New Study Shows Nearly 70 Percent Possibility That COVID Leaked From Wuhan Lab

Researchers claimed that no animals were identified as the ‘natural or intermediary host of the virus’ unlike earlier reports.The COVID-19 virus had an “unnatural” origin, with a high probability that it came from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a recent study concluded.The peer-reviewed study, published in the Risk Analysis journal on March 15, used a risk analysis tool to determine the origin of the COVID-19 virus. The analysis found a 68 percent likelihood of an “unnatural than natural origin of SARS-CoV-2.” Although the study did not definitely prove the origin of the COVID-19 virus, it stressed that “the possibility of a laboratory origin cannot be easily dismissed.”Since the outbreak began in December 2019, animal sources and the lab leak have been the two key hypotheses for the origin. While a wide range of animals, including bats, have been suspected to have been the source of the virus, “no animal has yet been identified as the natural or intermediary host of the virus,” researchers noted.“One of the closest known bat coronaviruses, RaTG13, was being studied at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and has 96.1 percent homology with SARS-CoV-2.” Homology refers to the similarity between different organisms that could suggest a common ancestor. “The existence and sequence of this virus were not known until after the COVID-19 pandemic began.”For the study, researchers used a modified Grunow–Finke tool (mGFT) epidemiologic risk analysis tool that differentiates between natural epidemics and deliberate biological attacks.The authors collected country-wise COVID-19 data from Jan. 1, 2020, to Oct. 31, 2022, and evaluated it using the mGFT tool based on 11 criteria—biorisk, unusual strain, geographic distribution, environmental concentration, epidemic intensity, transmission mode, time, unusually rapid spread, population limitation, clinical manifestation, and special insights.Related Stories“Using the modified GFT algorithm, the result shows a total of 41 points (68 percent) out of the maximum 60 points, indicating the SARS-CoV-2 is more likely from an unnatural origin,” the study said.Researchers pointed out that lab accidents are “common” and that if the pathogen is highly contagious, just one infected worker could trigger an epidemic.“The fact that the first cluster of cases was in the vicinity of a world-leading coronavirus laboratory known to be experimenting on SARS-like viruses, as well as a second lab that was also working on coronaviruses, cannot be dismissed as irrelevant,” it said.Some of the first COVID-19 infection cases were reported from the Hunan seafood market, located only eight miles from WIV. On Dec. 2, 2019, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a facility studying coronaviruses, moved to just 280 meters from the seafood market.Researchers recommended that mGFT be included in the toolbox for outbreak investigations given its highly sensitive nature when it comes to distinguishing between natural and unnatural origins of viruses.The study was funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, the Australian government, and the Balvi Filantropik Fund.Some authors declared competing interests. One researcher was supported by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council. A second researcher was supported by the Balvi Filantropik Fund.Lab Leaked VirusThe Epoch Times reported on the possibility of COVID-19 originating from the WIV in April 2020, publishing a documentary indicating that a lab origin of the virus was the most likely scenario.The documentary highlighted the involvement of virologist Shi Zhengli, known as the “batwoman,” who conducted studies on bat coronaviruses at the WIV.Ms. Shi “was the first to locate the key to how coronaviruses can overcome cross-species barriers in order to directly infect human bodies,” it said, adding that she may be an “important link” to the origin of the virus.In April 2023, the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic said they requested in-person interviews with Ms. Shi.  However, the Chinese embassy opposed the request.Multiple U.S. agencies believe the COVID-19 virus leaked from the WIV. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in June last year lending credence to the theory.In January, documents published by the U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit public health research group, showed that scientists from the United States aimed to work with the WIV to create new coronaviruses similar to the COVID-19 virus in 2018, before the pandemic began.The documents revealed that the scientists “planned to use new reverse genetics systems and test viruses in vivo—in other words, to engineer live novel viruses.” Some of the documents described the viruses to be studied under the program as posing “a clear-and-present danger of a new SARS-like pandemic.”An American virologist from the University of North Carolina, Prof. Ralph Baric, worked with the WIV, intending to engineer new

New Study Shows Nearly 70 Percent Possibility That COVID Leaked From Wuhan Lab

Researchers claimed that no animals were identified as the ‘natural or intermediary host of the virus’ unlike earlier reports.

The COVID-19 virus had an “unnatural” origin, with a high probability that it came from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a recent study concluded.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the Risk Analysis journal on March 15, used a risk analysis tool to determine the origin of the COVID-19 virus. The analysis found a 68 percent likelihood of an “unnatural than natural origin of SARS-CoV-2.” Although the study did not definitely prove the origin of the COVID-19 virus, it stressed that “the possibility of a laboratory origin cannot be easily dismissed.”

Since the outbreak began in December 2019, animal sources and the lab leak have been the two key hypotheses for the origin. While a wide range of animals, including bats, have been suspected to have been the source of the virus, “no animal has yet been identified as the natural or intermediary host of the virus,” researchers noted.

“One of the closest known bat coronaviruses, RaTG13, was being studied at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and has 96.1 percent homology with SARS-CoV-2.” Homology refers to the similarity between different organisms that could suggest a common ancestor. “The existence and sequence of this virus were not known until after the COVID-19 pandemic began.”

For the study, researchers used a modified Grunow–Finke tool (mGFT) epidemiologic risk analysis tool that differentiates between natural epidemics and deliberate biological attacks.

The authors collected country-wise COVID-19 data from Jan. 1, 2020, to Oct. 31, 2022, and evaluated it using the mGFT tool based on 11 criteria—biorisk, unusual strain, geographic distribution, environmental concentration, epidemic intensity, transmission mode, time, unusually rapid spread, population limitation, clinical manifestation, and special insights.

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“Using the modified GFT algorithm, the result shows a total of 41 points (68 percent) out of the maximum 60 points, indicating the SARS-CoV-2 is more likely from an unnatural origin,” the study said.

Researchers pointed out that lab accidents are “common” and that if the pathogen is highly contagious, just one infected worker could trigger an epidemic.

“The fact that the first cluster of cases was in the vicinity of a world-leading coronavirus laboratory known to be experimenting on SARS-like viruses, as well as a second lab that was also working on coronaviruses, cannot be dismissed as irrelevant,” it said.

Some of the first COVID-19 infection cases were reported from the Hunan seafood market, located only eight miles from WIV. On Dec. 2, 2019, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a facility studying coronaviruses, moved to just 280 meters from the seafood market.

Researchers recommended that mGFT be included in the toolbox for outbreak investigations given its highly sensitive nature when it comes to distinguishing between natural and unnatural origins of viruses.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, the Australian government, and the Balvi Filantropik Fund.

Some authors declared competing interests. One researcher was supported by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council. A second researcher was supported by the Balvi Filantropik Fund.

Lab Leaked Virus

The Epoch Times reported on the possibility of COVID-19 originating from the WIV in April 2020, publishing a documentary indicating that a lab origin of the virus was the most likely scenario.
The documentary highlighted the involvement of virologist Shi Zhengli, known as the “batwoman,” who conducted studies on bat coronaviruses at the WIV.

Ms. Shi “was the first to locate the key to how coronaviruses can overcome cross-species barriers in order to directly infect human bodies,” it said, adding that she may be an “important link” to the origin of the virus.

In April 2023, the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic said they requested in-person interviews with Ms. Shi.  However, the Chinese embassy opposed the request.
Multiple U.S. agencies believe the COVID-19 virus leaked from the WIV. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in June last year lending credence to the theory.

In January, documents published by the U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit public health research group, showed that scientists from the United States aimed to work with the WIV to create new coronaviruses similar to the COVID-19 virus in 2018, before the pandemic began.

The documents revealed that the scientists “planned to use new reverse genetics systems and test viruses in vivo—in other words, to engineer live novel viruses.” Some of the documents described the viruses to be studied under the program as posing “a clear-and-present danger of a new SARS-like pandemic.”

An American virologist from the University of North Carolina, Prof. Ralph Baric, worked with the WIV, intending to engineer new spike proteins. U.S. Right to Know claimed that Mr. Baric had already created spike proteins when a proposal was submitted to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which ended up rejecting the proposal.

The March 15 study highlighted a “series of unusual actions” that took place at the WIV around the time of the pandemic.

“In September 2019, control of the lab was handed over from civilian to military command and control, and a contractor was hired to renovate the ventilation system within the facility. Simultaneously, for reasons unknown, the WIV removed a large virus database containing approximately 20,000 specimens from bats and mice that had previously been accessible to the public,” it said.

“It is unclear whether the database included sequences that could be relevant to the origin of SARS-CoV-2 and whether any attempt was made to cover it up.”

The facility also saw “several instances” where biosecurity measures were poorly implemented.

For instance, some scientists failed to follow proper equipment protocols when handling bats and ended up getting bitten by the creatures. In early November 2019, “some staff members from the institute were hospitalized with COVID-19-like symptoms,” it said.

During a congressional committee hearing in March 2023, Dr. Robert Redfield, former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that he was “sidelined” from early discussions on COVID-19 origin after suggesting that it could have leaked from a lab, according to BBC.

“It was told to me that they wanted a single narrative and that I obviously had a different point of view … Science has debate and they squashed any debate,” he said.