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Sun Apr 12, 2020, 06:27 AM


COVID-19 pandemic and serial passage gain-of-function research

March 23, 2020 by harvard2thebighouse


. .. Scientists have been directly altering and modifying viral genomes for at least the past twenty years, doing everything from building complete viruses from scratch, to tweaking them and then passing them through series of animal hosts to artificially speed selection and evolution along so that they’re able have as many different strains of virus with as many novel features as possible to tinker with.

However most of this work didn’t really raise too many eyebrows, until about ten years ago when scientists in Stony Brook, NY – not coincidentally also the first place to build a DNA-virus from scratch – took the H5N1 Bird Flu, tweaked its genome in two places, and then passed it through a series of ferret hosts in the lab until it became airborne. This sort of research, a minor alteration and then passage through ferrets, did two things: Resulted in a virus that would look natural and wouldn’t appear to have been directly genetically altered, and also created a virus that was way out on its own branch of the viral family tree since those sequential passages added generations far faster than they’d naturally occur in the wild. If that sounds familiar, maybe that’s because those traits are also exactly what’s found with COVID-19.

And as far back as 2015, Chinese labs were reported to have been involved with dual-use gain-of-function research, swapping around viral genomes in the lab to try to create the most virulent strain possible. Additionally, studies examining COVID-19’s infectivity in ferrets found that it spreads readily among them, and also appears airborne in that animal model, lending support to the idea that ferrets were used for serial passage. Further support for possibility that serial passage through lab animals played a role in the creation of COVID-19 comes from an April 2020 pre-print, which found that it binds with ferrets cells more tightly than any other species except the tree shrew, which only scored about 2% higher. Tree shrews have also been used for serial viral passage, and were promoted in a 2018 paper out of China as a preferable host for laboratory serial passage since they’re cheaper, smaller, easier to handle, and closer to humans evolutionarily and physiologically than ferrets. Pangolins however, formed a much weaker bond than either, and were clustered way down on the list along with a handful of other much more unlikely intermediate animal hosts.

Quite curiously, one of the scientists supporting this troubling research in an article that noted the virus “could change history if it was ever set free” appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast in 2020 a few weeks into the current pandemic, claiming that COVID-19 was definitely natural and making no mention of this animal-based dual-use gain-of-function research at all. Odd, right? It’s almost like Michael Osterholm, whose entire career rests on advancing gain-of-function of research, might want to whitewash what’s really going on? Did that sunshine tickle when it was being blown up your ass, Joe?

Osterholm failed to tell the story of this genetically modified H5N1 Bird Flu, which was turned into a virus that “could make the deadly 1918 pandemic look like a pesky cold.” This result was so troubling that the NIH, which had funded the research, tried to make sure that the it would only be published after enough details were taken out to make replication of the experiment tough to perform. However one of the virologists involved in the research thought these restrictions were a bit silly, since the gist of the experiment was enough to allow anyone with enough money to replicate them without a problem. Especially researchers who were already familiar with manipulating bat coronaviruses, two of whom learned how to do exactly that at UNC in 2015 before returning to Wuhan to continue their work.

A few years later the NIH would ban this dual-use “gain-of-function” research, a ban that would remain in place from 2014 until 2017, when it was lifted. And what was the reasoning behind lifting the ban? To allow for research on flu viruses, as well as SARS and MERS – coronaviruses just like our new friend, COVID-19. And so hundreds of millions of dollars of funding poured into research on these viruses, supposedly with oversight meant to reduce “the potential to create, transfer, or use an enhanced potential pandemic pathogen.”...

... So although the Chinese Communist Party deserves its share of the blame for attempting to cover the outbreak up, arresting the heroic scientists trying to warn us and issuing gag-orders and the destruction of evidence, this research likely wouldn’t have occurred at all if the NIH hadn’t lifted the ban on gain-of-function research in the first place. And it was funded directly by American tax dollars, by government officials willing to let others play god at their behest.

But now that the virus is out of the lab, are the private entities responsible for its creation going to bear any of the blame at all? Or will America and China continue to point fingers at each other until the worst happens?... (T)he rhetoric between America and China has been heading in that direction – it’s been growing increasingly hostile as each blames the other for starting the pandemic and covering it up, with China even going so far as to threaten to cut off our supply of antibiotics and other life-saving medical goods. Meanwhile Daszak, Baric, Zhengli, and others sit back counting their lucky stars and their money, since both governments and the public at large seem to have bought their story that there’s no way this virus leaked out of one of their labs, and every government on earth now wants to harness their research to help create vaccines and treatments...


(The above is a brief extract from the linked long article, which contains many links to sources and looks authentic to my eye at first sight... I republish in the general public interest - GD).

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