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COVID-19 was not genetically altered virus, says geopolitical expert Jamie Metzl

As several questions on the actual origin of the coronavirus remain unanswered, Jamie Metzl, a geopolitical expert and a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, has opined that the virus was not "a genetically altered virus."

ANI | Washington DC | Updated: 01-08-2020 20:48 IST | Created: 01-08-2020 20:35 IST
COVID-19 was not genetically altered virus, says geopolitical expert Jamie Metzl
"I do not believe this was a genetically altered virus, just that it had likely been isolated and cultured in one of the Wuhan labs (WIV or WCDC)," said Metzl in his blog. Image Credit: ANI

As several questions on the actual origin of the coronavirus remain unanswered, Jamie Metzl, a geopolitical expert and a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, has opined that the virus was not "a genetically altered virus." "I do not believe this was a genetically altered virus, just that it had likely been isolated and cultured in one of the Wuhan labs (WIV or WCDC)," said Metzl in his blog.

He said, "Whatever the origins of the outbreak, including the possibility of an accidental leak from the Chinese virology lab in Wuhan, China's dangerous and ongoing information suppression activities are the foundations of this crisis." Citing a Lancet study, he said that there is strong evidence that the novel coronavirus outbreak did not originate in the seafood market. "This was clear early on but Chinese officials held to this story until late May 2020, when the evidence against this claim became wholly indefensible."

He further said that the Huanan Seafood Market didn't have bats for sale, and most bats species in Wuhan would be hibernating at the time of the outbreak. "It was reported that 34 per cent of cases had no contact with the market, and 'no epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases," Metzl said quoting Lancet. Speaking further on the origination of the virus, Metzl said, "This market is less than 9 miles away from The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Chinese Academy of Sciences, which: Developed chimeric SARS-like coronaviruses; Conducted 'dangerous' gain-of-function research on the SARS-CoV-1 virus, some of which had been funded by the US government (Asia Times); Established a 96.2 per cent match with SARS-CoV-2 and a virus they sampled from a cave over 1,000 miles away from Wuhan; Injected live piglets with bat coronaviruses as recently as July 2019; Published a paper on a close descendant of SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV, in November 2019; and Was hiring researchers to work on bat coronaviruses as recently as November 2019."

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, China had a "very poor safety record at many of its biosecurity facilities," Metzl said, adding that the market is less than three miles away from the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control, which was accused of being the "source of the outbreak from a now-withdrawn academic paper from a notable Chinese scholar at the South China University of China." Citing a Wall Street Journal report, Metzl said that Nikolai Petrovksy and colleagues at Flinders University in Australia have found that SARS-CoV-2 has a higher affinity for human receptors than for any other animal species they tested, including pangolins and horseshoe bats. "We can't exclude the possibility that this came from a laboratory experiment," Petrovksy was quoted as saying.

In one of his article in The Washington Post dated July 29, he wrote: "The closest known relative to SARS-CoV-2 is a virus sampled by Chinese researchers from six miners infected while working in a bat-infested cave in southern China in 2012. These miners developed symptoms we now associate with Covid-19. Half of them died. These viral samples were then taken to the Wuhan Institute of Virology--the only facility in China that's a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory, the highest possible safety designation. The Level 4 designation is reserved for facilities dealing with the most dangerous pathogens. Wuhan is more than 1,000 miles north of Yunnan province, where the cave is located." "If the virus jumped to humans through a series of human-animal encounters in the wild or in wet markets, as Beijing has claimed, we would likely have seen evidence of people being infected elsewhere in China before the Wuhan outbreak. We have not. The alternative explanation, a lab escape, is far more plausible. We know the Wuhan Institute of Virology was using controversial 'gain of function' techniques to make viruses more virulent for research purposes."

"A confidential 2018 State Department cable released this month highlighting the lab's alarming safety record should heighten our concern. Suggesting that an outbreak of a deadly bat coronavirus coincidentally occurred near the only level 4 virology institute in all of China--which happened to be studying the closest known relative of that exact virus--strains credulity." "Not getting to the bottom of this crisis would be the height of absurdity. Too much is at stake. To ensure everyone's safety, the WHO and outside investigators must be empowered to explore all relevant questions about the origins of the pandemic without limits. This comprehensive forensic investigation must include full access to all of the scientists, biological samples, laboratory records and other materials from the Wuhan virology institutes and other relevant Chinese organisations. Denying that access should be considered an admission of guilt by Beijing," Metzl added. (ANI)


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