Is the COVID-19 naturally-occurring narrative driven by politically-motivated science?

USA May 08, 2020, 01.07 PM(IST) Written By: Lawrence Sellin

Coronavirus in China Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The debate about the origin of COVID-19 is also about potential complicity or culpability.

Let me begin by stating what should be obvious.

It may be marginally about health, but the debate about the origin of COVID-19 is really about vast amounts of money, the research programs it supports and the power and prestige that go with them.

It is also about potential complicity or culpability.

On April 30, 2020, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the United States issued a statement including the following:

“The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,”

What exactly comprises the “wide scientific consensus?”

If you exclude massive amounts of Chinese propaganda, it is actually based largely on a single, but widely-cited, Nature Medicine article entitled “The Proximal Origin of SAR-CoV-2,” and a supporting scientific narrative made by a few Western scientists with possible vested interests in the outcome, linked to a nearly endless regurgitation of the same arguments by the mainstream media.

It appears to be the same formula for artificially creating the “wide scientific consensus” of climate science or COVID-19 epidemiological models, mostly meant to stifle debate by labelling any contrary views as conspiracy theories.

That technique involves stating some scientific facts, but weaving them together in a manner that leads either to an entirely speculative conclusion or a false one, but both sounding definitive.

The truth is that no one yet knows the origin of COVID-19 and to make any categorical statements is misleading.

The naturally-occurring theory claims that coronaviruses circulating in a bat population mutated, acquiring the ability to infect humans, which was then transmitted to people either visiting or working in the Wuhan Seafood Market;  

First of all, the initial patients hospitalised between December 1-10, 2019 had not visited the Wuhan Seafood Market and bats were not sold there.

According to data published by Zhengli Shi of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the protein sequence of COVID-19 indicates that it most closely resembles the B Lineage of bat beta coronaviruses.

Yet, COVID-19 contains a furin polybasic cleavage site not found in any B Lineage bat beta coronaviruses found in nature.

There may be a scientific explanation for that, which would destroy the naturally-occurring theory of COVID-19.

In nature, B Lineage bat beta coronaviruses may select against the presence of a furin polybasic cleavage site because the biochemical action it induces may expose the virus to the more robust immune system of wild animals, especially bats.

Furthermore, the entire naturally-occurring argument made in the much-cited scientific article “The Proximal Origin of SAR-CoV-2” rests largely on the sequence of presumed B Lineage bat betacoronavirus RaTG13, which has never been verified outside of China, nor have samples of RaTG13 been provided to independent laboratories for study. 

That is, RaTG13 appears to exist only on paper.

It has been reported that early in the COVID-19 outbreak viral samples in the Wuhan Institute of Virology were destroyed and changes were made in its database, allegedly by Zhengli Shi on the evening of December 30th, the day before the World Health Organisation was alerted to the outbreak of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

Even if RaTG13 exists and the sequence reported by China is accurate, evidence suggests that the mutation pattern compared to COVID-19 does not resemble that for similar beta coronaviruses found in nature, indicating that either RaTG13 or COVID-19 is not natural.

It should now be clear even to the dimmest bulbs in Washington that the evidence supporting the naturally-occurring theory of the origin of COVID-19 is questionable and that a broader objective scientific investigation is warranted.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)