Genome Studies Not Conclusive; Bats, Wuhan Institute of Virology, and Animal Market Scrutinized While Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Source Is a Mystery

CARDINAL NEWS Headlines, News Highlights, and Current Events for Thursday, February 27 2020

NBC Nightly News interviewed virus expert Danielle Anderson, who says she is 90 percent certain virus came from a bat; possibly a butchered bat in an animal market in China.

As scientists debated the possibilities on whether the Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) jumped to humans from bats, pangolins or snakes (possibly connected to a filthy Wuhan seafood and animal market); The Wuhan Institute of Virology was rumored as a source for the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak with allegations of bioweapon research. The Twitter account for Zero Hedge was suspended in late January 2020 for sharing the identity and personal information of a Chinese researcher that studies the incidence of coronavirus in bats, and that Zero Hedge claimed might know about the source of the coronavirus. The Twitter account is still suspended.

Incidentally, the Chinese medical doctor, Li Wenliang, who attempted to issue the first warning about the deadly coronavirus outbreak on December 30, 2019, contracted the virus while working at Wuhan Central Hospital and died in early February 2020. Li Wenliang had sent out the warning to fellow medics, but police told him to stop “making false comments.” He died of coronavirus infection on Friday, February 7, 2020.

The Washington Post published “Experts debunk fringe theory linking China’s coronavirus to weapons research” citing U.S. experts who said that the Institute of Virology was not suitable for bioweapons research, and that there was no evidence that the virus was genetically engineered. However, that didn’t assure people that were skeptical about the fact that the Wuhan Institute of Virology opened the first biosafety level 4 (BSL–4) laboratory in mainland China, and was located in the same province (Hubei Province) where the highest number of confirmed Coronavirus cases broke out, and where the highest number of initial coronavirus deaths occurred inside China. Any suspicions raised publicly are being labeled conspiracy or fake news, and there is no conclusive evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is connected to the coronavirus outbreak.

A U.S. molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey Richard H. Ebright had previously expressed concern of multiple escapes of the SARS virus at Chinese laboratories in Beijing, and the pace and scale of China’s plans for expansion into BSL–4 laboratories (see direct link: Nature | Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world’s most dangerous pathogens). However, scientists are not saying there is any evidence that the coronavirus leaked from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In the Washington Post article, Ebright was reported noting that one specialty of the facility was researching coronaviruses transmitted by bats. Also, in the 2017 Nature article discussing the risks at The Wuhan Institute of Virology, Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, was quoted saying that he was concerned at the time about how to “manage risk in these complex systems when you cannot predict all the ways in which the system could fail.” Trevan said that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questioned how easy this would be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy.

Bats as Virus Reservoirs
A bat-borne virus is any virus whose primary reservoir is any species of bat. The virus species include coronaviruses, hantaviruses, lyssaviruses, SARS coronavirus, rabies virus, nipah virus, lassa virus, Henipavirus, Ebola virus and Marburg virus. Bat-borne viruses are among the most important of the emerging viruses.

— PubMed Links (PMID): 16847084, 22281072, 22261176, 16319873, 16195424, 24206838, 22278237, 26689940, 31474969, 26252523, 29439384, 25093425, 25634624, 30307845

Featured on NBC Nightly News

Dr Danielle Anderson, is the Scientific Director of the Duke-NUS Medical School ABSL3 laboratory and her research interests include understanding the virus/host relationship of a diverse group of medically important negative-stranded RNA viruses that includes Measles virus, Mumps virus and Nipah virus. These paramyxoviruses are not only responsible for a high degree of morbidity and mortality worldwide but also cause encephalitis. In addition, Dr Anderson utilizes novel diagnostic platforms for the identification of not only new paramyxoviruses, but also other clinically relevant emerging infectious diseases, such as MERS and Zika virus.

Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore

Nature published an Editors’ note in the February 2017 article on January 2020 declaring, “Many stories have promoted an unverified theory that the Wuhan lab discussed in this article played a role in the coronavirus outbreak that began in December 2019. Nature knows of no evidence that this is true; scientists believe the most likely source of the coronavirus to be an animal market.”

The Zero Hedge article, banned by Twitter in late January 2019, described a filthy Wuhan animal and seafood market and published a photo with a detailed index of components in the photo: a trussed live chicken in vegetable basket, an improvised table for cutting meat over a plastic bucket, live frogs for sale, fish and frog remains, a frog being slaughtered by a human for a client, nylon industrial gloves, unwashed buckets, and a dirty digital scale. In addition to studying the dirty conditions at the Wuhan seafood and animal market, the Zero Hedge author suggested experts who want complete understanding of the coronavirus jump to humans and subsequent global outbreak needed to interview the Chinese scientist they doxxed, who specializes in understanding how bats can be a reservoir of some of the most nightmarish viruses in the world without getting sick.

    — US & World News

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See also …

Nature | Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world’s most dangerous pathogens

BBC | Li Wenliang: Coronavirus kills Chinese whistleblower doctor

Washington Post | Experts debunk fringe theory linking China’s coronavirus to weapons research

THE NEW YORK POST Opinion | Author argues the coronavirus behind the COVID-19 outbreak may have leaked from a Chinese virology lab

Nature | Mystery deepens over animal source of coronavirus: Pangolins are a prime suspect, but a slew of genetic analyses has yet to find conclusive proof.

Zero Hedge | Is This The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic? (article on January 29, 2020 that prompted Twitter suspension for doxxing Wuhan researcher)

BuzzFeed News | A Pro-Trump Blog Doxed A Chinese Scientist It Falsely Accused Of Creating The Coronavirus As A Bioweapon

CBS News | Twitter bans Zero Hedge after it posts coronavirus conspiracy theory (probably suspended for doxxing, not posting ‘fake’ news.)

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