Donald Trump may consider punishing China by ‘a thousand cuts’ for unleashing the C-virus , but conclusive evidence has now emerged that USA had funded China’s Wuhan lab now blamed for the virus leakage.
The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump’s MED-Marshal in the Covid-19 battle, had funded scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.
It is not yet clear why Trump in an outburst of anger resorted for a brief while recently tweeted #time to fire Fauci and quickly deleted the tweets .
Was it because he differed with Fauci in the way the pandemic needs to be tackled in US ? Or whether he considered firing Fauci to avoid any blot on himself if news on US-China not-so-open collaboration spilled over into public domain ! Trump’s outburst, often verging on madness, is not always gut reaction.
In 2019, with authorised NIAID backing , the National Institutes of Health allocated $3.7 million for six years for research . That included some gain-of-function work.
This program came on the heels of another $3.7 million 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019.
So a total to $7.4 million was provided to the Chinese institute for ‘joint research’ on bat virus.
Why China , many may question , and not US’ other allies !
Specially when the Trump administration has unleashed a vicious trade war, moved fleets to South China sea, trumped up Taiwan in global forums to rattle China and so much more to contain China’s rise.
Many scientists have lashed out at the function research, which entails manipulating viruses in the lab to explore their potential for infecting humans, because it creates a risk of starting a pandemic from accidental release.
Why would two superpowers get involved in this research when the US has officially scrapped its biological warfare program as far back as 1969 and why would China, which does not officially admit having but actually has a biological warfare program, collaborate function research ?
Since 2015, experiments to create a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus — one related to the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) — has triggered fierce debate over whether it is worth the risk to engineer lab variants of viruses with possible pandemic potential .
In an article published in Nature Medicine , scientists investigated a virus called SHC014, which is found in horseshoe bats in China.
The researchers created a chimaeric virus, made up of a surface protein of SHC014 and the backbone of a SARS virus that had been adapted to grow in mice and to mimic human disease.
The chimaera infected human airway cells — proving that the surface protein of SHC014 has the necessary structure to bind to a key receptor on the cells and to infect them. It also caused disease in mice, but did not kill them.
Although almost all coronaviruses isolated from bats have not been able to bind to the key human receptor, SHC014 is not the first that can do so.
In 2013, researchers reported this ability for the first time in a different coronavirus isolated from the same bat population.
The findings reinforce suspicions that bat coronaviruses capable of directly infecting humans (rather than first needing to evolve in an intermediate animal host) may be more common than previously thought, the researchers say.
But other virologists question whether the information revealed by the experiment justifies the potential risk. Although the extent of any risk is difficult to assess, Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, points out that the researchers have created a novel virus that “grows remarkably well” in human cells. “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory,” he says.
SARS-CoV-2 , the virus now causing a global pandemic, is believed to have originated in bats.
U.S. intelligence, after originally asserting that the coronavirus had occurred naturally, conceded last month that the pandemic may have originated in a leak from the Wuhan lab. (At this point most scientists say it’s possible—but not likely—that the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated.)
Dr. Fauci did not respond to mediarequests for comment, though he is otherwise very accessible to media — ” to spread the safety message”, as he puts it.
He is a kind of American hero now with masks, coffee mugs and other merchandise carrying his image, message or even slogans like ‘In Fauci we trust’ — somewhat implying Covid-ravaged Americans trust him more than Trump.
The American NIH however said in a statement recently : “Most emerging human viruses come from wildlife, and these represent a significant threat to public health and biosecurity in the US and globally, as demonstrated by the SARS epidemic of 2002-03, and the current COVID-19 pandemic…. scientific research indicates that there is no evidence that suggests the virus was created in a laboratory.”
That’s a huge lie — and a denial of intent. It is established that Fauci-led NIAID and NIH together funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology. So if anyone has to held responsible for this dangerous function research , it cannot be China alone . The US will have to share the blame.
Beijing must be faulted though for not monitoring the research more closely and should have stopped function research in bat corona virus after the SARS-MERS outbreak.
Contrast this to India which suffered Nipah virus in the state of Kerala in 2018 that led to nearly 20 deaths.
In February this year, after the Covid outbreak in China, the Indian government sharply censured the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for funding an “unapproved” Indian laboratory in Manipal, and not securing the necessary permissions for undertaking training in India for work on Nipah virus, considered a potential bio-weapon.
A Union Health Ministry communication to CDC said the work was undertaken despite knowing that high risk pathogens can be tested only in BSL4 lab. As the highest level of biological safety, a BSL4 lab consists of work with highly dangerous and exotic microbes. Infections caused by these microbes, including Ebola and Marburg viruses, are frequently fatal, and come without treatment or vaccines.
The Ministry said it is taking a “very serious view” of all such contraventions of virus research guidelines that bypass the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)/ Health Ministry Screening Committee (HMSC) for permissions.
Now back to the NIH ‘joint research’ with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
It was in two parts. The first began in 2014 and involved surveillance of bat coronaviruses, and had a budget of $3.7 million. The program funded Shi Zheng-Li, a virologist at the Wuhan lab, and other researchers to investigate and catalogue bat coronaviruses in the wild. This part of the project ended in 2019.
The second phase of the project began the same year and included additional surveillance work but also gain-of-function research for the purpose of understanding how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans.
The project was run by EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit research group, under the direction of President Peter Daszak, an expert on disease ecology. NIH canceled the project on April 24th, long after the Covid-19 had wrecked havoc in USA.
Peter Daszak did not immediately respond to media requests for comment.
The NIH project proposal states: “We will use S protein sequence data, infectious clone technology, in vitro and in vivo infection experiments and analysis of receptor binding to test the hypothesis that % divergence thresholds in S protein sequences predict spillover potential.”
In layman’s terms, “spillover potential” refers to the ability of a virus to jump from animals to humans, which requires that the virus be able to attach to receptors in the cells of humans. SARS-CoV-2, for instance, is adept at binding to the ACE2 receptor in human lungs and other organs.
According to Richard Ebright, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University, the project description refers to experiments that would enhance the ability of bat coronavirus to infect human cells and laboratory animals using techniques of genetic engineering.
As Covid-19 pandemic rages mercilessly, the question will ask both of US and China and their ‘deep states’ and ‘murky business empires ‘ why on earth would civilised responsible nations fund research that was aimed at infecting humans and perhaps killing.
It is difficult to believe two apparent adversaries would collaborate on research to make a deadly bio-weapon — so was it to create a new all encompassing high power vaccine capable of neutralising all deadly viruses , past, present and future !
Is it that US funded the field research in China to escape all risks of a pandemic fallout which scientists have been warning off since 2015 to decry functions research ! If so, what was China’s motive in taking so much American money to fund a dangerous research !
Easternlink has learnt from senior Indian and Western biologists that the most likely explanation for such ‘secret joint research’ between two apparent enemies — US and China- that both were into a dangerous strain of research to gain first access to the results that could give their country a monopoly over a future super-vaccine .
Ebright, along with many other scientists, has been a vocal opponent of gain-of-function research because of the risk it presents of creating a pandemic through accidental release from a lab.
One of India’s top virologist joined Ebright in lambasting the need for functions-research.
“This is dangerous, this is unethical, this can lead to a catastrophe,” the scientist at a top Delhi-based genome research institute told Easternlink on condition of anonymity.
He had last month vouched for ‘coronavirus in its earliest form being an US bio-weapon’ produced before 1969 when President Nixon scrapped the country’s bio-warfare program.
https://theeasternlink.com/investigation-coronavirus-an-old-us-bio-weapon/ ( by Subir Bhaumik)
Easternlink had also exposed China’s biowarfare program , running a detailed piece by an Israeli researcher who for a while was based in the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (IDSA) in Delhi.
Dr. Fauci, famous for his research during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1990s, has headed the NIAID since 1984 and served as an adviser to every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan.
A decade ago, during a controversy over gain-of-function research on bird-flu viruses, Dr. Fauci played an important role in promoting the work, says Newsweek.
” He argued that the research was worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to make preparations, such as investigating possible anti-viral medications, that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred,” Newsweek claimed, without so far eliciting a rebuttal from Dr Fauci.
The work in question was a type of gain-of-function research that involved taking wild viruses and passing them through live animals until they mutate into a form that could pose a pandemic threat.
Scientists used it to take a virus that was poorly transmitted among humans and make it into one that was highly transmissible—a hallmark of a pandemic virus. This work was done by infecting a series of ferrets, allowing the virus to mutate until a ferret that hadn’t been deliberately infected contracted the disease.
The risks involved worried most seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted. They insisted that functions research increased the likelihood of a pandemic through a laboratory accident.
Dr. Fauci defended the work. “[D]etermining the molecular Achilles’ heel of these viruses can allow scientists to identify novel antiviral drug targets that could be used to prevent infection in those at risk or to better treat those who become infected,” wrote Fauci and two co-authors in the Washington Post on December 30, 2011.
“Decades of experience tells us that disseminating information gained through biomedical research to legitimate scientists and health officials provides a critical foundation for generating appropriate countermeasures and, ultimately, protecting the public health.”
Nevertheless, in 2014, under pressure from the Obama administration, the National of Institutes of Health instituted a moratorium on the work, suspending 21 studies.
Three years later, in December 2017, after Donald Trump had taken over as US president ,the NIH ended the moratorium and resumed the second phase of the NIAID project, which included the gain-of-function research.
The NIH established a framework for determining how the research would go forward: scientists have to get approval from a panel of experts, who would decide whether the risks were justified.
The reviews were indeed conducted—but in secret, for which the NIH has drawn criticism.
In early 2019, after a reporter for Science magazine discovered that the NIH had approved two influenza research projects that used gain of function methods, scientists who oppose this kind of research blasted the NIH in an editorial in the Washington Post.
“We have serious doubts about whether these experiments should be conducted at all,” wrote Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins University and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard. “[W]ith deliberations kept behind closed doors, none of us will have the opportunity to understand how the government arrived at these decisions or to judge the rigor and integrity of that process.”
The National Institute of Virology in Pune told Easternlink that Indian scientists had focussed their energies on how the virus interacts with its host by imaging virus infected host cells with ultrastructural tools.
NIV Deputy Director Atanu Basu told Nature India that they are also trying to identify key cellular sites of replication, virus morphogenesis and development. “This will give us better knowledge to supplement studies by drug development groups,” Basu says.
Basu’s team was the first to image the novel coronavirus from an Indian patient using a transmission electron microscope. “Native images in clinical material can be very useful for pathogenesis studies,” he says. NIV is looking to collaborate with structural biology groups and to pool resources, especially in the area of cryoEM, to study the replication and organization of this virus in depth.
India should join responsible nations with a scientific base like Japan, South Korea,Australia, ASEAN and European Union to drive the bio-research priorities on lines suggested by Basu and his team at NIV.
On the other hand, the world should join hands to castigate both US and China, Trump and Xi Jinping for playing with fire and burning the world . Both these superpowers should be isolated and an alliance of the civilised and the responsible should take the initiative to create a peaceful world, if the human race has to be saved. It is exactly like eliminating a virus — or two, if that is what it takes.