• On OSINT, risk factors and competing origin hypotheses

    When you are in a hole, @stuartjdneil, don't keep digging:

    DRASTIC was looking at both dates (8 and 16th Dec), reflecting the difficulty of analysis.

    Even before Worobey published his piece, which reused sources investigated by DRASTIC, I had put the two dates on the DRASTIC map I share, with the 16 first and the still official (8 Dec) behind, as 16(8?) Dec:

    So again, you are proven totally wrong.

    To be clear:

    - @MichaelWorobey reused sources already investigated by DRASTIC.
    - DRASTIC members had already mentioned the difficulty with the official date, and the 16 was clearly already shown on the map.
    - Worobey got the dental records very wrong

    Still @MichaelWorobey - to his credit - did not actually state that the onset date of Chen was definitely the 16th Dec.

    He left it open, with a lot of 'ifs' and still mentioning that Mr Chen suspected that he may have gotten sick during his hospital visit on the 8th.

    Also @MichaelWorobey introduced a problematic statement about a 'travel North of Huanan market shortly before his symptoms began'.

    This sentence insinuates that he could have been infected there by getting through or close to the market.

    This is wrong and should be corrected.

    He actually went to a very common attraction in the mountains 90 km by road north of Wuhan - absolutely nothing to do with the market.

    All reference to the market in that context is misleading.

  • Bayesian Analysis

    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"


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • 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:

    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:

    Or the Sun on 19 Mar 21:

    Or in my interview with Dana Lewis:

    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.

  • The martyrdom of Saint Daszak

    This piece is essentially a 'people' article, with a rather defiant 'I've done nothing wrong' message.

    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:

  • 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.

    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).

  • The NY Times and the Laos Banal findings

    It is amazing to see how the NY Times and no less than Nature have been distorting the significance of the BANAL BatCovs found in Laos.
    @carlzimmer @SmritiMallapaty

    Both articles have left the scientific domain for the opinions one - if not the political opinions one - by asserting that the Laos BANAL BatCoV finds reinforce the zoonotic origin hypothesis.

    Now let's cut through the noise and go back to the horse mouth, Marc Eloit the main author of that paper - from the Institut Pasteur.

    On the key issue of the absence of the not-banal-at-all FCS in all the BANAL BatCoVs:
    "It is possible that it was acquired in a lab"

    Remember @carlzimmer @SmritiMallapaty, Marc Eloit is the main author of that paper!
    So stop misrepresenting his findings.

    The one clear conclusion is that the pangolin story was a lame duck:

    The very Pangolin story that Linfa Wang (who did not say a word about DEFUSE) and Supaporn (who is now on SAGO) were dutifully pushing through... Nature indeed! in Feb 2021 during the WHO visit in Wuhan:

    Another clear finding is that the SARS-CoV-2 RBD does not need to be done in a lab - something close to it exists in nature (not like the Furin Cleavage Site):

    But the finding cuts both way. It also shortens the path to a research-related origin.

    In the end, as the Huffingtonpost article says:

    "This work, if confirmed, does not directly answer the question of the origin of Sars-Cov2. Particularly because these viruses do not have this famous furin site"

    The problem is that @carlzimmer and @SmritiMallapaty are confusing 3 issues:

    1. SASR-CoV-2 relatives in nature
    2. The jump of SARS-CoV-2 to human: zoonosis or research-related?
    3. Possible lab enhancement of a SARS-CoV-2 relative (used as backbone)

    Actually in all research related scenarios you need a SARS-CoV-2 relative in nature:

    - a very similar one if it is a field sampling infection or a lab leak of a collected virus, with FCS probably.
    - a very similar one, without FCS, if SARS_CoV-2 is the result of DEFUSE type work

    And remember that DEFUSE was about inserting an FCS in 'the appropriate high abundant low risk parental strain'.

    Looks like there are some good backbones for that in Laos and south Yunnan indeed.

    One easy way to cut through this would be to know what BatCoVs the WIV has collected over the last few years.

    But - guess what - the WIV has hardly published any data since 2016 and has removed access to all its 16 viral databases starting in Sep 2019.

    So that's it for transparency and cooperation - starting from Sep 19.

    At the same time a different team from Shanghai has found no SARS-CoV-2 relatives in China over a few recent years of sampling (including very close to Wuhan).


    And that's before one considers the location argument:
    If a relative with FCS exists somewhere in China or Laos, why would Covid-19 break out in Wuhan AND NOWHERE ELSE?
    The probability of this happening is very small for a zoonosis, but very high for a research-related accident.

    In any case, going back to BANAL, let's remember that Eloit was sampling in exactly the same locations in Laos in 2017 with a US Naval Team (which also funded Supaporn).

    No sequence ever published. Then Eloit went back in 20/21 without the US Naval side

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • 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

  • Some people never learn

    26 May 2021:
    Peter Daszak: "they call them rumours over there [at the WIV] - we call them conspiracy theories"

    Well at least you made your position clear!
    Just like in Annex D of the report where 'Conspiracy' comes up 4 times.

    And just in case you did not get it, he repeats it few seconds later:

    The he adds 'every now and then they make a statement that is simply not true':

    Just like our statement that bats are bred at the WIV and your statement that this was simply not true:

    The Science letter by Bloom, Baric et al is then dismissed as an irritating idiocy:

    "This letter to Science last week from a number of scientists saying 'We need to investigate the origin', does not that drive you crazy since that is what you're doing?"

    That makes them all laugh, being such a silly letter by conspiracy theorists.

    Then Koopmans tumbles a bit explaining that

    'What else would you do? [--] Apart from - you know - an audit: open the book, open the freezer, show everything which is an inspection - that is a very different mechanism'

    and she adds "I have my doubts that would yield anything new".

    Well done Marion, you made it clear that you are not suitable to conduct Phase 2.

    The show would not be perfect without mixing up the lab hypothesis with politics and Trump.

    But Peter happily volunteers:
    "The evidence right now - well for the lab scenario - it's political"

    And he goes back at it:
    "If you mix politics with science, you get politics".

    Nice from someone who just constantly politicised it with his references to Trump while pretending to do the opposite.

    But it sounds actually like a great piece of advice for China - maybe they should hear it, be more transparent and stop pointing at foreign countries as the origin:

    The party would not be over without a ritual thrashing of Wade's article, calling him irresponsible.

    You can see how irritated and angry they are:

    Apparently that has was debunked a year ago. Go and explain that to @DecrolyE, Baltimore and others.

    "He did not bother. He thought he understood it. A year ago this was debunked the codon business. A year ago and he did not bother to look it up. And that's what they [?] all do- they don't bother to look up the science. They think they know."

    Then when talking about supposed factual error, on of them actually makes just such a mistake saying that the State Department memo was 'taken down on the day of the inauguration' [deep sighs of political relief].

    Here it is on the State Department website: 2017-2021.state.gov/fact-sheet-act…

    It was simply moved like the other statements from the previous administration in an archive folder.

    It's fascinating to watch from abroad when you have no skin in their political swamp.

    And then they go and make patronizing jokes at the journalists:

    "We went through this a year ago folks! This WSJ article that just came out - they are rehashing the same stuff we went over a year ago! It's like what? There's not enough news these days?"

    It would be funny if these people were not determined to go on and proceed with Phase 2, with the same team, same terms of reference, and based on the recommendations of Phase 1 as per the China-WHO report.

    Because that is what they are telling us idiots they are going to do.

  • Reassessing Biosafety risk factors

    An interesting assessment of current trends in biosafety, being presented at the WHA:

    WHA Provisional agenda item 20. 28 April 2021
    A74/18 'Enhancement of laboratory biosafety'

    Under 'The way forward' section at the end:

    This is all too correct.

    The technologies mentioned are NGS, which made sequencing faster, easier and so much cheaper but may also mean GoFs, in silico modelling, genome editing, 'de silico' creation, etc. i.e.: the biotechnology revolution toolkit.


    And yes it is an issue that we are still using some dated risk evaluation when we are rushing ahead with all these new tools, deployed in so many new labs.

    There is not even a reliable count of P3s and P4s.

    The globalbiolabs.org/map is first step for P4s.

    For P3s it is a jungle. In China but also in other countries to be fair.

    For instance @RdeMaistre and I did a detailed count of Chinese P3s in China and ended up way above all the official numbers.
    And every month that goes by more are coming in service.

    From the Chinese point of view they are just trying to catch with the US, and the faster the better.

    Sometimes there is no proper overall plan, infrastructure design, qualified resources, or simply maintenance budget.

    The Chinese P3s should thus be a big concern - money and human resources go to the P4s and some key P3s - but they are P3s that have to do with little - especially when built ahead without much consideration.

    Annex D6 of the China-WHO report has a good example of that:

    Which is in line with what Yuan Zhiming (manager of the WIV P4) was saying back in October 2019 about P2s and P3s in China:

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • 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:

  • Looking back at the imported frozen food pathway

    For some reason the main China-WHO report never clarifies this. You have to look carefully in Annex E4:

    Basically 23 out of the 24 COVID-19 cases amongst frozen food vendors were linked to domestic frozen food stalls. Only 1 to imported frozen food.

    Based on this, you would logically conclude that that if the virus ended up in the market via frozen food, it most likely came via DOMESTIC frozen food - not imported frozen food.

    But that does not stop the Chinese conspiracy theories.

    Conspiracy theories relayed by Chinese diplomats, such as @ZhaLiyou (CG of China in Kolkata) who defines himself as 'a product of Chinese education system'. Right.

    When the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese CDC repeats (Wy Zunyou) that conspiracy theory, you know that something is really wrong

    Here is the full article, with the Chinese rewriting of the pandemic perfectly illustrated in the image below.

    What we need is a proper investigation, not bad science propping up a politically motivated charade.


    @threadreaderapp compile

  • A nostalgic review of some great Chinese papers

    There was a time before the GGOs (Great Gag Orders) when Chinese scientists were publishing some very useful research

    #1 on my list - 20th Feb 20:

    'Analysis of the variation and evolution of SARS-CoV-2'
    Points to a mean emergence date around 8th Nov 2019

    Main conclusion 95% C.I. for emergence of SARS-CoV-2 is: [Sep 23, 2019 - Dec 15, 2019].

    Average tMRCA time of 73 days, which gives an emergence around the 8th Nov 2019.

    Research from BSL-3 Laboratory, School of Public Health, Southern Medical University Guangzhou

    Also reported by Caixin, which did some good work too before the GGOs.


    #2 on my list - published on a preprint site 21st Feb 2020, the day before the small WHO team was in Wuhan.

    They point to a November emergence, dump the wet market story without much ceremony, complain about limited sequences, and try to figure out RaTG13

    A remarkable paper indeed. It feels like we have been walking backward since then.

    It was written by some of the most unlikely scientists:

    Somehow two of these scientists are from the Xishuangbanna Botanical Garden in Yunnan, which was on the 2012 WIV/EcoHealth sampling trip which intersected with the miners getting infected while shovelling bat guano not that far away

    You can't make that up

    Then the GGOs (Great Gag Orders) were issued and the party suddenly stopped.

    First there was the CDC gag order, issued in the 25th Feb 20 on the exact day the WHO mission left China. Bye Bye!

    Here it is: documentcloud.org/documents/7340…

    Then there was the Confidential State Council gag order one week later on the 3rd March.

    It also recommends organising publications with the propaganda dep, like a game of chess. documentcloud.org/documents/7340…

    One does not mess up with the State Council - breaking its laws can be qualified as treason.

    And for good measure it was followed by clear threat.

    I look with nostalgia at this few days in February 2020, when at least two remarkable papers were published while the WHO team was in China.

    Then the very day the WHO team left China that was the end of it.

    It's quite amazing to imagine that the same CDC people who were interfacing with the WHO at the time must have been busy writing/reviewing that gag order.

    They are clearly good at multi-tasking.

    Anyway forget. It's time for more pangolin papers.

    @threadreaderapp compile

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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?

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