Ralph Baric Admits Covid-19 Lab Origin Possible

Ralph Baric Admits Covid-19 Lab Origin Possible

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (purple) infected with a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (pink), isolated from a patient sample. (NIAID via The Epoch Times)

A top scientist said in newly disclosed testimony that a lab origin for the virus that causes COVID-19 is possible, citing how Chinese scientists operated in less-than-ideal conditions.

You can’t rule that out,” Ralph [‘humanized mice for testing bat Covid‘] Baric, a University of North Carolina professor and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, said in the testimony.

Mr. Baric pointed to how researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located near where the first cases of COVID-19 were detected, conducted experiments on viruses under biosafety level two conditions, rather than the biosafety level three conditions typically employed elsewhere.

Mr. Baric has for years worked with Shi Zhengli and other Wuhan scientists, testing enhanced viruses in work they say helps prepare for outbreaks by making it easier to develop countermeasures such as vaccines.

Ms. Zhengli and other scientists in Wuhan were doing culturing work under biosafety level two conditions into 2020, “which I thought was irresponsible,” Mr. Baric said. That was “one of the main reasons why I felt that the potential laboratory escape hypothesis shouldn’t be, in essence, put under the rug.”

He was speaking on Jan. 22 to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. The panel released the transcript on May 1.

Mr. Baric, who holds a doctorate in microbiology, told the subcommittee that he favored the theory that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has a natural origin due in part to the odds being tilted that way.

What’s more likely, is it a lab leak or is it natural processes? You’re looking at … a million exposures [between nature and humans] occurring over 17 years versus what happens in a laboratory setting,” Mr. Baric testified. He said that the diversity in nature ran hundreds of millions of times larger than the viruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “If you consider that, it’s more likely to be a natural event than it is to come out of the laboratory,” he said.

Experts around the world remain divided on the origins of the pandemic. Some believe the available evidence supports a lab origin, highlighting how Chinese authorities destroyed evidence from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the lower safety standards there. Others say data from a wet market in Wuhan suggest a natural origin.

Mr. Baric said he reviewed the data from the market and described it as showing the market was a “site of amplification.” But he noted that the studies suggest cases there didn’t appear until December 2019, while other papers have indicated cases started earlier in China.

Clearly, the market was a conduit for expansion,” he said. “Is that where it started? I don’t think so.

Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance organization—which for years sent U.S. taxpayer money to the WIV—signed an open letter published by The Lancet in 2020 that said, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

Questioned about the definitive statement, Mr. Daszak told the panel on Wednesday that “we take all theories seriously” and that a lab origin for SARS-CoV-2 remains “possible but extremely unlikely, based on the evidence we have.”

I just don’t think the data are there to support that. And I think that the evidence that this came from a natural spillover is huge and growing every week,” he added.

Mr. Baric said he was asked to sign the Lancet letter but declined because of his work with WIV. Mr. Daszak did not disclose his work with WIV in the conflicts of interest section. Mr. Baric instead signed a letter calling for an investigation into the origins that said “theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable.”

John Ratcliffe, a former director of national intelligence, told the subcommittee in 2023 that the lab leak theory “is the only explanation credibly supported by our intelligence, by science, and by common sense.” A declassified assessment that year said five intelligence agencies assess natural origin as more likely while two others lean towards a lab origin. Most agencies say the virus was not genetically engineered and all believe it was not developed as a biological weapon.

Xavier Becerra, the U.S. health secretary, said at a summit in April that any ideas about the origin are “speculation” because China has withheld some data. “We’re never going to quite know unless China opens up some more,” he said.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 05/02/2024 – 19:45

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