The traditional and influential medical journal The Lancet, which gave space in February of 2020 to a letter that stated that the scientists “concluded that this coronavirus originated in wild animals”, published last Wednesday (14) a large report in which it admits that the origin of the pandemic could be in the “ possibility of a laboratory-related outbreak.”
The report, first authored by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, from the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, was made by a committee that addressed the lessons for the future to be learned from the Covid pandemic-, caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The commission, which includes 39 other scientists, is from Lancet.
The forty authors considered that, in a list of failures of international cooperation, would be the lack of application of appropriate biosafety standards before the pandemic. This neglect raises the possibility that the virus emerged in some laboratory setting. The possibility includes inappropriate handling of samples collected from wild animals that could have infected laboratory technicians, who later took the outbreak to the urban environment of Wuhan, China; with or without manipulation of the virus in the laboratory. The language of the report is vague, but it makes it clear that the hypothesis of laboratory origin at least competes with the hypothesis of zoonotic origin (in wild or domesticated animals, and from them to humans).
The reference to laboratory leakage is also in the first item of a list of the main findings of the commission. In the item, the report does not lean towards either of the two hypotheses, it only mentions them and states that “identifying the origin of the virus will help prevent future pandemics and reinforce public trust in science and in health authorities.”
Public confidence was tested in this matter. As Matt Ridley, a British biologist and writer, and Alina Chan, a specialist in molecular biology, tell in their book “Viral” (2021, without edition in Brazil), the published letter in the Lancet which confirmed that SARS-CoV-2 came from wild animals was articulated by Peter Daszak, director of a non-governmental organization that was an intermediary for funds between the US government and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Daszak’s main partner in Wuhan, who did all the work in the laboratory, was virologist Shi Zhengli, affectionately called the “bat woman” for working on viruses that inhabit these flying mammals.
Shi’s team manipulated the body of mice so that they had lungs more similar to humans, and tested the ability of coronavirus strains to infect them. In addition, in previously secret documents, it was revealed that Daszak also asked for funding from Darpa, the American intelligence research funding agency, to insert into the genetic material of a coronavirus a molecular structure rare in this viral family and which is now observable in SARS. -CoV-2. The grant was denied, but the work may have been carried out in Wuhan.
As experienced science journalist Nicholas Wade recounted in a major article published in May of by Gazeta do Povo, although one cannot hit the hammer, one of the reasons for suspicion of laboratory origin is the time that has passed since the first outbreak and the absence of an organism or animal population that is the reservoir of the virus. Likely reservoirs were found much faster for other diseases caused by other coronaviruses in humans, such as Asian flu (SARS) — in civets, mammals that look like raccoons — and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) — in camels. In both situations, the likely “culprits” in the wild were found in less than a year.
Wade did little more than give his expert voice to the work of independent investigators, including scientists , who gathered on Twitter by the hashtag #DRASTIC and doubted the official narrative published in Lancet, in Nature Medicine and repeated by the world’s most influential health bureaucrats, such as Anthony Fauci, a veteran of the US National Institutes of Health who advised both Trump and Biden on the pandemic. Gazeta do Povo was a pioneer in Brazil by covering one of the studies published by scientists from the #DRASTIC group and stating that the hypothesis of the origin laboratory should be taken seriously in November 2021.
With the turn of Lancet and a previous change of position of the World Health Organization, the establishment of health of the world today is in the position that it should have had in March of 2020: to consider that not only wild animals, but also research with dangerous viruses can be the origin of outbreaks. It has happened many times in the past, and may have happened again in 2019.