Reasonable to hypothesise Covid virus is genetically engineered: Expert

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Dec 16, 2021, 09:00 AM(IST)

The first cases were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, which is located across the Yangtze river where a virology lab is located Photograph:( Twitter )

Story highlights

Dr Alina Chan, a specialist in gene therapy and cell engineering at MIT and Harvard, made the claims when giving evidence to the UK Parliament's Science and Technology Select Committee.

There is a possibility that the COVID-19 virus was "most likely" leaked from a lab in China, British MPs were informed on Thursday.   

Harvard scientist Dr Alina Chan, while testifying before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, said that it was reasonable to hypothesise and investigate whether the Covid virus was modified in the lab. 

The first cases were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, which is located across the Yangtze river where a virology lab is located.

When asked by the panel about the probability of a lab leak as the origin of the pandemic, Chan said a “lab origin is more likely than natural origin at this point”.

“We all agree that there was a critical event at the Huanan Seafood Market, that was a superspreader event caused by humans. There is no evidence pointing to a natural animal origin of the virus at that market,” she noted.

×

Speaking on the possibility of the virus being engineered in the lab before a leak, Chan said: "We have heard from many top virologists that a genetically engineered origin of this virus is reasonable...and this includes virologists who themselves have made modifications to the first SARS virus."

On the question of her level of confidence that the world would eventually be able to establish the true origins of COVID-19, Chan said it was simply a matter of time.

"Right now it's not safe for people who know about the origin of this pandemic to come forward. It might be five years from now, it might be 50 years from now, but we live in an era where there's so much data being collected and stored...we just need a credible, systematic investigation," she said.

Also read | Scientists working on Covid origin notice timeline discrepancies; 1st case was a vendor at Wuhan market

"We know now that this virus has a very unique feature, called the furin cleavage site that makes it the pandemic pathogen it is. So, without this feature, there's no way this would be causing this pandemic."

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

According to Tory lord Lord Ridley, who has co-authored a book on the virus's origins with Dr Chan, the fact that experts have still not located the animal host that would support a natural origin despite two years of investigation, supports the notion that COVID-19 emerged from a lab.Recent discoveries of China's attempted cover-up have compelled British and US intelligence agencies to investigate the lab-leak idea seriously, which was previously regarded as a lunatic conspiracy theory.



Watch |  Gravitas: Lab leak "most likely" source of Covid-19, British MPs told

The explosive charges, on the other hand, are expected to put pressure on the UK government to question Beijing's assertions that the virus originated in nature.

They're also expected to raise more questions about Chinese President Xi Jinping's connection with the WHO, which was accused last year of issuing a whitewash report on the outbreak. 

(With input from agencies)

Read in App