Nicholas Wade is not an alarmist, and not a conspiracy theorist. He is one of the most eminent science journalists in the country, having done stints at Science and the New York Times, and he has released a very long, technical,
and (if you’re into that sort of thing) riveting article on Medium weighing
the evidence on the origin of COVID-19. Did it emerge naturally from an
animal species to infect people in Wuhan, possibly at a wet market? Or did it leak out from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
Where I think it is most convincing is in describing the lack of plausibility of natural emergence:
No one has found the bat population that was the source of SARS2, if
indeed it ever infected bats. No intermediate host has presented itself,
despite an intensive search by Chinese authorities that included the
testing of 80,000 animals. There is no evidence of the virus making
multiple independent jumps from its intermediate host to people, as
both the SARS1 and MERS viruses did. There is no evidence from hospital
surveillance records of the epidemic gathering strength in the
population as the virus evolved. There is no explanation of why a
natural epidemic should break out in Wuhan and nowhere else. There is
no good explanation of how the virus acquired its furin cleavage site,
which no other SARS-related beta-coronavirus possesses, nor why the
site is composed of human-preferred codons. The natural emergence
theory battles a bristling array of implausibilities.
Wade weighed up what kind of evidence we do have about the virus itself, the lab, the safety protocols, and the grants funded by the NIH and NIAD, under Doctors Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci. They, and common sense, all point
in one direction:
Dr. Shi set out to create novel coronaviruses with the highest possible
infectivity for human cells. Her plan was to take genes that coded for
spike proteins possessing a variety of measured affinities for human
cells, ranging from high to low. She would insert these spike genes one
by one into the backbone of a number of viral genomes (“reverse
genetics” and “infectious clone technology”), creating a series of
chimeric viruses. These chimeric viruses would then be tested for their
ability to attack human cell cultures (“in vitro”) and humanized mice
(“in vivo”). And this information would help predict the likelihood of
“spillover,” the jump of a coronavirus from bats to people.
The methodical approach was designed to find the best combination of
coronavirus backbone and spike protein for infecting human cells. The
approach could have generated SARS2-like viruses, and indeed may have
created the SARS2 virus itself with the right combination of virus
backbone and spike protein.
It cannot yet be stated that Dr. Shi did or did not generate SARS2 in
her lab because her records have been sealed, but it seems she was
certainly on the right track to have done so.
In other words, this is no longer really just a lab-leak theory; the evidence points to a lab-created theory, too. Now, before you go off, the evidence
still also points to something like accident. But a reckless one and an eminently foreseeable one. One that virologists, and their sponsors, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, were warned about.
Wade also weighs in on the credulity of other science journalists, and the larger media — their inherent bias against theories floated by Donald Trump himself.
People round the world who have been pretty much confined to their
homes for the last year might like a better answer than their media
are giving them. Perhaps one will emerge in time. After all, the more
months pass without the natural emergence theory gaining a shred of
supporting evidence, the less plausible it may seem. Perhaps the
international community of virologists will come to be seen as a false
and self-interested guide. The common sense perception that a pandemic
breaking out in Wuhan might have something to do with a Wuhan lab
cooking up novel viruses of maximal danger in unsafe conditions could
eventually displace the ideological insistence that whatever Trump
said can’t be true.
Indeed. What would that look like? Read the whole thing.