• The human factor in labs

    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:

  • Public opinion

    March 2020:

    June 2021:


    November 21:

    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

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

    I wrote about it here.

    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.

    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:


    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.

    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.

    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!

    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.

    For a more detailed review of lab and research related accidents in China see also

    This one was actually investigated by Shi Zhengli herself:

    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:

  • 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.‘

    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.

  • Some examples of lab leaks

    This is a good reminder from a recent article, discussing the covered-up Sverdlovsk lab leak:

    Another good one to keep in mind, from the UK back in 2007:

    And more recently in China (December 2019):

    And the Beijing SARS leaks in 2004, with an attempted cover-up of the first 2 primary cases.

    The WHO gave up, handling the investigation over to the Chinese side which did not even publish the report - only a few extracts.

    A taste of things to come.

    See also my previous post for the astonishing parallels between the situation today and Sverdlovsk:

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • Gottlieb: 'Lab leaks happen all the time'

    Gottlieb: 'Lab leaks happen all the time'

    “These kinds of lab leaks happen all the time, actually. [-]And in China, the last six known outbreaks of SARS-1 have been out of labs, including the last known outbreak, which was a pretty extensive outbreak that China initially wouldn't disclose that it came out of lab,”

    The overall idea is perfectly right and important.

    To be very precise:
    Not really 'outbreaks' but LAIs (Lab Acquired Infections) except for the Beijing-Anhui outbreak that indeed spread to the community.

    Outbreak -> transmission into the community.

    There were 6 primary cases, meaning 6 cases of initial infections in labs.

    Primary case -> not from someone

    3 labs were involved (SGP, TWN, CHN), over 4 incidents (by which one means related infections happening at the same time in the same place), and 6 primary cases.

    For the Beijing lab (the very top P3 in China at the time - the CDC 'Institute of Virology'):

    1st incident in February 04 which was indeed covered up to save face.
    We know about it thanks to Caixin: 2 primary cases, names unknown, very little details.

    We cannot even tell if the cases were detected and handled accordingly at the time. Zero transparency on these.

    So they were either covered-up at the time, or undetected.

    Antibody tests done during the investigation of the April cases eventually brought them back to attention.

    2nd incident in April: 2 more primary cases, 9 infections in all (with a chain of 8 on one primary case), 1,000+ people in isolation.

    This is the only incident mentioned in the very limited extracts of the Chinese report that were made available.

    Note that the WHO effectively gave up and eventually left the investigation and (partial) reporting to the Chinese.

    China won and learnt that it could ignore the WHO and grind it down. A taste of things to come.

    @ScottGottliebMD #DRASTIC

  • Bad logic in Rasmussen and Goldstein's article in the Washington Post

    This article by Angela L. Rasmussen and Stephen A. Goldstein has some basic issues:

    Yes there are markets in Wuhan and it is a transport hub. But that does NOT change the odds of a breakout there against any other major city in China.

    They all have markets and transport links!

    Because the odds are unchanged, you are then back to having to deal with odds that favour a lab accident!

    I covered this fallacy and the odds in my probabilistic paper (see 2.a):

    That market and transport hub line is mostly rationalizing ('just a coincidence'), when having to face facts that may contradict your representation of the world.

    It does not move the odds. Sorry there.

    See also #4 and #5 in:

    The second issue with this article is that it uses the old trope of mixing up the debate of man-made vs natural virus with the lab-related accident hypothesis.

    They are very different issues.
    I took the pain to put this clearly in a table with the Paris Group (3rd letter):

    And we clearly separated that from the possible hypotheses on the virus itself.

    Again it is very annoying to see people who should know better mixing things up and falling into the cognitive dissonance trap of rationalizing.

    #Drastic #ParisGroup

  • The story of the Sverdlovsk anthrax lab accident is fascinating.

    The story of the Sverdlovsk anthrax lab accident is well worth exploring for the incredible parallels.

    Without prejudice to the actual origins of SARS-CoV-2, the attitudes of the media and of the governments are very similar.


    You get the same 'It happens all the time in nature' line, which implicitly makes an idiot of anybody who dares doubt the official version.

    Nice way to close the debate without having to show any evidence.

    You get Nature journal jumping in and questioning the US government determination to doubt the Soviet stories.

    You get the same dismissal of circumstantial evidences (fodder for conspiracy theorists) - while the US government and the CIA were rather puzzled by them.

    You get the same cover up, unavailability of samples, silencing of doctors and families, and eminent experts being rolled out to make presentations with slides and all which clearly explain that it was just a natural gastric anthrax occurrence.

    You get the denial of courageous journalists poking for the truth and connecting the dots:

    You get Milton Leitenberg (member of the Paris Group and signatory of our three letters to the WHO) raising serious questions:

    And in the end you get the truth - 13 years later:

    The National Security Archives are well worth checking for this - with many declassified documents:


    By the way, if you think that anything changed after that accident, think again:

  • Some good papers on lab-biosafety (Tony Della Porta)

    Tony Della Porta is a top expert of lab biosfety.

    After doing the Singapore and Taiwan SARS leaks investigations, he was not invited for the investigation of the Beijing SARS leaks - he was too good I guess.


    Anyway the WHO disappeared from the scene and the final report was was never fully released. Only a few extracts.
    That set a very bad precedent for a WHO-China investigation turning into a China only one, with no transparency and an attempted cover-up.

    Della Porta eventually did some biosafety consulting in China in the years following the Beijing lab leaks. You found some of his slides.

    See that too:

    And that:

    And these very useful tables:

  • Why the frozen food import theory is not supported at all by the China-WHO report

    The favourite Chinese theory about SARS-CoV-2 is the frozen food pathway.

    And so, out of 'respect', we still have to endure that origin-story.

    It does not in the least explain how SARS-CoV-2 emerged, but it's a nice and easy way to kick the ball in the long grass of some foreign countries.


    Which is a long tradition.

    China first tried to blame Hong Kong when SARS started in Southern China in 2003, then it tried blaming Thailand when SARS reached Beijing a bit later.

    So let's see what the evidence for an introduction from abroad by frozen food is in the China-WHO report.

    For that let's look at the exact cases at the Huanan market (Annex E4):

    You read this correctly. Of the 22 stalls handling frozen food where some vendor contracted COVID-19, 21 were NOT associated to imported frozen food.

    In other words 95% of the stalls with diseased vendors point to domestic frozen food, not imported one.

    Somehow the 5% points to a strong possibility that Covid-19 was imported into China that way.

    Seriously!! What about the other 95%?

    But it gets worse, because in any case these were all surface infections, not food infections...

    Actually frozen samples of wild animal products and other products collected in early January 2020 were ALL negative.

    Sorry, but the frozen-food import from abroad story is a political expedient, not a scientific conclusion.

    Actually if the frozen-food theory is correct, it points 22 times more to domestic food than imported one.

    But again no food sample tested positive, only stall surfaces.

  • Back to the future: when party officials were telling the truth about the initial delays

    It's worth remembering what Ma Guoqiang, the municipal Communist Party secretary for Wuhan told on CCTV back in Jan 20:

    In particular Ma said the restrictions should have been brought in at least 10 days earlier and expressed regret/guilt for the delays.

    Today, after the party totally changed the narrative, it all sound very odd. But yes, that is what the party itself was saying at the time:

    He also confirmed at the time that 5 million residents had left Wuhan before it went into lockdown. This includes people who travelled for the lunar new year festival, as well as those who fled to escape the virus and impending shutdown.


    And Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, confirmed that in his own interview with CCTV:

    Here is the mayor's interview back in late Jan 20:

    When it comes to understanding what really happened before the first Thai case was reported (which forced China into action), we will have to wipe out the official narrative that China has imposed since then.


    Such as that 'reality check' from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

    'China took the most stringent measures within the shortest possible time, which has largely kept the virus within Wuhan. Statistics show that very few cases were exported from China'
    See bit.ly/3eCuN3l
  • The well-respected Xu Dezhong and his funny conspiracy theories about SARS1 and H7N9 (avian flu)

    No official backing?

    Look a bit better, it's not difficult.

    He enjoys a special State Council allowance (usually reserved for academicians) and was an outstanding party member of the General Staff (PLA command headquarters).

    And his book was published by nothing else than the official Military Medical Press.

    He is very well perceived at the highest levels:

    But that is not the end of it.

    He was back at it with longdom.org/open-access/un… 'Unique Epidemiological Patterns and Origin of the Outbreak of Human Infection with H7N9 AIV in China from 2013 to 2015', where he hinted at an unatural introduction of H7N9 avian flu in China:

    All dressed-up in party mumbo-jumbo about the "Chinese Theory of Infectious Disease Epidemiology”:

    Such a nice professor who has supervised 100+ students at the 4th Military University where his theories seem to be very popular.

    But yes, this is not new.
    I and my co-author (@RdeMaistre) actually mentioned his book as a perfect example of Chinese conspiracy theories in a probabilistic paper on SARS-CoV-2 back in August 20:

    Reference #6 of:

  • A bit of history: the Sverdlovsk Anthrax outbreak

    A bit of history: the Sverdlovsk Anthrax outbreak.

    In 1979 there was an outbreak of anthrax disease in Sverdlovsk, USSR. 100+ people died.

    The Russians explained that these deaths were due to eating meat (possibly game meat) processed by black-market butchers.

    Actually the anthrax bacillus had been endemic to that region for centuries.

    There were at least 200 previous known cases of animal infections in the region, nothing special

    The soviet had done comprehensive studies - even going as far as inoculating 2 mln high risk workers.

    Anthrax is actually very common in the former USSR. It's a well known and documented danger in nature and can be lethal when eating infected game meat

    The soviets were doing a top job vaccinating livestocks against the bacillus. They were the best at it.

    But still some conspiracy theorists in the US immediately started saying that the anthrax must have come from a secret lab (in breach of the 1975 BW convention).

    Their baloney conspiracy theories were relayed by the usual rag-tag soviet emigres in the US with an axe to grind.

    In 1988, 9 years later, some distinguished soviet officials went to the US and visited the National Academy of Sciences to expose the simple truth of the natural origins, at the invitation of respected US scientists (inc. from Harvard).

    They gave three-hour talk at the National Academy of Sciences, presenting facts and figures and even slides of gut tissue from autopsies.

    It was a very usual case of intestinal anthrax outbreak - exactly what happens when contaminated meat is eaten.

    Pseudo-scientists will always put 2 and 2 together to get 5.

    They look at slim circumstantial evidence and the proximity of know military facilities to reach their fancy conclusions.

    There was no need for a secret lab - nature does it all the time.

    Except that it was respiratory anthrax released from a soviet lab, in breach of the 1975 bio-weapon convention...

    The party had instructed the destruction of all samples and organized a cover up.

    It took until 1992 and the analysis of samples that were not destroyed (against orders) to prove that it was respiratory anthrax, not intestinal anthrax, that killed 100+ people.


    Nature does it all the time, yes.
    But nothing beats humans when it comes to screwing up and lying about it.

    - Expert opinion without data is nothing.
    - Circumstantial evidence cannot be simply ignored.
    - Proximity to labs matters a lot
    - Raw data is best.

  • The most likely zoonosis in the wild is a sampling accident

    Here is a nice visual way to summarise the various hypotheses:

    Source: peer-reviewed #DRASTIC paper www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7993900

    • a Direct infection from bats to humans either natural or due to virus sampling.
    • b Infection of humans via an intermediate host such as pangolins or other mammals.
    • c Sampling from wild bats followed by some laboratory steps such as RNA extraction and sequencing, virus isolation or synthesis from a given sequence, growth in cell culture and infection assays, genetic engineering, passage in humanized mice or other animal models.

    Both a/ and b/ cover a possible lab-related accident.
    a/ Allows for infection of a sampling staff in the wild, or infection of a lab worker when handling a sample in a lab.

    Actually the vast majority of direct trips from the bat colonies to Wuhan are done by sampling staff!

    They are not done by coffee/banana farmers in Mojiang going for a quick trip to Wuhan. Sorry. They are instead done by samplers going to these sites and coming back to Wuhan.

    So if you believe in the possibility of a zoonosis in the wild, you MUST consider a possible sampling accident.

    And given that there is a demonstrated lack of PPE protection during these trips, it means that a sampling related accident should be #1 on the list of anybody considering zoonosis in the wild.

    That so many scientists fail to acknowledge that is amazing.
    See Shi Zhengly's presentation

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • China's bad habit of stonewalling health investigations

    With Covid-19 China is doing exactly the same stonewalling as it did earlier when asked to provide truthful data on its HIV-AIDS caseload in 2002:


    The same stonewalling too as it did in 2003 when it refused to provide any SARS case numbers for months.

    China is not in this WHO case count as 15th March 2003 below.
    Officially no SARS case reported in China. Go look elsewhere instead.


    The same stonewalling it used in 2004 when the promised WHO-China investigation of the bad Beijing lab leaks turned somehow into a China-only investigation.

    An investigation which published only brief extracts of its report and covered up two index cases

    Nothing changed, make no mistake.
    China has learnt that he can do it over and over again.

  • Some lies (no other word for it) in the Annex D7 of the China-WHO study report

    @edwardcholmes can be quite straight to the point at times:

    One theory that Professor Holmes had no hesitation in dismissing is the Beijing-sponsored claim that the pandemic emerged from America’s Fort Detrick:
    “That’s total nonsense.”


    Another theory [--] is that the virus travelled to Wuhan on food packaging:

    “I don’t believe that either. That’s a way of trying to push it away from China, more political than scientific.“

    Where his logic seems to fail, is when he cannot believe that some Chinese scientists could be lying:

    Well @edwardcholmes, you basically just acknowledged that China lies about Fort Detrick and about contamination via food packages. So what's the stretch?

    Anyway let's look at these miraculous all-negative tests at the WIV when Wuhan urban had a 4.4% positive background rate:

    It's either a miracle or a lie. What do you think it is?

    Or what about the statement by Shi Zhengli that the main WIV database was taken off after repeated attacks during the pandemic?

    It was taken off in September 2019 as validated independently by the South China Morning Post (This Week in Asia) - not exactly Fox News.

    And what about that other statement by Shi Zhengli to the joint-mission team (Annex D7 of the report), that:
    'all fieldwork is done with full PPE'.

    When actually she is on record saying exactly the opposite, and explaining why it is most often done with ordinary precautions instead (latex gloves, little mask, maybe a plastic rain poncho that cost $1 in a corner shop):


    That's from a video for those who can understand Mandarin:

    Anyway is she lying or just being absent-minded? Quite clear to me.

    And remember the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak in the USSR in 1979.
    The Russians swore that it was all natural contamination of game meat, which contaminated people.

    It was all a lie.

    "In 1988, 9 years after the accident, Soviet officials came to U.S. to give a three-hour talk at the National Academy of Sciences, presenting facts and figures and even slides of gut tissue from autopsies"
    Yep, they had done the studies. Just believe them.
    And Shi Zhengli too.
  • Sir Richard Dearlove (ex MI6 head): 'The WHO did a farcical investigation'

    Sir Richard Dearlove, who was 'C' (MI6 head) from 1999 to 2004, says that the WHO joint study report was a "farcical investigation".


    Worth listening to...

    and he makes a good point about scientific journals:

    You can read a related recent thread here:

  • Australia, this giant kangaroo that serves as a dog of the US

    Does someone remember that?

    "it seems that Australia, this giant kangaroo that serves as a dog of the US, will hit a deadlock with China on trade disputes in sectors like coal and beef. Hopefully, the US will compensate it!" one netizen said in a Weibo  

    A slap to the face to countries like Australia - the most active player in pushing forward a so-called independent probe into China over the coronavirus outbreak, which was then rejected by the international community. Such moves, clearly backed by Washington, are doomed to fail.

    So thanks to China's efforts, we got a 'trully independent' enquiry, which promptly pointed to frozen food imports and no case officially recorded in China before 8th Dec 19.

    That's the 'immaculate infection', nothing to do with China.

    It is time to stop this charade and to do a proper investigation, that goes beyond the tightly controlled joint-study report that was purely based on limited data made available by China and fully validated, word for word, by China.

    Our latest letter provides some clear reference points for such a proper enquiry: 'Essential Data', 'Essential Questions' and a clear distinction between the possible lab-related accident scenarios.

    It also shows the big gaps and flaws in the WHO-China joint-study conclusions.

    Three millions deaths is not a minor matter that does not require a proper investigation.

    It would be beyond shameless for countries that pride themselves on their humanist values to look somewhere else.

    This is not going to go away anytime soon, and electors will remember it.

  • Are we going to be shameless? Time for action at the World Health Assembly

    We shall see what the US administration recommends at the World Health Assembly, starting on the 25th May.

    In the meantime the NIH is expected to answer the request from the Republican Leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

    Our latest provides some clear reference points for such a proper enquiry: 'Essential Data', 'Essential Questions' and a clear distinction between the possible lab-related accident scenarios.

    It also shows the big gaps and flaws in the WHO-China joint-study conclusions on these.

    The World Health Assembly is a once a year chance to get things moving.

    Three millions deaths is not a minor matter that does not require a proper investigation.

    It would be beyond shameless for countries that pride themselves on their humanist values to look somewhere else.

  • Statement from the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affairs regarding the WHO-China report

    They did it so quietly that I missed it.
    Quite amazing.@Anne_MarieBrady


    But note that NZ does not have the courage to mention the need to keep investigating the lab related accident hypothesis.
    The statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade simply does not go as far as Dr Tedros and never mentions that hypothesis!


    It's all about the critical importance of the OneHealth approach

    "[The report] has helpfully highlighted the critical importance of the One Health approach between human health and animal health regulatory agencies, shining a spotlight on an area that deserves greater attention"

    The statement by the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affairs (🙄) is actually well short of the reservations expressed by Dr Tedros.

    It is maybe time for NZ to start asking ALL the valid questions, as Dr Tedros is ready to do.
    Come on, just try!

    Maybe start with the list of questions and recommendations we just issued.

    In particular check the tables in the Annexes for an understanding of the very flawed analysis of the China-WHO report concerning the lab-related pathway.


    See also:

    And if you liked that mural on the first tweet in this thread, here it is again:

  • What is Pakistan up to? Why is Nature so fawning?

    This is very important (H/T @Byron_Wan):

    "However, China, Russia, Syria and Pakistan specifically ask to delete a reference that would include the WHO’s coronavirus origins study in this report".

    Why does Pakistan pop up?

    Pakistan is in full collaboration with China under the Belt & Road Initiative.
    See for instance the Nature series of article, written by Ehsan Masood, 'Editor of Editorials' (!) at Nature, in particular #2 in the series:

    This collaboration includes civilian research with the WIV.

    With in particular Ali Zohaib having been trained by Shi Zhengli:

    For some of the research with the WIV or Huazhong Agricultural University (Wuhan), see:

    So far so good. All civilian research by the look of it, even if some of it may have dual purpose value.

    The precedents are not very good, so one may be justified in keeping a close eye on these developments, especially given the geopolitical situation

    On that subject the French services had some concerns:

    Ali Zohaib has just been appointed Topic Editor for a specific topic in Frontier in Microbiology-Virology, a post he shares with 3 Chinese researchers of the WIV.

    That was just 24 hours ago:


  • More labs in China: a recipe for disaster given the weak institutional framework

    What could go wrong?

    'The ministry has examined and approved the construction of three biosafety level-4 labs [on top of already 3], or P4 labs, and 88 biosafety level-3 labs, or P3 labs, in China'

    Well, first and foremost, Chinese experts have been very concerned about the lack of qualified biosafety personnel, adequate budgets, and proper regulation for years.


    Yes you read it correctly:

    […] several high-level BSLs have insufficient operational funds for routine yet vital processes. Due to the limited resources, some BSL-3 laboratories run on extremely minimal operational costs or in some cases none at all.

    It's a typical case of scientists and experts forced to pick up the pieces of a decision coming from Beijing.

    Never mind they are not ready and that the institutional factors are wrong.
    What Beijing wants, Beijing must have.

    The key institutional factors are:
    1- Administrations Transparency
    2- Gov. willingness to learn from mistakes
    3- Free press that can contribute to transparency

    In China all these 3 are now totally missing.
    At least during the 2004 Beijing SARS leaks we still had #3. All gone.

    So instead we are getting a Wuhan Show - a remake of the Truman show.

    That's not the right conditions in which to build more labs,
    ...while Chinese experts keep decrying the fact that China is not ready to build and manage so many labs:

    And by the way, for a proper count of BSL3 labs in China, you need to use #DRASTIC work. Because no one else will give you the right number.

    We counted 112 labs over 62 complexes. Most likely there are about 120 BSL-3 today (plus 3 BSL-4).

    And #DRASTIC can also show you multiple examples of bad practices and errors in Chinese labs:

    Last, I must add that I am fed up with the lying habits of some of the people involved with these labs.

    Shi Zhengli, Yuan Zhiming and the WHO joint study team told us that nobody tested positive at the WIV.

    Fat chance: 1/10th of a billionth of it being true.

    Yes: 0.0000000001 chance of it being true.
    You can check it, it's fairly easy maths: pihabeach.micro.blog/2021/04/08/chinafocus-sorry-chinafocus.html

    Will someone eventually call these white lies before it is too late?

  • Some notes on BSL-4 biosafety - example of pressure suits

    Let's talk about BSL4 positive pressure suits.

    Here is Shi ZhengLi in her Delta (French) suit, manufactured by Sperian Protection (Honeywell). Also called the 'white' suit.

    Basically you have the choice between the White, Blue and Yellow suits.

    Practically they all suck in one way or another, and are prone to breaking.

    "The Delta (Sperion) suits just don't last long - even with lighter use"

    The Delta suit is the suit used at the WIV.
    That's where the positive air pressure comes in otherwise it would be really lethal.

    "While Delta has made a number of significant improvements [--], their quality control stinks".

    Good to know.

    Mind you if you go for the Yellow or Blue one, it's not really better.

    Then there are the BSL-4 Management 'Complications':

    'Divide in experience coupled with larger facilities increasing the size of the BSL-4 work force could lead to more accidents'

    So what do you do when your suit falls to pieces?
    Well you fix it with glue, tape, sealant and some material.

    One company in China does just that:

    One downside of the WIV Delta (White) suit is that you cannot test the integrated HEPA filter.

    Still it's often the preferred suit. It just does not last long. Better be careful.

    Here is another good comparison of the 3 standard suits.

    Now I want to be clear: this thread is about lab risk management practices, with a good BSL-4 example.

    It is NOT about SARS-CoV-2.
    I have always been very clear that BatCoV research is done at P2 or P3.

    From my probabilistic paper and from my Medium article:

    What this shows in terms of lab safety is interesting.

    This BSL-4 suit example shows that risk is first and foremost about people and processes.
    One can build a top BSL-4 on paper, but the biosafety may anyway fall apart with bad trainings and bad practices.

    Case in point: these BSL-4 suits get easily damaged.

    So one needs to inspect them regularly, throw them away after a while and keep buying new ones. What is the WIV policy on this?

    Also the suit HEPA filter is not easy to inspect. What is the WIV process for their inspection?

    And why on earth would a Chinese company be set up to 'fix' these BSL-4 suits, in collaboration with Chinese research institutes?

    It's much safer to replace them (and don't forget the HEFA filter too).

    In any case you can buy the White suits for around $300 (Rs 25,000 below via an Indian distributor).

    They are cheap because you are supposed to just replace them instead of patching them.

    The plastic won't last. And it's not meant to last.

    What happens when it starts breaking up? The pressure difference may drop, with possible contamination of the inside.

    Good luck with that. Do they clean it inside-outside before sending it for repair?

    Don't patch - throw away.

    If nuclear power stations were run this way (the Chernobyl way) we would be finished.

    The problem with lab biosafety is that the human component is very large, with so many ways of messing things up - all duly explored thanks to human nature.


    Note: Going back to the side discussion about P2/P3 for coronaviruses, see archived
    This was from http://www.virus.org.cn, which like many other Chinese pages has now been taken offline.

    蝙蝠冠状病毒 BSL-2 -> Bat Coronavirus BSL-2
    Same with rodent coronavirus 大鼠冠状病毒.

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