SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease COVID-19, that killed nearly
The transmitting mammal was probably a raccoon dog, like this one pictured above, which were sold at said place, the Huanan Seafood Market in November-December 2019. Raccoon dogs were responsible for the transmission of the original SARS virus to humans in late 2002.
All the evidence points to this sort of typical zoonotic (animal to human) origin and transmission to humans through intimate contact with other animals and no evidence points to a leak from the oft-mentioned Wuhan Institute of Virology.
This reasonable and likely conclusion is supported by multiple lines of evidence expressed in a March, 2023 article in LA Times entitled:
Opinion: I called for more research on the COVID ‘lab leak theory.’ Here’s what I found out.
Michael Worobey, author of the above article, is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.
In an earlier report, in Science from 2021, he stated his findings thus far on the 1st cases of COVID in Wuhan:
“In this city of 11 million people, half of the early cases are linked to a place that’s the size of a soccer field,” Worobey told the New York Times. “It becomes very difficult to explain that pattern if the outbreak didn’t start at the market.”
He is referring to the fact that 8 out the first 14 cases reported were clustered around the market and not anywhere else in Wuhan including anywhere around the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
That is the first key piece of evidence that the COVID pandemic did not originate in a “leak” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab, which is 8 miles away, and on the other side of the Yangtze River from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where the cluster of cases occurred.
In addition, the very first case reported was a female seafood vendor at the Huanan market. All this geographical, epidemiological evidence points to the market, not the lab.
Dr. Worobey reports the additional evidence, all pointing to the market and none to the lab in the 2023 LA Times update linked above.
1. The Wuhan Institute of Virology did study coronaviruses such as the original SARS and SARS CoV-2 viruses that come from horseshoe bats, however, the coronavirus sequences that were being studied at the Wuhan Virology Institute were distantly related to SARS-CoV-2, unlikely to be its source.
2. Two separate lineages of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences were both identified in the earliest patients who lived near the market-again not near the lab 8 miles away and across the river. This points to more than one instance of animal to human transmission-likely with multiple raccoon dogs being sold in the wet market. Multiple transfers to humans from animals is common.
3. Although the market was closed before any testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 could be done, after it was closed some stalls with cages that had held raccoon dogs tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
4. The probability that 2 separate lineages both escaped from the lab and infected those first cases near the market – instead of the first cases appearing anywhere else among thousands of other possible places where large groups of people congregate and interact in a city of 11 million is best summed up in this quote from the 2023 article:
“There are hundreds if not thousands of other places where hypothetical lab leak cases could have initiated human-to-human transmission — bars, restaurants, schools, shopping malls — some with a hundred times the traffic of the Huanan market. Even one such event at Huanan is deeply improbable; fold in the strong evidence for two lineages emerging at the market, and the link to the wildlife trade is unavoidable.”
“There is now a large body of peer-reviewed scientific research consistent with a zoonotic origin of this pandemic. However, there is no credible, peer-reviewed research pointing to a lab leak.”
The “evidence” that lab-leak proponents often claim is that since there were no animals from the market that were tested then it cant be proven that the outbreak was at the market: therefore- lab! That is not evidence, it is conjecture with no evidence to support it.
Again, the market was closed before any animal testing could be done, but this unavailability of data does not preclude the market as the source of the pandemic, nor does this lack of data somehow indicate a lab leak. All the geographical, epidemiological, and viral evidence listed above, and the fact zoonotic transmission is so common in viral and other disease outbreaks, points to the outbreak originating at the Huanan Seafood Market.
The other oft-mentioned “evidence’ is that it cannot be a coincidence that there was a virology lab in the same town where the outbreak started. The author points out that an outbreak is unlikely to occur in a rural area where there is not enough human population to effect transmission, so a viral outbreak of a SARS type virus, would most likely only occur in a large city – like Wuhan. Most of the largest cities in China also have labs where viruses are researched, so armchair theorists could then claim it must have been a leak at the virus lab in that city. So its no surprise that wherever this outbreak occurred, there would be one or more virus labs in the same city to point the finger at. Wuhan actually has two such labs, but all the attention has been directed at the Virology Institute. For example, if the outbreak had happened in Beijing there would be four different labs that conspiracy theorists could point to as the source.
Lastly, many other viral and other diseases are also of zoonotic origin: the original SARS, MERS, EBOLA, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, Cow pox, Monkey pox, and so on. It is quite common. MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) was another coranavirus suspected to have originated in bats which infected humans through regular contact with camels in 2012 . Add to this list the bacterial diseases transferred from other animals and insects: Anthrax, Tuberculosis, Plague, Lyme disease and others. So the most likely explanation for the outbreak was a zoonotic origin, and upon close inspection by all the researchers and investigators Worobey cites – all the evidence supports that likely hypothesis.
From the beginning, as the outbreak spread in the US, it became a political fight, instead of purely a public health matter. The anti-science, conspiracy thinking element, predominantly of the Republican party, epitomized by Trump’s characterization of the outbreak as “Kung-flu”, presaged a less than scientific approach to the world’s worst pandemic since the influenza pandemic of 1918, on the part of many Americans.
As far as the input from US intelligence agencies, many conspiracy theorists point out that the Department of Energy and the FBI both favor the lab-leak hypothesis. However, the Energy Dept. gives this assessment “low confidence” and would not disclose the intelligence from which they made their determination. Again, no evidence is available to support the lab-leak hypothesis.
In addition, five other intelligence agencies favor animal transmission as more likely and the CIA refused to support the lab-leak hypothesis even at a low-level of confidence. This sketchy and minimal support from the intelligence communities is all the lab-leak supporters have to go on.
It appears to me, that this whole brouhaha over the origin of the pandemic is rooted in needing to assign blame and the propensity of many to resort to the suspicious, cabalistic, conspiratorial thinking that pervades much of our culture. Somebody is out to get us and there’s always some hidden evil behind the scenes that is ultimately responsible for bad things that happen.
When you read the science, all that bullshit, that I maintain ultimately derives from the religious thinking ingrained in our culture and the anti-science it also promotes, fades away into paranoid silliness.
So to sum up, the first case reported was an employee of the Huanan market. The first cluster of cases were in a small area around the market. Animals that transmitted the original SARS virus were sold at the market. SARS-CoV-2 was present in their cages. Two lineages of the SARS-CoV-2 sequence were both present in those first cases around the market. The Virology Institute lab had distantly related sequences of coronaviruses they were working on, unlikely to be the progenitors of SARS-CoV-2. There is no evidence supporting a lab-leak.
SARS-CoV-2 most likely originated like any other bat-to-mammal-to-human virus. It didnt leak from somebody’s lab.
end religion now