• Wishful thinking stacked on deception

    As usual, great thread.
    A proper fact-based rebuttal and none of the wishful thinking stacked on deception of @MichaelWorobey or @beyerstein.

    And on the very likely start of the outbreak from mid-Oct to mid-Nov 19 (something accepted by most of the scientific community):

    Also just published:

    "Liang Wannian takes aim at suggestions of strong evidence linking the market with early community transmission"

    scmp.com/news/china/sci…

    I have been reminding everyone that both Chinese scientists (since Feb 20) and Oxford-educated Gao Fu have largely dismissed the market theory (in May 20 and again in July 21 for Gao):

    In doing so Liang Wannian actually confirmed a conclusion of DRASTIC - something that @MichaelWorobey got wrong:

    The dental report of the 8th is not for Mr Chen but likely for his child.

    Why would Mr Chen still have baby teeth?
    Did Michael check it with specialists, as we did?

    As for the cold-like symptoms, DRASTIC is still divided. The language used in the various interviews and medical report is not very clear.

    Somewhere between the 8th and the 16th for sure.

    Anyway Mr Chen did not travel out of Wuhan (except to go to a scenic spot north of the city).

    Nor did he shop in any wet market (RT Mart was a modern foreign-owned supermarket chain).

    So the outbreak had clearly reached the other side of the city by the 16th Dec at the latest.

    Which again makes a mockery of the theory that the first cases started in the market in the second week of December and then spread from there.

    No, the outbreak most likely eventually reached the market a few weeks after starting in the city.

    In particular one should check the Wuhan Uni ABSL-3.

    There is a possible ground zero around there.

    Wuhan Uni ABSL-3 worked with primates and humanized mice with the WIV on EcoHealth funded projects.

    Last ,those who keep saying that SARS-CoV-2 lab infections don't occur can go on a hike, as the Taiwan P3 (Dec 21) and the Beijing P3 (Jan or Feb 20) show.

  • This story of a possible Lab Acquired Infection in Taipei is a clear conspiracy theory

    This story of a possible Lab Acquired Infection in Taipei is a clear conspiracy theory.

    Let's stand against disinformation and politicization of health issues.

    taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4371080

    Compared to the millions of interactions with bats every year, work in labs concerns only a tiny number of people.

    Only conspiracy theorists like the DRASTIC far-right bunch can pretend otherwise. These guys are not scientists.

    www.science.org/content/article/sars-viruses-may-jump-animals-people-hundreds-thousands-times-year

    In any case Taipei is home to large populations of bats.

    Ignore the trumpist rabid conspiracists.
    Instead if we want to look at the origins of that latest outbreak in Taipei, we need to urgently sample the bats in the city.

    taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3882007

    One Health has been predicting such a zoonotic spillover event for ages.

    We should spend more effort rolling out One Health to Taipei instead of being distracted by the silly theories of a bunch of anonymous internet sleuths.

    Also just next door to the Academia Sinica P3 lab, there are hiking trails and forests where you are much more likely to come into contact with bats than it a highly safe P3

    Then you have various markets within less than 1km from the labs.

    That's where we need to go and sample.

    And even if we find no infected animal there, it is clear that this is a much more likely source of infection.

    First suspect should be the Linsen market, within 1 km form the P3 lab.

    It looks very much like a famous market in Wuhan.
    They sell meat, fish, dry products. They even have stray animals.
    Very suspicious.

    Then there is even a COSCO not that far.

    Looks very much a famous RT Mart in Wuhan where some Mr Chen got likely infected in early December.

    Maybe they even sell lobsters from Maine. It's worth checking and including this in the conclusion of any investigation.

    Conspiracy theorists jump on coincidences.
    Those anonymous DRASTIC 'sleuths' are a dangerous bunch that should be ignored - they have been fully debunked.

    The lab-leak theory is just racist nonsense when there are so many well known zoonosis risks.
    newrepublic.com/article/164688/viral-lab-leak-theory-covid-19

  • The human factor

    Read these emails. It’s amazing.

    Worth reading.
    This shows how errors and contaminations can happen in a lab when rushing.

    The human factor is most often the weakest link in any lab.

    That can take the form of badly trained research assistants or even students messing around.

    See SARS-2 P3 leak in Taipei a few days ago.

    Or the SARS-1 leaks in Singapore in 2003:

    Or the multiple and very serious SARS-1 leaks in Beijing in early 2004:

    Or it can take the form of errors by well qualified personnel under pressure.

    See Taiwan SARS-1 P4 leak in 2003.

    Most likely also the (unreported) Beijing SARS-2 [P3?] leak in Jan/Feb 2020.

    And this lab contamination at the CDC Atlanta when trying to quickly design a Covid-19 test.

    In the end mistakes simply happen.

    They often happen when people rush to study a highly-transmissible new virus, and/or when poorly qualified personnel is involved (something unfortunately rather common).

    The same mistakes keep being repeated over and over again.

    We can pretend that this is just a distraction and keep rushing ahead with more lab work on increasingly dangerous pathogens - as if doubling down was the right solution.

    Or we can stop pretending that it is a distraction, stop calling people who dare to raise questions conspiracy theorists, and learn from our mistakes.

    For a more detailed analysis, see section 4 of my review of SARS-1 leaks:
    gillesdemaneuf.medium.com/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-a-review-of-sars-lab-escapes-898d203d175d

  • Public opinion

    March 2020:
    pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020…

    June 2021:
    morningconsult.com/2021/06/09/cor…

    assets.morningconsult.com/wp-uploads/202…

    November 21:
    reaganfoundation.org/media/358080/r…

    The questions asked are not the same, the methodologies are different, so one has to be somewhat careful when comparing the numbers.
    Still there seems to be a trend.

    Also the 76% asking for reparations is not helpful.
    That is a non-starter.

    Better learn from our collective mistakes and plug the biosafety and research gaps to make us all safer.

    Plenty to do there starting with better oversight of laboratories, at home and abroad.

  • Possible P3 LAI in Taiwan

    Possible P3 LAI in Taiwan.
    Absolutely not surprising. Exactly the same happened with SARS-1.

    There was already one LAI in Beijing in 2020 (not officially reported - once again)

    Scientist COVID positive after exposure in Taipei P3 lab | Taiwan News
    taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4371080

    Taiwan had a SARS-1 Lab Acquired Infection at a military P4 (using gloved P4 cabinets) in 2003.

    I wrote about it here.
    gillesdemaneuf.medium.com/the-good-the-b…

    And the Beijing Institute of Virology which leaked SARS-1 four times in 2004 (one death, 11 cases, cover-up and WHO kicked out of the investigation) had a SARS-CoV-2 lab infection in early 2020.
    Not officially reported.

    That scientists was working with mice.
    taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4371212

    Let’s remember that the Wuhan Uni ABSL-3 was working with humanised mice, with the WIV on EcoHealth Alliance funded research.

    Would be interesting to check WH03, the 21y old female whose file was created on the 10th Dec 19 by the PLA hospital of central military command.

    The GPS coordinate in her sequencing details (ebi.ac.uk/biosamples/sam…) are very close to the Wuhan Uni ABSL-3

    Normally a 21y old would be a very mild case. Certainly not one that you would expect to be noticed and diagnosed so early on in an outbreak which supposedly is not yet understood.

    Our DRASTIC searchable map has plenty more info.
    Feel free to use it: bit.ly/3q5DoSD.

  • Le Duc emails

    Read these emails. It’s amazing.

    So much for the paper-thin fake consensus published in Lancet and Nature at about the same time.

    When we raised exactly the same questions we were called conspiracy theorists.
    Time to come clean.

    Le Duc:
    “If there are weaknesses in your program, now is the time to admit them and get them corrected. I trust that you will take my suggestions in the spirit of one friend trying to help another during a very difficult time.”

    That looks exactly like the questions that DRASTIC and the Paris Group have been asking for ages.

    Except that we are rabid conspiracy theorists, right?

    Check the emails here:

    usrtk.org/wp-content/upl…

    Then you have that damning exchange between Russell and Le Duc:

    Just what I, rabid trumpist conspiracy theorist, kept pointing to also:

    You made your own bed. Don’t complain if you have to sleep in it.

    Treating the American public like idiots has a price.

    By the way I have recently quoted a weird paper by Le Duc and Franz, with a rather conflicted conclusion:
    See journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mB…

    Le Duc has been rather quiet publicly, just about hinting at some possible lab issues:

  • Global Times reporting about the likely Taiwan Lab Acquired Infection

    This Global Times reporting about the likely Taiwan Lab Acquired Infection is rather surrealist.
    It manages to blame Taiwan for being transparent while never mentioning its own much worse record both in biosafety and in transparency.
    globaltimes.cn/page/202112/12…

    Let's start by the SARS-CoV-2 Lab Acquired Infection at the Beijing institute of virology in Early 2020.

    China - true to form - never reported it. What did you expect?
    That's typical - instead of transparency you get a cover up.

    'Feng Gao is my 师兄 [partner] in 病毒所 [virology]. We were from the same lab where my former director has now been infected by SARS CoV 2! Very sad but he is doing OK!'

    'Yes, he was infected in the lab!'

    Neither does the Global Times article mention the 4 primary cases, one death, 11 infections, 1,000 people put in isolation during the 2004 Beijing-Anhui SARS outbreak caused by very poor biosafety at the very same Beijing institution.
    gillesdemaneuf.medium.com/the-good-the-b…

    The whole episode showed completed disrespect for basic biosafety, a likely cover up of the first two lab infections in February 04 (once again!), the WHO being kicked out of the investigation (sounds familiar?).

    And much more in a comedy of error and mismanagement.

    With, as you may expect, no real sanction.
    Academicians are well protected and China does not want to look bad.

    Just hide the truth (no mention of that SARS sample fridge in the corridor outside of the lab please!), kick the WHO out, and all will be fine.

    The only thing that China learnt is that they can tell the WHO to go on a hike.

    A lesson that turned out to be very useful with SARS-CoV-2.

    I particularly liked that part of the Global Times piece:

    Wang Jianwei, who was officially sanctioned for his incompetence in the Beijing lab leak, was later appointed executive editor of Biosafety & Health magazine and produced a manual on laboratory biosafety!

    You can't make that up!

    Wang Jianwei (王健伟), the director of the Viral Diarrhoea Department of the Institute of Virology which leaked 4 times due to ignorance of basic biosafety rules, later wrote a Biosafety Manual and became a biosafety expert!
    wenku.baidu.com/view/1caa67416…

    Anyway that is just the beginning.

    Dong Xiaoping who was also sanctioned for his role in the Beijing leaks, is today one of the top CDC experts, with important biosafety roles.

    And he was the China #2 during the WHO visit in February 2020!

    He certainly knows about leaks..

    Anyway, as for the state of biosafety in China today, it is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.

    And with so many new labs and a dearth of trained professionals, a constant rush to to publish, a high number of students in these labs...

    and too often limited maintenance budget, real improvements remain elusive.

    Also there won't be any proper biosafety management as long as China does not have the courage to report and investigate lab accidents properly.

    That requires a culture change.
    gillesdemaneuf.medium.com/evaluation-of-…

    For a more detailed review of lab and research related accidents in China see also
    researchgate.net/publication/35…

    This one was actually investigated by Shi Zhengli herself:
    sciencedirect.com/science/articl…

    This one is remarkable: 10,528 people directly infected over months of exposure (from a vaccine plant).

    Then you have a bunch of lab-related brucellosis infections:
    sciencedirect.com/science/articl…

  • Good piece by Columbia Prof. Neil L. Harrison.

    medium.com/@leftback45/pe…

    "Seasoned skeptics wondered how someone with no formal training in virology, and no actual laboratory (EcoHealth has offices, but no labs at its New York City HQ) was swinging such a large bag of research funding."

    "There is also a strange and slightly sinister climate of intimidation that hangs around Daszak.
    ..
    Daszak has repeatedly engaged in a PR campaign marked by disinformation, intimidation and distraction.

    "These are not usually thought of as the tools of a scientist, but they are certainly central to the craft of a rather different trade..."one that is coincidentally represented on the Advisory Board of EHA"

    Indeed.

    Scientists are fond of dark humour, and while one colleague mused that EcoHealth has predicted and prevented “zero pandemics” in its history, another added “or perhaps minus one?”

    Daszak (a.k.a 'minus one') is a martyr, a “Prophet in Purgatory”.

    “we did nothing wrong” he asserted to Science, adding, “we went above and beyond what normal scientists would do”. Daszak complains to Cohen that there is an “anti-science attack” and that EHA is the target.

    [..] a pattern of deceit, denial and obfuscation served to obscure the revelation that the Imperial Leader may not after all have been wearing a magnificent suit, [..] and that the technological advance they promised was in reality much less substantive than had been advertised.

    With a proper send off at the end:

    "The author [..] does not know the proximal origin of the virus, but in his opinion frozen lobsters from Maine were unlikely to be involved. "

  • Just stating the obvious that THE FIRST CASE WAS NOT IN DECEMBER exposes the mendicant analysis of that recent piece, which feeds of the scraps of data left by China and then props itself up on odd logical shortcuts.

    One could hardly think of a more conflicted sentence than this one for instance:

    First, if indeed Mr Chen was infected during his hospital trip on the 8th Dec (as he suspect may be the case), then the whole logic implodes.
    @MichaelWorobey

    It would mean that Jinxia, about 28km away from the market, had community transmission in hospital setting by the 8th.

    (by the way our DRASTIC map had these documents and the 16th as likely onset date - and we all made it public ages ago)
    @sciencecohen

    Secondly even if the 16th Dec is the correct onset date, there is no link whatsoever between that case and the Huanan market.

    If you still believe that the 11th Dec is now the first 'official' case, then for the virus to pop up in Jiangxia you need many more cases in the city.

    Which means that, again, the logic implodes on the presence of Nov 19 case (further backed by epidemiological and molecular logic, plus obviously the leaked Nov cases in the SCMP).

    Secondly, there is a mistake in the piece:
    "He travelled north of Huanan Market shortly before his symptoms began".

    Actually he says that he went to a scenic area (Mulan Mountain) 90km north of the city at the end of Nov 2019.

    @KatherineEban @thedeadhandbook @sciencecohen

    And he is clear that he had zero contact with the market.

    He basically suspects either an infection when going to the hospital on the 8th (28km away from the market but a few km from the WIV) or an infection on line #2 of the tube.
    Both suppose many more cases, inc. Nov. ones.

    And the line #2 connects the two possible ground zeros:

    - One centered on 'WIV + Wuhan ABSL-3 + PLA Hospital + Hubei Hospital of Zhang Jixian + Wuchang hotspot' with many hints of early cases, including Nov ones.

    - One centered on the CDC lab and Huanan Market, with Dec cases.

    By the way Zhang Jixian is a CCP member, and was largely used by the CCP as a way to deflect interest away from Ai Fen.

    It would be better to reflect on this @MichaelWorobey before mentioning her (and wondering why the hospital is 'not mentioned by name' in papers).

    Instead of rushing to conclusions, please get in touch, share your ideas, discuss them @MichaelWorobey.

    I really don't care if you think that a research-related accident is only 20%.
    As long that we agree that it is anywhere between 20% and 80% we can all work better together.

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • Zoonosis happens all the time

    Here is a thread that looks at the zoonosis evangelists main argument that:

    ** since zoonosis happens all the time we should just use that hypothesis as the default one - the burden of proof must be on the research-related side **

    First let me state that this argument is a fallacy that makes the most of the fact that people don't intuitively have a good grasp of probabilities.

    One can explain this this way: Suppose that there are two lotteries in China: a zoonosis lottery and a research-accident lottery.

    Let's say that the zoonosis lottery sells 20 times more tickets over China, and also that each ticket has the same chance of winning a top prize (whatever the lottery).

    So on average you get 20 zoonosis top prizes for one accident top prize across China.

    But Wuhan is also where most of the research accidents happen because that's where most of the research in China is done.

    So Wuhan effectively buys most of the accident tickets in China.

    At the same time it buys ~ 1% of the zoonosis tickets in China (just one of many cities).

    So if you are told that Wuhan won a top prize, which lottery do you think it won?

    Simple: roughly 5 times more chance of winning the research-related accident lottery than the zoonosis lottery, since it purchased 5 times more accident-lottery tickets than zoonosis ones.

    Main conclusion:
    Once you know that Wuhan won the lottery, the probability of this being a research-related accident suddenly goes dramatically up compared to China as a whole: from 1 in 21 (China) to 5 in 6 (Wuhan).

    It's a complete switch.

    And the morality could be:

    "Zoonosis happens all the time in China but research-related accidents happen in Wuhan."

    Also, those with Machine Learning experience will recognise the 'happens all the time' argument as a naive majority-class classifier.

    That's the kind of binary dummy classifier that does nothing else that saying that everything belongs to the majority class.

    It's often right (by the very definition of the majority class) but it is completely useless as it does not even try to predict anything.

    It's like a spam filter that would mark ALL your emails as spam because your receive on average more truly spammy emails than valid ones.

    For some reason it's alright though when some virologists, epidemiologists and science writers turn into majority-class classifiers.
    I am not sure why.

    In Machine Learning it's fatally flawed because it does not consider the cost of getting it wrong.

    Which by the way is exactly what these scientists and science writers are doing with SARS-CoV-2 origins, as they typically also tell us that the benefits of the research are well worth the risk.

    If the cost of getting it wrong is small, then indeed everything can be a zoonosis.

  • The Lab-Leak Theory Meets Its Perfect Match

    Good summary by ⁦@danengber⁩, with one little issue.

    The Lab-Leak Theory Meets Its Perfect Match - The Atlantic theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…

    The odds are not driven by a distance argument but by a location exclusivity argument.

    In a well connected world, it is not difficult for a virus to find its way to a perfect place for a superspreader event, be it a Wuhan market or Wuhan itself.

    The odds are driven by the location of the initial breakout out of all places, with regards to the putative causative agent.

    For wildlife trade zoonosis a market makes perfect sense, but there are 100+ cities in China with wet markets, transport hubs and 1mln+ people.

    At the same time at least 50% of the Chinese research on bat coronaviruses, with all the lab activity and samplers coming back, was done in Wuhan - of all places.

    Hence the exclusivity argument has a *much* larger effect on the research-related scenario that on the market one.

    I put all this in many threads such as this one:

    And in this more technical paper:

    researchgate.net/publication/34…

    @Ayjchan @mattwridley

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • Sampling in Laos and the WIV

    I really like that quote from EcoHealth Alliance:

    “Any samples or results from Laos are based on WIV’s work, funded through other mechanisms,” says a [EchoHealth Alliance] spokesman.‘
    newsweek.com/how-dr-fauci-o…

    Because - guess what - that's exactly what Alexei and Daszak were telling the NIH would happen:
    "Samples will be collected by either our current China field team personnel working directly with our collaborators in these countries or by respective in-country personnel"

    And they will be no extra expense under the grant, since it will be done by collaborating partners and existing co-investigators:

    "All efforts expended in the countries will be from collaborating partners and not funded under our award".

    It's pasted all over their accepted request to go and sample bats in markets and in the wild (free-ranging), in Laos. Myanmar, etc.

    With the effort undertaken by 'collaborating partners' and 'Co-invistigators' with their own funding.

    All testing done at the WIV too, so that
    "There are no planned in-country costs associated with these foreign sites."

    Makes it easier to re-scope the grant half way through without having to discuss money.

    And the Chinese field-team (WIV + East China Normal University) already has great contact in these countries:

    So if the WIV ever sampled there as part of the R01Al110964 grant that has nothing to do with EcoHealth Alliance. Somehow.

  • November Cases

    Going back to the existence of Nov cases that have since then been 'cancelled' by China, please remember the US intel Nov 19 warning.
    researchgate.net/publication/35…

    Also remember the nine Nov confirmed cases from the SCMP (based on official Chinese sources).

    My Silent Numbers give you all the sources (inc. the SCMP without firewall).
    I also graphed the SCMP numbers (SCMP tab at top)

    bit.ly/2OyytJ4

    @jbloom_lab @MichaelWorobey

    One of the best papers I read about dating the index case is actually co-authored by Worobey himself.

    That's Pekar et al with its mid-Oct to mid-Nov estimate - which we referred to extensively in our 'October Surprise'.
    Pekar et al: science.org/doi/10.1126/sc…

    In the 'October Surprise' you can also read my analysis of the game played by China - walking the epidemiological trail AWAY from the earliest known cases.

    researchgate.net/publication/35…

    Also, do you really think that China would have suppressed the Nov cases and the early Dec ones if they pointed to the market?

    Please take a second to think about it.

    So one can believe in fairies and a December 'patient zero'.

    Or one can look at the epidemiological and genomic evidence, plus the data leaks and various ham-fisted 'cancels', which point us to cases in Wuhan in Nov 19.

    Nov 19 cases that could be detected from space and via com intercept, as the NCMI did.

    And it showed a reliable enough picture for the US to alert Nato and Israel at the end of that very month.

    researchgate.net/publication/35…

    @thedeadhandbook @ianbirrell @thackerpd @KatherineEban

    In the end we have two likely 'ground zeros'.

    One in particular is centered on the WIV, the Wuhan Uni ABSL-3 (worked with the WIV) and the PLA hospital of central military command (which shows up in relation to early cases, inc. Nov ones from US intel)

    I'll leave the fairies to the MSM, and the December data illusion to the 'Perspectives' section of Science mag.

  • A big twist in his knickers

    Anybody who has been following DRASTIC on this will know that we always highlighted the fact that the database had a private section.

    For some reason @stuartjdneil discovers this close to a year later and gets a big twist in his knickers.

    Our first work on the database was the analysis we published in Feb 21 (with more than 37,000 reads now).

    It's there as the 3rd finding:
    researchgate.net/publication/34…

    We also explained carefully what that meant:

    We even digressed into the legal issue of access to the confidential data, in the immediately following finding (Finding #4)

    I have been on TV, podcast and in articles clearly stating that the DB had a private section.

    For instance the Washington Post on 5th Feb 21:
    @thedeadhandbook

    Or the Sun on 19 Mar 21:
    @JournoHenry

    Or in my interview with Dana Lewis:
    @Danaslewis

    Whatever the audience, we made sure that the message was clear about the password protected section.

    For some reason Stuart lives in a world of his own and does not check the sources.

    Not surprising. I have seen a lot of desperate pearl-clutching from that quarter recently.

  • Mark Honigsbaum's review of Viral by @Ayjchan and @mattwridley is rather disappointing.

    Out of a lack of analysis, likely aided by an authoring bias, @honigsbaum has produced a damp squib, when usually his writings are much better.

    theguardian.com/books/2021/nov…

    The opening sets an unfortunate political tone, which is rather trite and totally unnecessary, unless Mark aims to please a political tribe instead of going through a rigorous review:

    "Ridley, a Conservative hereditary peer.."

    Is Matt now guilty of being born?

    Very fancy ideas about hereditary responsibility here for a science writer. The last time this was fashionable it did not work out very well.

    Seriously, it's better to abstain from taking cheap political swipes at someone.

    Then we get the predictable '...best known for his sceptical writings on climate change'.

    You do not have to be a climate change denier (and I could not be further from that) to note that this is a cheap 'framing' trope at the very start of a review.

    Now the book is not about climate change - so this is rather a silly trick of the reviewer's trade.

    By the way, if the same all-or-nothing criteria was applied to the Chinese government, given all its lies and abuses, Mark should not ever believe anything that China says.

    Then Mark happily resorts to a strawman argument, focussing on only one research-related scenario, the one of a manufactured virus.

    This is a complete reduction of a range of plausible research-related scenarios that include a sampling infection and natural viruses in a lab.

    Is that laziness or another cheap trope?

    This is compounded by yet another strawman argument on whether RaTG13 could be a SARS-CoV-2 progenitor.

    Very few people argue that point. As explained before, RaTG13 is interesting for other reasons.

    All this slow gradual buildup, punctuated by various tropes, then delivers a complete damp squib when Mark eventually wreaks his boat on some basic logical mistakes.

    So the Laos finding 'suggests it most likely emerged naturally'.

    An absurd reasoning since ALL research-related scenarios (sampling accident, natural virus escape, escape of a construct) suppose that the virus (or its backbone) is present in nature!

    Where is common sense gone?

    And all the more a suspicious reasoning since it completely fails to explain how that virus ended up triggering a breakout in Wuhan AND NOWHERE ELSE.

    Clearly Mark has problems grasping the probabilistic consequences of the location exclusivity argument.

    While at the same time we now know that EHA was planning to sample in Laos in 2017-19 and send everything to the WIV.

    Mark should acknowledge that the Laos findings do not move the needle and are perfectly consistent with zoonotic and research origins.

    So much for the 'most parsimonious' 'farmer [who] ventured into a cave in Yunnan or Laos in search of guano'.

    I guess that the farmer went shopping in Wuhan as many must do.

    And. God forbid!, he certainly did not meet a WIV sampler in his village.

    As for the 'epidemiological evidence' Mark goes fully in, with his claim that 'most of the original human cases had a history of prior market exposure'.

    Actually no.
    3 of the 4 earliest official ones had none. And we now nothing of all the November cases that China has hidden.

    In any case, the earliest official case (Mr Chen) - whom China could not hide because it became the case reported by the Ai Fen and Li Wenliang - lived in the urban district closest to the WIV and shopped locally at a modern supermarket.

    Even the Chinese did not believe the wet market story, starting by Chinese scientists who published a very good paper on the 21st Feb 2020.

    Did you check that paper @honigsbaum ?

    Even Gao Fu, the Oxford-educated director of the China CDC, eventually conceded that it was most likely just a superspreader event.

    Did you miss that @honigsbaum, or where you too busy fixating on hereditary peers?
    globaltimes.cn/content/118950…

    To make things worse Mark doubles up with the now totally discredited story of pangolins as potential intermediary species.

    For your info Mark, the outspoken HK virologist Yi Guan recently asserted that the pangolin story was disinformation and that the research-related accident was on the table.

    How do you deal with that?

    Mark then heads again for the rocks, this time the rocks of the triply false generalisation:

    "No major pandemic has ever been traced to a laboratory, whereas history is littered with examples of pandemics that began as transfers of viruses from animals."

    By the way, I am actually quite amused to see how Mark took a swipe at Matt for being an hereditary peer, but subscribes to a faulty 'hereditary' views of pandemics without applying any logical filter.

    Sweet irony.

    Matt closes his review with another cheap trope of the writer, basically the closure on the Climate Change theme labored in the opening:

    "far more urgent and compelling story of how the trade in wild animals, coupled with global heating and the destruction of natural habitats"

    Which is obviously another way to try to frame Matt (and poor Alina) as Climate Change deniers, and have the readers reach for the sick bag.

    Seriously, that Guardian review was very poor and Mark should do better.

    @Ayjchan @mattwridley @thackerpd @natashaloder @fastlerner

    Great addition to this thread, by @ianbirrell

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • Get ready for the long awaited sequel, starring Marion Koopmans and many of the original actors, plus some emerging talents such as Summermatter.

    Chinese production, US financing.

    Due to some unexpected problem with the casting, Daszak was unfortunately not available for the new production.

    We will miss his bumbling gruffness and natural sense of comedy, but watch for the new names - plenty of great talents there:

    Anyway, it looks like the someone took a leaf from the "Second China-U.S. Workshop on the Challenges of Emerging Infections, Laboratory Safety and Global Health Security" (May 2017)

    minus the transparency that is..
    But, hey, what do you do 'when accidents happen all the time'..

    (by the way Franz, former Commander, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, is an EcoHealth Alliance adviser)

    And it's not as if nobody mentioned the risks:

    Plenty more in that very interesting summary of that China-US workshop in Wuhan in 2017. Worth dissecting.

    Note: the document seems to have been deleted from the WIV website in April 2020.
    robottech.org/lib/exe/fetch.…

  • Page 79 of the White Coat Waste Project FOAI doc is very interesting.

    I'll just put it here with my notes in red. Read these first.
    @MaraHvistendah @fastlerner
    @AndrewKerrNC @anthonybellotti

    The bat sampling is for markets AND surrounding caves & forest:

    So it definitively includes wild-caught bats too:

    Additionally this sampling was to involve Chinese samplers, the usual collaborators of EHA, and all the samples were to be processed at the WIV.

    Now we have a very plausible direct route from Laos to Wuhan, a route with two options:

    #1 Wuhan bat sampler infected on field sampling trip.
    Interestingly this is an hypothesis that Callahan himself has on the top of his list.

    politico.com/news/magazine/…
    siliconicarus.org/2020/07/31/dar…

    #2 Research accident in Wuhan when manipulating a Laos BANAL-like BatCoV (possibly used as a backbone where a Yunnan-type spike was introduced).

    Basically the exact recipe given in DEFUSE:

    .. a recipe which according to the sudden urge to sequence that boring RaTG13 in 2018, seems to have been much more than just theoretical:

    Anyway - what a mess!

    Now if you still think that it is more plausible that a wildlife infection or market animal with a BANAL like BatCoV made its way of all places to Wuhan (and nowhere else), without the help of such a research project, then good luck to you.

    There is also something that baffles me here.

    How come that the USAID / State Dep agreed to have these samples from Laos and other countries all sent to the WIV?

    Come on! This is DURC and you use the WIV to process them all.
    Is anybody watching?

    And it fully breaks Callahan's basic rule for this kind of Cooperative Threat Reduction game:

    >> One should always try to involve local labs and not just ship to a foreign lab (and certainly not China!) <<

    What is going on?nap.edu/catalog/23484/…

    This should force a serious downgrade of the market zoonotic origin.

    => The most direct - and correctly **exclusive** - link between a BANAL type specimen from a market or cave in Laos and Wuhan now goes via the WIV and EHA.

    And it also allows for the presence of a BANAL type sample in Wuhan just at the right time, if one considers a lab accident, potentially as backbone for a chimera with a nasty spike.

    Last, this proposal breaks the DURC CTR game rules - EHA is basically running wild.

    EHA is not reducing the DURC risk but actually increasing it, by using Chinese and local teams to send market and wild caught bats samples directly to the WIV.

    A grave mistake in the CTR game. That this could be allowed shows a total dereliction of duty from the supervisors.

    Samples from Laos were sent to the WIV from June-17 to May-19 (years 4 and 5).

    That email on page 60 basically says 'as we did with year-4, we would like again to collect samples in South East Asia (markets, caves, etc) and send them to the WIV for year 5 (to May 19)'.

    It cannot have started before year 3, since EHA first asked to be able to send samples from Laos and other neighbours to China in that email below dated May 2016, at the time of the end of year-2 reporting (p.75-76).

    The question is: Did they also ship South East Asian samples to the WIV in year 3 (June 16- May 17)?

    The answer is very likely no based on p.70, p.80. p.101 and also based on the specific demand for Burma (p.84) [and despite B.6 aim on page 175]:

    Also based on the answer for Burma (a more complex process due to USG sanctions), we can see that they would have likely targeted at least 4 samplings over the 2 years in Laos (p. 89).

    Now if you want to understand why EHA decided to sample neighbouring countries in the middle of the grant, it all goes to the their observation of a reduction in the purchase of wildlife at wet markets in South-China and a shift to trade with other countries.

    See page 181, 187:

    Page 178 is interesting because is give the basic approach 'sample / check spike / create mutant' for both SARS and MERS:

    I have not seen any paper under that R01 grant about the BatCoV samples from Laos and other neighboring countries sent to Wuhan.

    - Why no paper?
    - Can we see the sequences of the Laos BatCoVs sent to Wuhan?

    In Sep 19, EHA published their findings about high-risk people in Southern China (including low seropositivity of 0.6%) covering work for years 2 to 4 (to Jul 17).

    Nothing since about these BatCoVs, especially the ones from Laos. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/artic…

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • That recent letter from the Committee on Energy and Commerce to Collins is really worth reading

    Some very interesting revelations about four highly relevant letters between NIH and EcoHealth discussing EcoHealth’s research proposal.

    republicans-energycommerce.house.gov/wp-content/upl…

    Letters which have not been made public (why?) but for which HHS arranged an 'in camera' review of printed copies by a bipartisan Committee, at HHS headquarters on Oct 5 and monitored by HHS staff.

    See particularly pages 6 and 7:

    What they show is how easily EHA argued that their research objectives did not constitute GoF, against the initial concerns of the NIH.

    They got way with it on rather specious grounds.
    No proper risk evaluation, instead a focus on arbitrary definitions which used and abused give an easy free pass.

    (Thanks God, nuclear power stations are not managed with such casuistic principles - or we would all be long gone).

    Anyway EHA was able to proceed.

    Just to be safe - or to sound like it at least - NIH added that 1 log clause.

    Clause which was then just ignored.

    Neither EHA nor the NIH paid attention to it when despite all the windy reassurances of EHA, spike experiments with SHC014 produced more than 3 logs of comparative growth (x1000, well beyond the limit of x10).

    The whole thing then degenerated into a comedy, with EHA filling with 2 years of delay that year 5 report that briefly mentioned the 3 logs experiments.

    And then adding that they had tried to report it on time in 2019 but that NIH systems did not work.

    Fauci has previously stated that:

    "the benefits of such experiments [--] outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky."

    But it may be time to remind him of what he wrote next to that statement, because it seems that it has totally forgotten about it:
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/artic…

  • There is quite a bit of confusion as to what was by EHA reported and when.

    So let me try to clarify this.
    wsj.com/articles/coron…

    Issue #1: the WIV1-SHC014 experiment.

    The NIH tries to call it 'limited' and 'unexpected'.
    [I won't go trough the details but it is not much unexepected as far as I can tell - it's a fully possible result that was being tested for here.]

    That was part of year 5 reporting - officially submitted on the 3rd August 2021 according to the records.

    Now that was 'reported' late in 2021 according to NIH - that's the date on record: 3rd Aug 21.

    According to EHA (as per WSJ) they tried to report it in time in 2019 and the NIH systems just did not work. So they left it at that - and nobody ever raised any issue on both sides.

    Let me be clear here: the excuse is inexcusable.

    If EHA is telling the truth, the NIH is clearly not competent to supervise that kind of research - and Collins and Fauci - who have spent so many years there and can't even get this right - are in trouble.
    wsj.com/articles/coron…

    But in any case EHA should have done a better job too and follow up.

    This is essential DURC research with a fairly difficult country and its supervision is essential - both sides must take their responsibilities very seriously.

    What we get is a Faulty Towers moment instead:

    Issue #2: The controversial chimeric MERS work.

    This was mentioned in the year 4 report that was filled in 2018, as work for the coming year 5:

    EHA sent to @KatherineEban a video showing that 2018 reporting:

    There was a short mention of the MERS work in the year 5 report (the Faulty Towers one).

    That mention shows that they did the work they were planning in the year 4 report.

    Only a few lines for some critical work.
    @KatherineEban

    All in one, that we should have such discussions about crucial reporting on crucial DURC research with a very difficult country is beyond belief.

    The buck must stop with someone.

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • The martyrdom of Saint Daszak

    This piece is essentially a 'people' article, with a rather defiant 'I've done nothing wrong' message.
    science.org/content/articl…

    As any 'people' piece, it starts with the violins, the story of a 'brave' scientist born out of the post war ashes and northern England post-industrial glum, all pouring out in a falsetto voice.

    That should hopefully warm up the readers and predispose them to shed a tear for the description of the martyrdom of Saint Daszak that soon follows.

    So we get the image of the crucifiction thrown in too.

    But unfortunately when you start looking at the weakness of Peter's arguments and his staunch defiance when confronted with incredibly stupid decisions and at best abysmal judgement, it certainly looks more like a Monty Python scene than Jesus on the Calvary.

    Even Holmes had enough of our character and his slippery ways:

    Anyway, thanks for for the effort John, but I would rather return to the original:

  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence Assessment

    Let's get a few things clear about this declassified ODNI assessment (ODNI: Office of the Director of National Intelligence) :
    washingtonpost.com/national-secur…

    First as is written on page 2:
    "This assessment is based on information through August 2021."

    In other words it does NOT include any information that has come up since the summary assessment of 26th Aug 21.
    dni.gov/index.php/news…

    In particular it does not include the DEFUSE revelations (especially about the FCS).

    Or the latest revelations that show that GoF on BatCoVs was indeed happening within the WIV.

    It is based on data frozen in time - nothing new since the summary report: dni.gov/index.php/news…

    In a way it is rather misleading to publish such a declassified assessment without including the latest information available.

    What I would instead expect is an updated assessment.

    There is at least one factual error, which is a bit surprising:

    RaTG13 is not RaTG16 - in other words it was collected in 2013 not 2016.
    (h/t @TheEngineer2)

    There is also a rather surprising logical error - which has no place in an intel report (@dasher8090).

    The reports uses naive probabilities instead of properly conditioned ones:

    - 99% or so of hunters/farmers/merchants infections will NOT result in a first breakout in Wuhan

    Wuhan is just one of 100+ cities in China with more than 1mln inhabitants, wet markets and transport links.

    - but close to 100% of Wuhan laboratory workers infections during a field sampling trip WILL result in a first breakout in Wuhan.

    Hence if you observe a first breakout in Wuhan, the relative probability of it being the result of a field sampling infection is orders of magnitude more than if you observed a first breakout in an average village or city from which nobody goes sampling BatCoVs for a lab.

    The error is repeated in the next paragraph, which again ignores that the first breakout was very clearly in Wuhan.

    Additionally the logic there ignores the equivalent chance of asymptomatic field sampler or lab worker.

    It's rather sloppy intel work, or a badly worded doc.

    All the more surprising that the asymptomatic researcher point is correctly made later in the report:

    Last, one of the statements may unfortunately lead to people mixing up a distance argument with the location argument.

    The point below is only about complicating the search for a zoonotic spillover. It does not affect at all the validity of the Wuhan location argument.

    The Wuhan location argument is not a distance argument. It is a location of first breakout argument - basically an exclusivity argument.

    One intel agency got it right and correctly concluded that a research-related accident was more probable than a zoonosis:

    Not only that but they also noted the key point that:
    "WIV researchers who conducted sampling activity throughout China provided a node for the virus to enter the city."

    This is exactly what I highlighted many times before.

    A bit of logic and analysis work is all you need - but I am surprised to see that many of the intel agencies did not pick it up.

    researchgate.net/publication/35…

    Overall my impression is that some intel agencies did a bit of a superficial work not thinking this through in probabilistic ways.

    Also the form of the document makes it a bit disjointed - it's a summary of positions, not an intel briefing that would formulate a cohesive view.

  • Cargo Cult

    There are a lot of fallacies peddled by 'experts' when they tell you that based on an historical argument, the most likely explanation for Covid-19 is a zoonosis and not a research-related accident.
    sandwalk.blogspot.com/2021/10/the-ca…

    1/ Cargo Cult:
    First, it is interesting to note that some of these experts happily follow a kind of cargo cult whereby sampling left and right on an industrial scale and tweaking viruses will get you to eco-health nirvana..

    all achieved by bringing science to dark corners of the world, educating local populations, fighting bad local habits and the like. (Wait, did I read that somewhere else?)

    And so one can go sample in some caves in these 'wild' places, occasionally with minimal PPEs, and bring..

    all the samples back to urban civilisation (a city of 11mln will do nicely) so as to save the world and the heathens.

    To be clear focussing on wildlife farming and wildlife trades for instance makes a lot of sense and should be done...

    but not crawling in caves w/o proper PPE before catching a plane/train back to the comfort of a big city.
    Anyway that was my take of the cargo cult.

    Other scientists likely have a political axis to grind, careers to preserve, grants to protect, doctoring students to recommend..

    2/ False generalisation:

    Stiil, at the end of the day the main argument of this crowd is 'zoonosis happens all the time - hence a zoonosis is much more likely for SARS-S CoV-2'.

    This fallacy is based on 3 false generalisations:
    - temporal
    - pathogene
    - geographical

    All these 3 generalisations totally underestimate the research-related accident risk factor. Surprise, surprise..

    2.a/ Temporal fallacy:

    I am glad to learn the Justinian and Black plagues were not due to lab leaks. But I am more interested in the last 20 years for some reason.

    Since SARS-2 the numbers of P3s in China has gone from under 20 to about 112 (as of Aug 20, likely 120 today).

    The number of labs working on coronaviruses has increased a lot, with a good chunk of the research done in Wuhan across at least 4 sites and 3 institutions (WIBP, WIV, Wuhan Uni, etc)



    Over the last 18 years China managed to have 4 SARS primary-cases (2004) with one community outbreak - when it handled SARS1 without proper P3 discipline.

    And the regularity of recent accidents with other pathogens is astonishing. Take brucellosis for instance.

    2.b/ Pathogen fallacy:

    This one has a very old lineage, but basically it says that no research-related accident has ever caused a pandemic.

    Specious logic.
    First you have to ignore the 1977 Russian flu which did create a pandemic and is attributed to a research mishap.

    Then you have to argue that the other documented research related outbreaks were not pandemic so don't count.

    For sure for instance Brucellosis is not going to result in a pandemic - it's very rarely human to human transmissible - but what does it tell you about biosafety?

    Imagine instead that a P2 or P3 lab was handling a virus with just the right set of characteristics - hardly seen up to then:

    - infectious before displaying symptoms (not like SARS1)
    - good proportion of asymptomatics
    - extremely transmissible (airborne)

    Basically SARS-CoV-2.

    Then not only the risk of a research related accident increases (like SARS1), BUT the risk of a pandemic given a community outbreaks increases too (beyond SARS1) - and that is key:

    The risk of pandemic increases in a compounded way ('risk accident' x 'risk pandemic / accident')

    That some scientists can pretend otherwise, and stick to their false generalisation based on previous pathogens, show that they are either incompetent or trying to pull some wool over our eyes.
    To make things worse the pathogen generalisation fallacy crosses with the temporal one as it is only in the last few years that research in Wuhan has focussed on the actively prodding the role of the FCS in making some BatCoV more targeted for humans.

    2.c/ Geographical fallacy:

    That one is subtle but so common!

    Basically it is likely true that for China as a whole the risk of zoonosis outbreak is higher than the risk of research-mediated outbreak.

    But that is NOT true when an outbreak starts in Wuhan of all places.
    There you need to look at risk factors that may explain the outbreak.

    First the local risk factors. With ~4 Wuhan sites working on these coronaviruses the research related accident is an essential factor in the city.

    For comparison, a China that had the same relative intensity for the research risk factor would need to have close to 500 P3 sites..

    working on BatCoVs, because with its (at least) 4 sites Wuhan has only 0.7% of China population.

    Now imagine that: 500 lab sites working on BatCoVs: Is that negligible compared to a zoonotic jump?

    Do you still think the research risk factor is secondary?

    Then you need to look at non local risk factors affecting Wuhan.

    There it is pretty clear that a zoonosis started silently in a part of China (or abroad) could trigger a first outbreak in Wuhan. Distance is no issue in a well connected world.

    However the problem is not the distance but the exclusivity. There are 100+ Chinese cities with wet markets and transport hubs.

    Let's say that the risk of a zoonotic BatCoV outbreak in China (and neighbouring countries) is maybe 1 every 10 years..

    First, most will still lead to a relatively local outbreak, (as may have happened with the jump to human in Guangdong province with SARS1), not a distant one.

    Then the remaining ones that lead to a distance outbreak will not target Wuhan specifically - it's one of many cities.

    Suppose that 1/2 of the zoonotic outbreaks remain local, and that there are (only!) 15 cities in China connected like Wuhan to these zoonotic risk hotspots.

    That results in 1 chance every 300 years of such a non-local zoonosis starting an outbreak in Wuhan (of all place).

    Basically (10 * 2 * 15).

    Hence the **local** risk factors favour a research related accident for an outbreak that first started in Wuhan, and the spillover risk from **distant** hotspots does not change that.

    The only way that the distant zoonosis spillover factor can..

    contribute more is if you have **largely exclusive** wildlife trade links with Wuhan.

    For instance some farm somewhere in a BatCoV hotspot producing mostly for Wuhan and a few other cities.

    Now this is still plausible and that should be the object of research.

    But we cannot turn it into a given just to improve the odds of a zoonosis.

    So based on logic and probabilities, and on what is known - not what is wished - the research-related accident IS simply the best hypothesis that explains an outbreak in Wuhan (of all places).

  • A very good article by Simon Wain-Hobson in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a newspaper of reference in Germany:

    faz.net/aktuell/wissen…

    "Nothing goes right all the time. So it is in research labs. Despite sophisticated safety installations and strict rules in virology labs accidents and leaks happen. Indeed, they are underreported."

    "The virologists doing this work said it would help them predict the next pandemic virus. Armed with this insight, they claimed it would be possible to develop preventive vaccines and drugs that could be frozen and stored."

    "Sadly, it’s a pipedream."

    "It’s a very attractive story that convinced some leading agencies that fund biomedical research."

    "As if this wasn’t enough, our track record in pandemic prediction is zero."

    About DEFUSE:

    "What we do not know - and badly need to know - is whether this proposal was submitted elsewhere, financed and performed. Knowing how researchers think and plan ahead, it is possible some of this disturbing work has already been performed."

    German version: "Außer Kontrolle"
    (nice play: 'running out of control' but also 'not subject to control')

    faz.net/aktuell/wissen…

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • Notes on SAGO composition

    Kathrin Summermatter, about a possible research-related accident:

    “I consider this very unrealistic, a classic conspiracy theory.”

    “Ich erachte das als sehr unrealistisch, eine klassische Verschwörungstheorie.”

    headtopics-com.translate.goog/ch/stammt-das-…

    Kathrin:

    “China has had a very high level of high security laboratories for over ten years. They have frequent inspections and very strict safety standards.”

    “During the Sars epidemic in 2004, employees were infected outside a laboratory. As a result, the biosecurity of laboratories in China has been greatly improved.”

    Well, at least we know where Kathrin stands.
    Great addition to the SAGO team, no doubt.

    Again, Kathrin Summermatter parotting Peter Daszak in 1815.ch/news/wallis/ak…
    "With every new virus, the first hypothesis is that it could have come from a laboratory. However, these speculations are insignficant, they are typical conspiracy theories."

    And again:
    "There are also supposed experts who want to establish themselves and jump on the corona train by spreading theories that have not been tested."
    "Scientific data shows that the starting point of the corona epidemic is an animal market in Wuhan"
    www-1815-ch.translate.goog/news/wallis/ak…

    Now Kathrin is the only biosafety expert on SAGO - and she has made her mind about the origins - no doubt whatsoever, while ignoring all the data that show that a research-related accident is fully plausible.

    SAGO is not just about Covid-19 but about future pandemics.

    Sadly, it even gets worse - weirdly worse:

    "But if such documents are not available, that does not mean that work is being done worse"

    (Question: Any COI on being paid for these inspection jobs in China?)

    Then it gets plainly ridiculous.
    Has she ever studied the SARS lab-acquired-infections and the Beijing-Anhui lab-outbreak of 2003-04?

    Of all the biosafety experts, SAGO had to pick up that one.

    See translation of Der Bund article:
    bit.ly/3AMykEe

    Same logic in Die Neue Zeitung:
    If there is a risk of being infected, you definitely stay at home and isolate yourself first - and the staff, who are usually well trained, know that. She considers it extremely unlikely that a pandemic of this magnitude originated in a laboratory.

    Here is the Neue Zeitung article:
    nzz.ch/international/…

    with a quick translation:
    bit.ly/3p7Rthz

  • Another good article by ⁦@ParkSuAm1996⁩ and ⁦@simonelmc

    Science turns nasty in Covid-19 origins argument on Twitter | South China Morning Post archive.is/2021.10.14-234…

    Jesse Bloom:
    “I no longer think it’s a conspiracy theory that the furin cleavage site could have been engineered,”

    He also added that he was “stunned” to see the DARPA proposal and questioned why the scientists involved didn’t come forward to disclose it earlier.

    Holmes said that it was “staggeringly inept” for Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth Alliance, and the scientists involved in the DARPA application to not have made it public “when everyone is looking for transparency”

    I'll say Amen to that.

    And please join our call for the removal of the 'staggering inept' Peter Daszak from EcoHealth Alliance:
    @PeterDaszak
    researchgate.net/publication/35…

    @threadreaderapp compile

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