World’s top medical journal finally says Covid could have come from lab leak
Published by The Mail on Sunday (18th September, 2022)
THE world’s leading medical journal has conceded that the Covid pandemic could have been sparked by a laboratory leak and admits that the virus may have been engineered by scientists.
It might seem a statement of the obvious in calling on global bodies to intensify efforts to determine if Covid-19 came from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan or crossed over from animals infected with a bat virus.
But this is a remarkable turnaround for the 199-year-old Lancet, which printed an infamous article condemning suggestions of a lab leak as ‘conspiracy theories’.
However, the journal – which says the world should take ‘seriously’ both main hypotheses – has also suggested the virus could be linked to laboratories in the US, provoking fears it is still promoting China’s cause rather than good science.
Certainly the landmark report of the Lancet commission into Covid-19 raises many issues, including the alleged stifling of scientific debate, the role of experts and the disturbing fear the West may be kowtowing to China’s dictatorship.
This inquiry – which concludes that the World Health Organisation and many world leaders reacted too slowly – was intended to be the authoritative probe into the pandemic. It points out there are two ‘pathways of emergence’ for the strange coronavirus that appeared in late 2019: through a ‘natural spillover event’ from nature, or from ‘research-related activities’.
It is known some diseases, such as the 2003 Sars epidemic, were traced to ‘zoonotic’ transmission (from animals to humans), although no proven animal host has been found for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid -19.
We also know that China covered up early cases, silenced doctors, resisted outside inquiries, hid key data and was carrying out high-risk experiments in maximum bio-security laboratories that specialised in research into bat coronaviruses in Wuhan.
Yet this inquiry by The Lancet – now attacked by the strangely aggressive zoonotic lobby that dismisses any suggestion of a lab leak – has been dogged by controversy.
Soon after the virus emerged, the journal published one of the most notorious scientific statements in recent history: a note by 27 experts attacking ‘conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin’.
This influential letter played a critical role in silencing scientific, political and media discussion of any idea that the pandemic might have begun with a lab incident.
However, it later emerged that it was drafted by British scientist Peter Daszak, a long-term collaborator with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was researching bat coronaviruses – despite known safety issues at the lab.
Daszak is the £357,000-a-year president of EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based group that funnelled funding from the United States to his friend Shi Zhengli, the Wuhan virologist known as ‘Bat Woman’ for her work collecting samples from bats.
This ended after The Mail on Sunday revealed in April 2020 that the US-funded research at her lab in Wuhan focused on bats caught 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province.
Daszak and allies responded furiously while continuing to denounce the lab-leak hypothesis as a conspiracy theory – although data shows the Wuhan scientists, working with EcoHealth Alliance, found close relatives to the pandemic virus in Yunnan bats.
Dr Richard Horton, the Lancet’s editor-in-chief, who has twice been honoured by Beijing, tweeted in June 2020: ‘Peter Daszak rejects conspiracy theories about the origins of Covid-19: and he knows more than most… about coronaviruses.’
Despite conflicts of interest, Daszak was invited to join the WHO’s origins inquiry in China and to head a Lancet commission investigation alongside five of his fellow signatories, before being dumped after an outcry following my revelations.
Last October, The Lancet finally published an ‘alternative view’ in which 16 scientists castigated Daszak for ‘imparting a silencing effect’ on scientific debate.
Jeffrey Sachs, the commission’s chairman and celebrity economist, caused a stir at a conference this year by saying he was ‘pretty convinced’ Covid ‘came out of US lab biotechnology, not out of nature’ – a stance misquoted and promoted by Chinese officials.
His commission’s report fuels this fire. It states that ‘independent researchers have not yet investigated the US laboratories engaged in the laboratory manipulation of Sars-CoV-like viruses’ – before adding ‘nor have they investigated the details of the laboratory research that had been under way in Wuhan’.
It might sound bonkers to point the finger of blame for a possible lab leak in China at the US. Yet there are justified concerns that Western funding bodies and scientists are tied to the risky research.
And as one respected scientist told me, perhaps the Chinese government is looking for a path to admit to a lab accident while sharing blame with the US.
We know scientists in Wuhan were involved in collaborative projects funded by Washington and co-ordinated through EcoHealth Alliance, engaging in ‘gain of function’ experiments that can potentially boost the infectivity of coronaviruses and were first conducted by Western scientists’.
Grant proposals have even been found that included proposals to insert a furin cleavage site into bat coronaviruses. This feature, which allows Sars-Cov-2 to enter more efficiently into human cells, is not found in similar coronaviruses.
And we have seen via Freedom of Information requests, leaks, books and investigative articles how some Western scientists privately feared the virus might have been engineered and the research part-funded by the US – but dismissed such ideas as they apparently led efforts to shut down debate.
Key to these concerns are the two most influential scientists in America – presidential adviser Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Francis Collins, then head of the major US funding body – along with Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust in Britain, which has funded at least one study involving the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Farrar, along with two Wellcome colleagues, was among the signatories to that Lancet statement in February 2020, as well as co-ordinating another influential paper that appeared in Nature Medicine, stating the authors ‘do not believe any type of laboratory-based scenarios is plausible’.
This statement emerged following a confidential teleconference hosted by Farrar at the request of Fauci, which was joined by Collins and Sir Patrick Vallance, Britain’s chief scientific adviser. This newspaper obtained 32 emails about their discussions under Freedom of Information laws – but officials blacked out almost every word.
It took more than a year to winkle out that Farrar and each of the five authors of the Nature Medicine statement had expressed private fears over either the virus’s engineering or a secret store of novel coronaviruses held in Wuhan.
It has been depressing to see how scientists – aided by journals with ties to China, weak politicians and patsy media – have apparently closed ranks, allowed documents to be redacted, obstructed investigations, withheld information and smeared those seeking the truth on our age’s most significant health issue.
So this Lancet report deserves some credit for setting out the stark facts on the origins of Sars-CoV-2 – and for saying both natural and research-related spillovers remain plausible causes of the pandemic based on our current knowledge.
Yet how strange that this simple statement is still controversial, such is the issue’s toxicity thanks to the deceptive actions of China and its shameful allies in the West.