More Potential Evidence Pointing to the Lab Leak Theory

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The Telegraph reports that scientists were collecting bat samples from Laos. In September, scientists came across a coronavirus strain named Banal-52 in Laos. Banal-52 shared 96.8 percent of its genome with SARS-CoV-2. There is a new theory as to how it might have become the Wuhan virus.

All roads always seem to lead to EcoHealth Alliance and Peter Daszak.

The Telegraph believes this strengthens the Wuhan leak theory, but it’s not proof. Leaked emails between EcoHealth Alliance and U.S. government funders might hold answers.

U.S.-based bipartisan group White Coat Waste Project obtained emails through a Freedom of Information Request.

The emails show that between June 2017 and May 2019, the Wuhan Institute of Virology received viral samples of “bats and other high-risk species” from Laos, according to the reports.

Prior to Banal-52’s discovery, the EcoHealth Alliance was looking at other bat viruses, including in Yunnan, China, and sending them to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

One such virus is RaTG13, also remarkably similar genetically to Sars-Cov-2. RaTG13 was first discovered in a horseshoe bat in a Yunnan mineshaft. The Chinese government denies researchers access to the mine, according to Daily Mail.

According to reports, information about the genetic sequences of the samples collected from both Laos and Yunnan were wiped from an online database at the Wuhan institute where they were stored until September 2019.

That makes it impossible to know what strains were studied.

RESEARCHER TIES IT IN

New Zealand-based data scientist and pandemic origins researcher Gilles Demaneuf believed that the leaked documents’ revelations offer a “plausible” route to trace the virus’ spread from Laotian bats to Wuhan, according to the Daily Mail.

Now we have a very plausible direct route with two options,” Demanuef wrote in a blog post, the Telegraph reported.

“Banal-52 is not close enough to be the progenitor, it’s still not the smoking gun, but it’s pretty good. So maybe this virus started in Laos, not China. Interesting possibility,” Ridley reportedly said when he was speaking at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

“But we got a leak of a document showing that the EcoHealth Alliance was sampling bats in Laos. They say in the document that because it would be complicated to come back and ask the U.S. Government for permission to give some of the grant to a Laotian lab, they’d like to send all these samples to a lab that can analyse it for them. It was in a place called Wuhan. So the outbreak happened in a city with the world’s largest research programme on bat-borne coronaviruses, whose scientists had gone to at least two places where these Sars-CoV-2-like viruses live,” Ridley said, according to the Telegraph.

Speaking to Daily Mail, Ridley suggested two possibilities: “Number one, a Wuhan bat sampler infected on a field sampling trip. Number two, a research accident in Wuhan when manipulating a Laos Banal-like bat coronavirus.”

Dr. Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth Alliance, had proposed that the U.S. government fund “to artificially insert cleavage sites into Sars-like coronaviruses collected in the field and studied in Wuhan,” the Daily Mail reported.

The United States declined Daszak’s 2018 request for $14.2 million out of concerns over the impact of the Alliance’s virus alteration work.

Ridley, however, believes that while the U.S. turned down Daszak, the work still proceeded.

The Chinese do most of the funding.

NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES THE LAB LEAK THEORY

Several other sects of the scientific community continue to suggest the virus could only be natural in origin.

A series of recent papers pointed to the virus evolving in animals before being transmitted to humans, in the same way as all other previously discovered coronaviruses, NewsBinding reports.

The first study, published in Scientific Reports, showed some 47,000 wild animals from 38 species were sold across four markets in Wuhan between May 2017 and November 2019.

The authors, including Dr. Chris Newman, an evolutionary ecologist at Oxford University, claimed the evidence showed the conditions for animal-to-human transmission were in place in Wuhan.

But they acknowledged there was no proof Sars-CoV-2 was present or originated in any of these animals.


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