Lab Leak or Mother Nature: The Uncomfortable Truth

A few weeks ago in an interview with CNN, Dr. Redfield, former CDC Director, indicated that he felt it was most likely that Covid-19 had been developed in and had leaked from the Wuhan lab. After this interview the media shared his view but also said he “had no evidence” in an effort to undermine or downplay his perspective. This is especially infuriating as there is currently no definitive evidence of the exact source of the Covid-19 virus. So, anyone discussing possibilities technically has no evidence by this standard.

However, a large number of facts actually point to the possibility that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Let’s review what we know:

–The Wuhan lab is the most prominent facility researching bat coronaviruses in the world and a portion of the Covid-19 virus is a bat coronavirus sequence.

Leaked confidential reports from 2018 revealed the U.S. State Department was informed of troubling activities and conditions at the Wuhan Institute of Virology including less than adequate safety protocols.

–The Wuhan lab was known to be engaging in gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses that shape viruses to behave in particular ways and can essentially act to supercharge what may have originally been a weaker or benign virus.

–Several Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers were hospitalized in the fall of 2019 for Covid-like symptoms and no medical records or tests for these workers were ever produced to refute they had the virus. The Chinese government simply told the World Health Organization (WHO) that the workers didn’t have Covid.

The competing idea is that this virus just happened to jump into the human population accidentally. So, how does Covid-19 compare to other zoonotic viruses (i.e., viruses that jump from animals to people)? We’ve never seen anything like it.

Early Zoonotic virus jumps aren’t this infectious. If we examine two of the most recent zoonotic jumps before Covid-19, SARS and MERS, here’s what we find:

–Cases of SARS during 2003 outbreak = 8,098 cases worldwide, 774 deaths

–MERS cases from 2012 to present = 2,442 cases worldwide, 840 deaths

–Maximum transmission rate was SARS 3 and MERS 0.9 vs. 5.7 for Covid-19

–Transmission of SARS and MERS was through contact with people or fluids, not airborne like Covid

–Symptoms of both SARS and MERS are flu-like and largely respiratory

–Neither is neurotropic (i.e., it doesn’t get into the brain)

–No widespread system effects like Covid

–No significant asymptomatic transmission as with Covid

So, while zoonotic viruses can jump into the human population and cause illness and death, they are not already maximally intensified to be extremely contagious and damaging. Worldwide, total Covid cases are approaching 144 million with over 3 million deaths. SARS and MERS are clearly very limited by comparison.

Another suspicious sign that points to lab development is the more infectious variants that continue to arise. Mutations of natural viruses are often weaker, not stronger. A virus that demonstrates more and more infectious mutations, as with the U.K. and South African variants, points to lab development through gain-of-function, as this type of research can essentially program a given virus to become increasingly stronger as it mutates.

Some might remember the WHO sent a team to Wuhan to investigate and they announced they felt a lab leak was “unlikely”. The WHO report was a complete joke for several reasons. First, the Chinese government decided what information the team could access and review. So they did not get to see everything they would have needed to review to make an informed determination. Second, the leader of the WHO group has a long-standing relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology which is a tremendous conflict of interest. Lastly, the Chinese government co-authored the conclusions in the report. They were clearly going to show the team only what they wanted them to see and write what they wanted everyone to think. It’s not as though the Chinese government would admit that they were responsible for a global pandemic, even if they knew that they were. So, they are pushing the narrative that it’s merely a coincidence the leading bat coronavirus research facility is located in the same town as the epicenter of the outbreak.

One important question is…. If the virus was developed in the lab, was it a product of pure research or was it being developed as a potential biological weapon? Unfortunately, we cannot know for certain. We know the Wuhan Institute of Virology had a relationship with the Chinese military. And, they certainly would not reveal that Covid was a product of bioweapon experimentation if that were the origin.

But every way this virus operates makes it an excellent fit to be a bioweapon:

–Airborne transmission and extremely contagious

–Most contagious stage with largest viral shedding in asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals who don’t even realize they are sick

–Significant asymptomatic infections with silent harmful effects in major body systems (lungs, heart, and brain)

–Mutations that become more infectious

Even if the intent was to develop the virus as a potential biological weapon, it would appear that it’s release was likely accidental. Typical strategy for releasing a bioweapon would not normally be to give it to yourself and to do so prior to having a cure for your own country. So, it seems reasonable to assume that the release was just a colossal blunder.

The likelihood that this virus was developed in a lab should be taken very seriously and widely shared with the public. Frankly, this should have been discussed more from the very beginning but was dismissed, in part, due to tensions between the media and former President Trump. The media had a completely oppositional dynamic with Trump and consistently rejected what he proposed. Certainly, there were things he was quite incorrect in saying (e.g., using bleach in the body). In this arena, however, he almost certainly had access to the confidential concerns about the Wuhan lab activities. He may have been being indiscreet in pointing the finger at China but likely not incorrect.

People need to understand the possibility that this virus was intentionally supercharged, is likely not a naturally occurring entity, and may have even been intended to be a bioweapon. And, the media should stop trying to undermine those like Dr. Redfield who are sharing the lab leak as the most likely source of the virus based on how the pandemic began and everything virologists know about how viruses function. When we review what is known, the lab leak is the simplest and most logical explanation.

If the American public understood the origin and true nature of the virus, they would see that Covid is not at all like naturally occurring colds and flu viruses and many would take it more seriously. Seeing the virus as a potential product of a lab with connections to the Chinese military creates a very different perception than assuming it was just something that popped up from a bad spin of Mother Nature’s wheel of fortune.

Since there is a possibility the intent was for this to be a biological weapon, we should combat the virus with war-like intensity. No one should take a ho-hum, casual attitude about getting Covid in their body knowing that an enemy nation potentially wanted this virus to harm us at some point in time. We should all fight to stamp it out of existence.

Next week, in my final installment, I’ll discuss thoughts on moving forward including why the current vaccine may not achieve the results we are hoping for and what other approaches might help to finally stop the Covid nightmare.