS-CoV.

Bat samplings were conducted ten times from April 2011 to October 2015 at different seasons in their natural habitat at a single location (cave) in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.

 

All members of field teams wore appropriate personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, tear-resistant gloves, disposable outerwear, and safety glasses.

Bats were trapped and fecal swab samples were collected as described previously [9].

 

Clean plastic sheets measuring 2.0 by 2.0 m were placed under known bat roosting sites at about 18:00 h each evening for collection of fecal samples. Fresh fecal pellets were collected from sheets early in the next morning.

 

Each sample (approximately 1 gram of fecal pellet) was collected in 1ml of viral transport medium composed of Hank’s balanced salt solution at pH7.4 containing BSA (1%), amphotericin (15 μg/ml), penicillin G (100 units/ml), and streptomycin (50 μg/ml), and were stored at -80°C until processing. Bats trapped for this study were released back into their habitat.

 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5708621/ (archived)

Now, it claims that this same exact cave most likely contained the bat host for SARS-CoV-2:

 

A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin (February 3, 2020)

 

Full-length genome sequences were obtained from five patients at an early stage of the outbreak.

 

The sequences are almost identical and share 79.6% sequence identity to SARS-CoV. Furthermore, we show that 2019-nCoV is 96% identical at the whole-genome level to a bat coronavirus.

 

Pairwise protein sequence analysis of seven conserved non-structural proteins domains show that this virus belongs to the species of SARSr-CoV.

We then found that a short region of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) from a bat coronavirus (BatCoV RaTG13)

 

—which was previously detected in Rhinolophus affinis from Yunnan province—showed high sequence identity to 2019-nCoV. We carried out full-length sequencing on this RNA sample (GISAID accession number EPI_ISL_402131).

 

Simplot analysis showed that 2019-nCoV was highly similar throughout the genome to RaTG13 (Fig. (Fig.1c),1c), with an overall genome sequence identity of 96.2%.

 

Using the aligned genome sequences of 2019-nCoV, RaTG13, SARS-CoV and previously reported bat SARSr-CoVs, no evidence for recombination events was detected in the genome of 2019-nCoV.

 

Phylogenetic analysis of the full-length genome and the gene sequences of RdRp and spike (S) showed that—for all sequences

—RaTG13 is the closest relative of 2019-nCoV and they form a distinct lineage from other SARSr-CoVs.

The close phylogenetic relationship to RaTG13 provides evidence that 2019-nCoV may have originated in bats.

 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7095418/ (archived)

From the 2017 paper, we know that bat samples have been taken from the cave since 2011.

The virus RaTG13, which this paper claims is a 96.2% match with SARS-CoV-2, likely came from samples taken from this cave as well.

 

When it comes to coronaviruses, a 96.2% match is very, very close. You may have heard the common saying that humans share 96% of their

DNA with other primates, such as chimpanzees.

 

While this is true, a virus has a significantly smaller genome (only tens of thousands of base pairs compared to over 6 billion in the human genome).

 

Importantly, this paper shows that WIV has sampled viruses nearly identical to SARS-CoV-2 in the past, and may still be storing samples of these viruses today.

 Paper 5

Fatal swine acute diarrhoea syndrome caused by an HKU2-related coronavirus of bat origin (April 4, 2018)

Experiments were carried out strictly in accordance with the recommendations of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health.

The use of animals in this study was approved by the South China Agricultural University Committee of Animal Experiments (approval number 201004152).

The intestinal tissue samples from healthy and diseased animals (intestinal samples excised from euthanized piglets,

then ground to make slurry for the inoculate and NGS was performed to confirm no other pig pathogens were found in the samples), were used to feed two groups of 5 (control) and 7 (infection) animals, respectively.

For the second experiment, isolated SADS-CoV was used to infect healthy piglets from a farm in Guangdong, which had been free of diarrhea disease for a number of weeks.

These piglets were from the same breed as those on SADS-affected farms, to eliminate potential host factor differences and to more accurately reproduce the conditions that occurred during the outbreak in the region.

Both groups of piglets were cared for at a known pig disease-free facility. Again, qPCR and NGS were used to make sure that there was no other known swine diarrhea virus present in the virus inoculate or any of the experimental animals. Two groups (6 for each group) of three-day old piglets were inoculated with SADS-CoV culture superannuate or normal cell culture medium as control.

NGS and qPCR were used to confirm that there were no other known swine pathogens in the inoculate.

For both experiments, animals were recorded daily for signs of diseases, such as diarrhea, weight loss and death.

Fecal swabs were collected daily from all animals and screened for known swine diarrhea viruses by qPCR. Weight loss was calculated as the percentage weight loss compared the original weight at day 0 with a threshold of >5%.

It is important to point out that piglets when they are three days old tend to suffer from diarrhea and weight loss when they are taken away from sows and the natural breast-feeding environment even without infection. At experimental endpoints, piglets were humanely euthanized and necropolises performed.

Pictures were taken to record gross pathological changes to the intestines. Ileal, jejunal and duodenal tissues were taken from selected animals and stored at –80 °C for further analysis.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7094983/ (archived)

In this experiment, a similar virus to SARS-CoV-1, SADS-CoV, was intentionally injected into piglets to study its symptoms. This, along with Paper 2, proves without a doubt that WIV has performed experiments on live animals involving bat coronaviruses.

Paper 6

To further drive home the point that the WIV was heavily researching bat coronaviruses, here is a study on the efficacy of a specific disinfectant:

Evaluation of MICRO-CHEM PLUS as a Disinfectant for Biosafety Level 4 Laboratory in China (March 5, 2018)

MICRO-CHEM PLUS Detergent Disinfectant Cleaner (MCP) is a commonly used disinfectant at biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories where research activities involving the most dangerous pathogens must be conducted.

Using bat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)–like coronavirus (CoV) WIV1 as a surrogate pathogen, we extensively evaluated the disinfection efficacy of 5% MCP in the first BSL-4 laboratory in China.

WIV1 was completely inactivated in 1 minute of contact time by a 27-fold dilution of 5% MCP with a titer reduction of more than 7 lg 50% tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50)/mL, while a 243-fold dilution of 5% MCP showed very weak activity.

Source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1535676018758891 (archived)

They even used a bat coronavirus to test their disinfecting methods!

Paper 7

Yet another animal test involving piglets and a TGEV coronavirus was carried out in early 2019:

The N-Terminal Domain of Spike Protein Is Not the Enteric Tropism Determinant for Transmissible Gastroenteritis Virus in Piglets (March 30, 2019)

Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), one of the representative CoVs of the Alphacoronavirus genus, is the etiologic agent of transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) in pigs [12].

TGEV is widespread in the pork industry, causes high mortality in neonatal pigs, and is generally thought to share a common ancestor with porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV) [13].

Thirteen 2-day-old piglets from a TGEV-free sow were randomly divided into three groups and fed fresh liquid milk diluted in warm water every 4 h.

All piglets were confirmed to be free of TGEV, PEDV, porcine delta coronavirus (PDCoV), and rotavirus (RV) through a RT-PCR assay of piglet feces before viral challenge. The piglet weights were measured and recorded at the beginning of the challenge.

The piglet challenge group was intrinsically and orally inoculated with 500 μL (1 × 105 TCID50) of chimeric virus, and the mock-infected control group was intranasally and orally inoculated with 500 μL of DMEM.

The piglets were monitored for their clinical status every 4 h. Any piglet exhibiting moribund signs were euthanized. At 7 days post-inoculation, all surviving piglets were euthanized consecutively to reduce the stress of the other piglets.

Before necropsy, the weight of each piglet was recorded. At necropsy, five sections of the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, colon and stomach were collected, fixed in 10% formalin for histopathology examination and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (HE).

After necropsy, samples of jejunal contents and lung tissue were collected for virus detection by nested RT-PCR using the specific primers F1/R1 and F2/R2 (Table 2) [50].

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520731/ (archived)

Paper 8

We’re not done with piglets yet!

A conserved region of nonstructural protein 1 from alphacoronaviruses inhibits host gene expression and is critical for viral virulence (July 26, 2019)

To test the pathogenicity of TGEV(91–95sg), an animal experiment was carried out.

Piglets that had not been breastfed at birth were randomly divided into two groups with five piglets in each group; in addition, a mock-infected control group was formed that contained three piglets.

The piglets were orally inoculated at a dose of 1 × 106 50% tissue culture infective dose (TCID50) with the respective chimeric virus or mock-infected with Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium (DMEM).

The animal experiments showed that replacement of the selected motif (amino acids 91–95) reduced the pathogenic properties of TGEV.

Furthermore, in the TGEV group, all five piglets exhibited obvious dehydration and weight loss. Severe diarrhea began at 48 h post-infection, and all piglets died within 96 h, indicating the acquisition of lethal characteristics (Fig. 7C).

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746460 (archived)

Paper 9

Molecular mechanism for antibody-dependent enhancement of coronavirus entry (November 27, 2019)

Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of viral entry has been a major concern for epidemiology, vaccine development, and antibody-based drug therapy.

However, the molecular mechanism behind ADE is still elusive.

Coronavirus spike protein mediates viral entry into cells by first binding to a receptor on the host cell surface and then fusing viral and host membranes. In this study, we investigated how a neutralizing monoclonal antibody (MAb), which targets the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of Middle

East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus spike, mediates viral entry using pseudovirus entry and biochemical assays.

Our study reveals a novel molecular mechanism for antibody-enhanced viral entry and can guide future vaccination and antiviral strategies.

Source: https://jvi.asm.org/content/94/5/e02015-19 (archived)

You may need to click the PDF button to access the actual paper.
 

As recently as November 2019, WIV was conducting research on MERS-CoV, which is a direct relative to SARS-CoV-1.

Lack of PPE during Sample Collection

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is crucial in preventing infection among lab workers. One WIV press release itself points to a lack of PPE usage amongst personnel.

[China Youth Daily] Batwoman team finds the source of SARS virus (December 14, 2017)

As the team leader, Shi Zhengli often leads a team to climb mountains and drill holes. Sampling work is usually a group of 4 people.

The team members wore N95 masks, gloves and headlights, and jackets, and set up bird catchers at the entrance of the bat cave in the evening.

Despite wearing gloves, the risk of being bitten by a bat remains. Fan Yibi, a research team member, drew the length of the bat’s teeth. Not long ago, his index finger was bitten by a bat.

   “Before sampling in the field, we will inject rabies vaccine in advance. Among the viruses carried by bats, this is the most dangerous.” Fan Yi said.

Page translated to English via Google Translate.

Source: http://www.whiov.cas.cn/xwdt_105286/kydt/201712/t20171214_4916301.html (archived)

This image was attached to the article:

 

Note the lack of gloves on the researcher in the center and the lack of any facial protection such as safety glasses.

 

This is despite the article mentioning the risk of being bitten by a bat, and even including that a researcher was already bitten by a bat.

Job Postings

 

From November to December, WIV uploaded two job postings to its website:

http://www.whiov.cas.cn/105341/ (archived)

 

Page translated to English via Google Translate.

 

The November 18, 2019, job posting, titled “武汉病毒研究所周鹏学科组博士后招聘启事”, contains the following section:

Postdoctoral Recruitment Notice of Zhou Peng Discipline Group of Wuhan Virus Research Institute (November 18, 2019)

The main research directions of the research group:

Taking bat as the research object, answer the molecular mechanism that can coexist with Ebola and SARS- related coronavirus for a long time without disease, and its relationship with flight and longevity. Virology, immunology, cell biology and multiple omics are used to compare the differences between humans and other mammals.

 

Page translated to English via Google Translate.

 

Source: http://www.whiov.cas.cn/105341/201911/t20191118_5438006.html (archived)

 

The second posting, “武汉病毒所石正丽学科组博士后招聘启事”, uploaded December 24, 2019 (7 days before China reported cases of unknown pneumonia to the WHO), says:

 

Postdoctoral Recruitment Notice of Shi Zhengli Discipline Group of Wuhan Virology Institute (December 24, 2019)

 

1. Recruitment positions: 1-2 postdoctors

 

Proposed recruitment direction 1: Ecological study of bat migration and virus transmission

 

Prospective direction 2: bat virus cross-species infection and its pathogenicity

 

Introduction to PI

Shi Zhengli, Ph.D., researcher, team leader of the Department of Emerging Viruses,

 

Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, director of the Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Biology and Biosafety, Chinese Academy of Sciences , Editor-in-chief of

 

” Virologica Sinica ” magazine. Long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin of bats for major human and animal infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS , and discovered and identified a large number of new viruses in bats and rodents.

The New Virus Discipline Group focuses on the etiology of new viruses and their infection mechanisms, including bat and rodent virus discovery, early warning and transmission rules research,

 

cross-species infection mechanism and pathogenicity of coronavirus and other important bat virus Research, new virus serology and molecular diagnostic technology.

 

The subjects undertaken by the discipline group include the National Natural Science Foundation’s major instrument research and development projects, key projects, general projects, the Chinese Academy of Sciences pilot project, the Chinese Academy of Sciences China-Africa Research Center project, the US NIH project, etc.

 

Page translated to English via Google Translate.

 

Source: http://www.whiov.cas.cn/105341/201912/t20191224_5471634.html (archived)

From these job postings, it cannot be denied that the WIV was looking for personnel to research bat coronaviruses, including the “cross-species infection mechanism,” at the time of the SARS-CoV-2 spillover event.

 

Conclusion: Highly Likely

 

It is worth addressing the Editor’s Note, now placed above Paper 3:

Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this story is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.

 

Indeed; the claim here is not that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered. Rather, what this story and the associated papers prove, is that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has:

 

  • Conducted research involving the SARS-CoV-1 virus

 

  • “Recombinated” and “synthetically derived” different viruses based on SARS-CoV-1, some of which could be far more dangerous than SARS proper

 

  • Conducted tests on live cells (“in vitro”) involving variants of SARS-CoV-1

 

  • Conducted live animal tests (“in vivo”) involving variants of SARS-CoV-1

 

  • Conducted live animal tests (“in vivo”) involving SADS-CoV

 

  • Conducted live piglet tests (“in vivo”) with TGEV coronavirus as recently as July 2019

 

  • Conducted experiments with MERS-CoV in November 2019

 

  • Used variants of SARS-CoV-1 to test disinfecting procedures

 

  • Was actively hiring researchers to study bat coronaviruses and how they can infect other species in late November and December 2019

 

Disregarding the possibility of a lab accident, which will be investigated shortly, the likelihood that WIV did not store bat coronaviruses within its labs is extremely low. What is the likelihood that one of these stored coronaviruses was SARS-CoV-2?

How can we be certain it was not?

 

Shi Zhengli’s Response

 

How China’s ’Bat Woman’ Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus (March 11, 2020)

BEIJING—The mysterious patient samples arrived at Wuhan Institute of Virology at 7 P.M. on December 30, 2019. Moments later, Shi Zhengli’s cell phone rang. It was her boss, the institute’s director.

 

The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention had detected a novel coronavirus in two hospital patients with atypical pneumonia, and it wanted Shi’s renowned laboratory to investigate.

Shi—a virologist who is often called China’s “bat woman” by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years

 

—walked out of the conference she was attending in Shanghai and hopped on the next train back to Wuhan. “I wondered if [the municipal health authority] got it wrong,” she says.

 

“I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China.” Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals

 

—particularly bats, a known reservoir for many viruses. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, “could they have come from our lab?”

On the train back to Wuhan on December 30 last year, Shi and her colleagues discussed ways to immediately start testing the patient samples. In the following weeks—

 

the most intense and the most stressful time of her life—China’s bat woman felt she was fighting a battle in her worst nightmare, even though it was one she had been preparing for over the past 16 years.

 

Using a technique called polymerase chain reaction, which can detect a virus by amplifying its genetic material, the first round of tests showed that samples from five of seven patients contained genetic sequences known to be present in all coronaviruses.

 

Shi instructed her team to repeat the tests and, at the same time, sent the samples to another laboratory to sequence the full viral genomes. Meanwhile she frantically went through her own laboratory’s records from the past few years to check for any mishandling of experimental materials, especially during disposal.

 

Shi breathed a sigh of relief when the results came back: none of the sequences matched those of the viruses her team had sampled from bat caves.

 

“That really took a load off my mind,” she says. “I had not slept a wink for days.”

 

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-chinas-bat-woman-hunted-down-viruses-from-sars-to-the-new-coronavirus1/ (archived)

 

Coronavirus: bat scientist’s cave exploits offer hope to beat virus ‘sneakier than Sars’ (February 6, 2020)

 

Daily internet searches for Shi’s name increased 2,000 times from the average in a recent week, yet most posts on China’s internet and social media about her were negative. Some people called Shi the “mother of the devil”.

 

The flood of attacks came with allegations that the new coronavirus had escaped from her laboratory, which is in the same city, Wuhan, where the outbreak happened.

 

As the attacks increased, Shi felt forced to respond. On Sunday afternoon she sent a message to all her friends on the social media site WeChat: “I swear with my life, [the virus] has nothing to do with the lab.”

When asked to comment about the social media attacks, she said only: “My time must be spent on more important matters.”

 

Source: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3049397/bat-ladys-cave-exploits-offer-hope-beat-virus-sneakier-sars (archived)

 

Dr. Shi Zhengli (archived) is listed as an author for almost all of these papers. She is a chief scientist at the WIV and has been working there for decades. She likely understands SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 more than anyone reading or writing this document.

 

So, it is more than telling that she, too, considered the lab outbreak theory. Of course, after doing her research, she denies it. If she is correct, then we can indeed cross WIV off of our list of theories.

 

While we greatly respect Dr. Shi and her work, it would be foolish to discount the obvious bias involved. If this is an accident being covered up, why would she tell the truth?

 

Without independent, unbiased confirmation, how can we be certain that Dr. Shi is correct?

 

“We have investigated ourselves, and found nothing wrong.”

 

Yuan Zhiming’s Response

 

Wuhan Lab Denies Any Link to First Coronavirus Outbreak (April 20, 2020)

 

Yuan Zhiming, the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Communist Party chief, hit back at those promoting theories that the virus had escaped from the facility and caused the outbreak in the central Chinese city.

 

“There is absolutely no way that the virus originated from our institute,” Yuan said in an interview Saturday with the state-run China Global Television Network.

Yuan rejected theories that the yet-to-be identified “Patient Zero” for Covid-19 had contact with the institute, saying none of its employees, retirees or student researchers were known to be infected.

 

He said U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Washington Post journalists were among those “deliberately leading people” to mistrust the facility and its “P4” top-level-security pathogen lab.

“What we know is that the ground zero for this virus was within a few miles of that lab,

 

” Peter Navarro, a Trump trade adviser, said Sunday on Fox News. “If you simply do an Occam’s razor approach that the simplest explanation is probably the most likely, I think it’s incumbent on China to prove that it wasn’t that lab.”

“They don’t have any evidence on this, what they rely on is only their guess,” Yuan told CGTN on Saturday.

 

“I hope such a conspiracy theory will not affect cooperation among scientists around the world.”

 

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-20/wuhan-virus-lab-denies-any-link-to-first-coronavirus-outbreak (archived)

 

Once again, without independent, unbiased confirmation, how can we be certain that Yuan Zhiming is correct?

 

Furthermore, we actually know for a fact that Mr. Zhiming lied during his interview:

 

China lab rejects COVID-19 conspiracy claims, but virus origins still a mystery (April 28, 2020)

 

“The WIV does not have the intention and the ability to design and construct a new coronavirus,” he said in written responses to questions from Reuters. “Moreover, there is no information within the SARS-CoV-2 genome indicating it was manmade.”

 

Yuan also rejected theories that the lab had accidentally released a coronavirus it had harvested from bats for research purposes, saying the lab’s bio-security procedures were strictly enforced.

“High-level bio-safety labs have sophisticated protective facilities and strict measures to ensure the safety of laboratory staff and protect the environment from contamination,” he said.

Asked whether his institute would cooperate with an international inquiry into the pandemic, Yuan said that he was unaware of “such a mechanism”, but that the laboratory was already inspected regularly.

 

He added that his institute was committed to transparency and would share all available data about the coronavirus in a timely fashion.

 

“I hope everyone will put aside their prejudices and biases in order to provide a rational environment for research on tracing the origin of the virus,” he said.

 

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-lab/china-lab-rejects-covid-19-conspiracy-claims-but-virus-origins-still-a-mystery-idUSKCN22A0MM (archived)

 

  • The WIV does not have the ability to “design and construct a new coronavirus”? Perhaps he has not read Paper 1 or Paper 2, in which new coronavirus variants were designed and synthetically developed?

 

  • Whatever “strict measures to ensure safety” were in place at the time of the outbreak were superseded by Post-Outbreak Biosafety Guidelines in early January meant to address..deficiencies in lab safety.

 

  • Claiming that the laboratory is inspected regularly is useless if such inspections are not carried out by unbiased independent entities that can report safety issues.

 

 

We agree with Mr. Zhiming in that we “hope everyone will put aside their prejudices and biases in order to provide a rational environment for research on tracing the origin of the virus.”

 

 

Wuhan Center for Disease Control

 

WIV was the prime suspect until a mysterious paper, released on ResearchGate in early February, pointed at the possibility of an infection acquired from the Wuhan Center for Disease Control.

 

Indeed, its close proximity to the Huanan Seafood Market – less than 3 miles away – combined with its lower BSL rating (BSL-2), also makes it a likely candidate.

 

The paper was released by Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao, from the South China University of Technology. It has since been redacted from ResearchGate.

 

Attempting to access it (such as from http://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.21799.29601) results in the following error page:

Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao’s profiles also appear to have disappeared from ResearchGate.

 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Botao_Xiao leads to a directory search page.

 

According to Google Scholar, Botao Xiao has published peer reviewed papers in the fields of “Biophysics, Synthetic Biology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Bio-mechanics”:

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ap6QWmcAAAAJ&hl=en (archived)

 

He received his PhD from Northwestern University and spent two years at Harvard Medical School:

 

Botao Xiao

Education

Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA, 2011

M.S., Chongqing University, Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2004

B.S., Chongqing University, 2000

Professional Experience

2017-Present: Professor, South China University of Technology

2013-2017: Professor, Huazhong University of Science and Technology

2011-2013: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital

http://www2.scut.edu.cn/biology_en/2017/0614/c5951a169022/page.htm (archived)

 

All of this is to say: Dr. Botao Xiao is not your common fool. He is certainly more educated than the average person in this area.

 

The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus

 

The 2019-nCoV has caused an epidemic of 28,060 laboratory-confirmed infections in human including 564 deaths in China by February 6, 2020.

 

Two descriptions of the virus published on Nature this week indicated that the genome sequences from patients were almost identical to the Bat CoV ZC45 coronavirus.

 

It was critical to study where the pathogen came from and how it passed onto human. An article published on The Lancet reported that 27 of 41 infected patients were found to have contact with the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. We noted two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus in Wuhan, one of which was only 280 meters from the seafood market.

 

We briefly examined the histories of the laboratories and proposed that the coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory. Our proposal provided an alternative origin of the coronavirus in addition to natural recombination and intermediate host.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200214144447/https://www.researchgate.net/publication/339070128_The_possible_origins_of_2019-nCoV_coronavirus (original page no longer available)

We will evaluate the paper in order of its claims as they related to WHCDC.

 

 

There Are Few Bats in Wuhan

The bats carrying CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers away from the seafood market. Bats were normally found to live in caves and trees. But the seafood market is in a densely-populated district of Wuhan, a metropolitan of ~15 million people. The probability was very low for the bats to fly to the market. According to municipal reports and the testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors, the bat was never a food source in the city, and no bat was traded in the market. There was possible natural recombination or intermediate host of the coronavirus, yet little proof has been reported.

Earlier, Dr. Xiao asserted that SARS-CoV-2 is “86 to 96 percent” similar to the already known Bat-CoV-ZC45 virus, and uses this to claim that SARS-CoV-2 likely originated in bats. As we know from Paper 4, bat origin is now backed up by the Wuhan Institute of Virology as well.

His next claim is that it is very unlikely that there would be bats naturally living in the metropolitan distict of Wuhan, and in fact no bats were traded at the market at all.

Let us go one step further: there were no bats in Wuhan in December, because bats hibernate in the winter!

Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding (January 30, 2020)

However, despite the importance of bats, several facts suggest that another animal is acting as an intermediate host between bats and humans. First, the outbreak was first reported in late December, 2019, when most bat species in Wuhan are hibernating. Second, no bats were sold or found at the Huanan seafood market, whereas various non-aquatic animals (including mammals) were available for purchase.

Therefore, on the basis of current data, it seems likely that the 2019-nCoV causing the Wuhan outbreak might also be initially hosted by bats, and might have been transmitted to humans via currently unknown wild animal(s) sold at the Huanan seafood market.

Source: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30251-8/fulltext (archived)

The Lancet study suggests that there may have been a second animal involved in the spillover event. Several animals, such as snakes or pangolins, have been suggested, but the scientific community has not yet reached a consensus at this point in time.

What is confirmed are Dr. Xiao’s claims that bats were not sold at the market, and it would be highly unlikely for a bat to find itself in Wuhan (especially when it should be hibernating).

Therefore, the only likely way bats could be in Wuhan would be if they were brought there by humans. For example, if they were to be studied in a bio-laboratory

 

 

Horseshoe Bats Were Once Present in WHCDC Labs

 

WHCDC hosted animals in laboratories for research purpose, one of which was specialized in pathogens collection and identification[4-6].

 

In one of their studies, 155 bats including Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei province, and other 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang province[4].

 

Here is the paper referenced as [4]:

 

Phylogeny and Origins of Hantaviruses Harbored by Bats, Insectivores, and Rodents (February 7, 2013)

 

A total of 450 bats of eight different species were captured in Longquan city and Wenzhou city, Zhejiang Province in the spring of 2011 (Figure 1 and Table 1). Similarly, 155 bats representing eight species were captured in Hubei Province in the spring of 2012.

 

A total of 81 insectivores (representing two species – Anourosorex squamipes and Suncus murinus) were captured in Lianghe county, Yunnan Province in the spring of 2010 and autumn of 2011.

 

In 2006, two shrews (from the species Sorex isodon and Suncus murinus) were collected from Yakeshi city, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

 

Source: https://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1003159 (archived)

 

Dr. Xiao is correct again, however these bats were collected “in the spring of 2010 and autumn of 2011.”

 

It is unknown whether horseshoe bats were present in the WHCDC in late 2019. What is certain is that the WHCDC has engaged in bat collection activities before.

 

Surgery was Performed On Live Animals

 

Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing [4,5].

 

The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens. They were only ~280 meters from the seafood market. The WHCDC was also adjacent to the Union Hospital (Figure 1, bottom) where the first group of doctors were infected during this epidemic.

 

It is plausible that the virus leaked around and some of them contaminated the initial patients in this epidemic, though solid proofs are needed in future study.

 

We have already shown that the WHCDC is extremely close to the Huanan Seafood Market. The referenced paper is again [4], and does indeed confirm that surgery was performed:

 

Phylogeny and Origins of Hantaviruses Harbored by Bats, Insectivores, and Rodents

 

Bats were captured with mist nets or harp traps in caves of natural roosts in Zhejiang Province in the spring of 2011, or in villages or caves in Hubei Province in the spring of 2012 (Figure 1). According to protocols described previously [47], insectivore animals were trapped in cages using fried foods as bait in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in 2006 or in Yunnan Province in the autumns of 2010 and 2011.

 

All animals kept were alive after capture. They were initially identified by morphological examination according to the criteria for bats described by Wang [48] and for insectivores by Chen [49], and further confirmed by sequence analysis of the mt-cyt b gene.

 

All animals were anesthetized with ether before surgery, and all efforts were made to minimize suffering. Tissue samples of heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney and brain were collected from bats and insectivores for detecting hantaviruses.

However, this surgery was most likely performed in 2010, a decade ago. It is not a direct link to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

 

 

Conclusion: Plausible

 

The second half of the paper discussed the possibility of an infection arising from the WIV; we have already covered that quite well.

 

In summary, Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao lay the following claims:

 

  • WIV and WHCDC are extremely close to Huanan Seafood Market (correct)

 

  • There were likely no bats naturally living in Wuhan at the time of outbreak (correct)

 

  • Horseshoe bats were once present in the WHCDC (correct, but unknown if in 2019)

 

  • A researcher once quarantined himself twice due to coming into contact with bat blood and urine (confirmed that he came into contact with bat urine)

 

  • Surgery was performed on bats in the WHCDC (correct, in the early 2010s)

 

Overall, the paper is largely made up of circumstantial evidence, which likely led to its withdrawal.

 

However, if the claims of the researcher quarantining himself are true, that does show a lapse in bio-laboratory safety that could contribute to an outbreak if not rectified.

 

This, on top of the possible presence of bats, lead us to believe that the WHCDC could have been a viable source for a spillover event.

 

Regardless of the accuracy of the paper, we do very much agree with one part of it:

 

In summary, somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk bio-hazardous laboratories.

 

Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from city center and other densely populated places.

 

 

Botao Xiao’s Response

 

From the Wall Street Journal:

 

Coronavirus Epidemic Draws Scrutiny to Labs Handling Deadly Pathogens (March 5, 2020)

 

Also, a Northwestern University-trained DNA specialist in China who formerly worked in Wuhan, Botao Xiao of South China University of Technology, published a paper stating “the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.”

 

Just over a page long and known as a “pre-print,” the Feb. 6 paper didn’t go through a formal peer-review process. Its evidence included lab locations in Wuhan, reference to past incidents of mishandled pathogens elsewhere in

 

China and the fact that a Wuhan researcher connected to the institute was famous for collecting thousands of bats, and sometimes getting bitten.

 

After British tabloids broadcast Mr. Xiao’s theory, and elements were propagated by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, the institute, China’s government and state media issued stern and detailed denials that there had been any accident.

 

“Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus,”

 

over two dozen virologists said in a joint letter carried in the Lancet medical journal.

Last week, Mr. Xiao told The Wall Street Journal he had withdrawn his paper.

 

“The speculation about the possible origins in the post was based on published papers and media, and was not supported by direct proofs,” he said in a brief email on Feb. 26.

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-epidemic-draws-scrutiny-to-labs-handling-deadly-pathogens-11583349777 (archived)

 

We mostly agree. However, it is curious is that Dr. Xiao did not just withdraw the paper, but deleted his profile entirely.

 

Outside of Wuhan

 

Paper 4 shows us that the cave most likely containing bats infected with SARS-CoV-2 is in Yunnan province.

 

Yunnan province is nearly 1,100 miles away from Wuhan, according to Google Maps. As Dr. Botao Xiao correctly stated, it would be unlikely for any bats to be living naturally in Wuhan, as it is a metropolis district that is avoided by most wildlife.

 

Additionally, most bat species would be in hibernation around the time of outbreak.

 

One possible explanation would be that a farmer or laborer in Yunnan went into this cave (for example, to collect bat feces known as “guano” which is apparently used for agricultural reasons), and then traveled to Wuhan later after being infected.

 

However, if this is the case, it is unlikely that the outbreak would have reached epidemic levels in Wuhan first.

 

Consider that, again according to Google Maps, a trip from Yunnan to Wuhan would take over a day:

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Wuhan,+Hubei,+China/Yunnan,+China/@27.404319,103.3009215

If Patient Zero had taken a bus or other form of public transport, SARS-CoV-2 would have begun spreading along that route, not in Wuhan.

 

It would be fairly easy for Chinese authorities to determine a mutual connection amongst original cases by simply asking them if they had travelled recently and if so, what bus, train, or flight they took.

 

Consider that this type of “contact tracing” was already used to determine that the Huanan Seafood Market was the original source of the outbreak (at least, according to Chinese state media).

 

Even if Patient Zero had driven him or herself to Wuhan, they most likely would have stopped along the way for bathroom and food breaks.

 

Again, they would have spread the virus at whatever rest stop they went to. However, if this happened, it has not been reported.

 

If the outbreak indeed started from the Huanan Seafood Market, that means an animal at the market would have had to be infected with SARS-CoV-2.

 

However, there were no bats sold at the Huanan Seafood Market: There Are Few Bats in Wuhan.

 

This means that a spillover event, from a bat to some other intermediary animal, could not have occured at the Huanan Seafood Market. The intermediary animal would have had to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 before it arrived at the market.

 

The Huanan Seafood Market is known as a “wet” market, in which animal carcasses are sold rather than individual animal parts (i.e. you would buy a dead pig but not packaged pork).

 

This means that the animal was almost certainly not safely packaged at the time of purchase or at the time it arrived at the market.

 

Consider the amount of people any type of meat encounters before finally reaching its consumer.

 

First, the animal must be hunted before being sent to a market (wouldn’t the hunter be Patient Zero? Surely China would be able to look at its medical records to find hunters who died of unknown causes at the beginning of the outbreak).

 

Depending on where the animal was first killed, this trip could take days and involve multiple modes of transportation, such as an airplane, bus, truck, train, or car.

 

In every case but one (car) the animal would be inserted into the vehicle by employees at an airport, bus station, train station, or warehouse loading ramp. In every case but one, these are typically locations that have very high levels of foot traffic.

 

If transporting the animal took multiple trips, this means that multiple employees at each location would have been exposed to the infected animal before it was finally placed on sale at the Huanan Seafood Market.

 

We know that it is highly unlikely anyone would drive a car filled with animal carcasses. Consider the stench.

 

Where are the sick employees who handled this infected animal? Where are the localized epidemics caused by these employees?

 

What are the odds that every single one of them did not get sick until the animal reached the Huanan Seafood Market?

 

And, let’s also not take for granted, that in order for this animal to even get infected with SARS-CoV-2, it itself would have had to be involved in a spillover event with a bat.

 

Remember that bats were hibernating during this time period.

 

In order for this pandemic to have originated outside of a Wuhan biological laboratory, the following would have had to take place:

 

  • An unknown animal comes into contact with a bat carrying the virus that would become SARS-CoV-2. This bat, for some reason, is not hibernating during the winter unlike most other bats.

 

  • This animal is then hunted and killed by some unknown person who does not fall ill and does not spread SARS-CoV-2 to anyone else.

 

  • This animal is then sent from its original location to the Huanan Seafood Market. Along the way, it is handled by dozens to hundreds of transportation employees, all of whom do not get sick and do not spread the virus.

 

  • The animal finally reaches the market, at which point multiple people who encounter it are hospitalized, and the virus begins to spread at very high rates.

 

Perhaps this virus had been spreading undetected amongst animal populations for the past few months prior to the outbreak.

 

But if this is the case, why would the spillover event to a human occur in Huanan Seafood Market? China has many hundreds of these markets in every province.

 

We are looking at 1-in-several-thousand-odds that a natural outbreak would begin in this market versus all the others.

 

Consider the odds we are looking at of a natural outbreak occurring in a market less than 10 miles away from two labs which have previously housed bats and conducted research on bat coronaviruses, rather than any other market in China.

 

Four months into the outbreak, China, with its vast electronic surveillance network and army of CCTV cameras, still has not been able to provide any evidence that this virus originated anywhere other than the market in Wuhan.

 

We argue that it would be incredibly unlikely for a virus to materialize out of thin air in this particular market.

 

So what do you think now?  All you that to do is put the pieces together. 

 

 

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