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Friday, April 24, 2020

Documentary: Tracking Down the Origin of COVID-19

Documentary: Tracking Down the Origin of COVID-19

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance

  • A documentary from The Epoch Times, "Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus," unearths facts that mainstream media has largely ignored
  • Scientific journals have questioned whether the Wuhan Seafood Market was the source of COVID-19
  • Shi Zhengli, a Chinese virologist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, created synthetic viruses in the laboratory that were more infective
  • Viral experts, including those appearing in the documentary, question the safety and purpose of the synthetic viruses
  • From whistleblowers who were silenced to academic papers that disappeared, the Chinese government has censored much information about COVID-19
Early in 2020 a novel coronavirus, reportedly originating in China, began aggressively spreading throughout the world.1 By March, the epidemic caused by the coronavirus, named COVID-19, had caused a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.2 By April, there were 1.6 million cases worldwide in 177 countries, according to The New York Times.3
Did the pandemic "just happen" as did other pandemics of the past, like plague or AIDS? No, says an alarming documentary from The Epoch Times, "Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus." Produced and narrated by award-winning investigative reporter Joshua Philipp, an expert on espionage and unconventional warfare,4 "Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus" unearths facts that mainstream media have largely ignored.
Why, for example, were the cases of many COVID-19 patients ignored during scientific investigations? Why were researchers who disagreed with the COVID-19 party line explanations silenced5 and important academic papers withdrawn and buried?6 Why were National Institutes of Health-funded gain-of-function (GOF) experiments with deadly coronaviruses, including those in China, ceased?7
"Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus" presents disturbing evidence that COVID-19 did not naturally develop as widely believed, but may well have been engineered in a Chinese laboratory to be used as a bioweapon. While the world is succeeding in defeating this ominous virus, its murky origins must be explored.

Did COVID-19 Originate at the Wuhan Seafood Market?

One of the most well-accepted "facts" about the COVID-19 pandemic — that the virus originated at the Wuhan Seafood Market — may not be a fact at all, says "Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus." A bat virus connected to the seafood market, which also contained wildlife and game mammals, was widely indicted as the source8 but the conclusions may be too hasty, says Philipp.
Quickly attributing the outbreak to the market and shutting it down on January 1, 2020, felt like "destroying a crime scene" and had the effect of stopping further investigations though many questions remained, he says.
Some scientific journals agreed. Soon after the shutdown of the market, a description of the first COVID-19 cases published in The Lancet9 and an analysis in Science magazine10 that summarized The Lancet's findings questioned the Wuhan Seafood Market as a source of the virus. According to Science magazine:
"The [Lancet] paper, written by a large group of Chinese researchers from several institutions, offers details about the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections with what has been dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
In the earliest case, the patient became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market, the authors report. 'No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases,' they state. Their data also show that, in total, 13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace."
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Experts in the Documentary Express Their Doubts

In the film, Sean Lin, former lab director of the Viral Disease Branch, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, also questions the abrupt attribution of the virus' cause to a bat virus connected to the seafood market. This assumption not only ignored the nearly one-third of patients who had not had contact with the market, but bats are not even sold at the market, he points out.11
Judy Mikovits, a molecular biologist and antiviral expert who worked at the National Cancer Institute for 22 years,12 calls the seafood market hypothesis "highly unlikely and improbable.” Concurring with The Lancet article, she points out that:13
"Patient zero was nowhere near the market ... there are no bats near the seafood market or anywhere else."
Also skeptical of the dismissive explanation is Dr. Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University. The 13 patients whom The Lancet article reported had no link to the seafood market is "a big number," Lucey told Science magazine.14
Lucey rejects the seafood market hypothesis because it rules out the human-to-human transmission that is known to occur. In a Science Speaks interview he says:15
"[T]he presumed rapid spread of the virus apparently for the first time from the Huanan seafood market in December did not occur. Instead the virus was already silently spreading in Wuhan hidden amidst many other patients with pneumonia at this time of year ...
Thus, some of the 14 cases with no exposure to the Huanan market out of the total 41 cases could be explained by the pre-existing chains of transmission causing ongoing person-to-person transmission and/or transmission from infected animals in other markets inside and/or outside Wuhan, or anywhere along the supply chain of infected animals."
Shutting down the Wuhan Seafood Market so quickly allowed other contamination sources to proliferate, especially with no testing program, says Lucey:16
"[O]ne of the reasons to test immediately for the virus now in other animal markets, both multiple species and environmental testing, is to identify and shut down any other sources of recurrent transmission of the virus, both in Wuhan, Hubei province and other provinces in China, and neighboring areas where infected animal species could exist."

A Chinese Virologist Created New, Synthetic Viruses

Much of the film focuses on the work of Shi Zhengli, a Chinese virologist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which hosts the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory and is located17 only 10 miles from the Wuhan Seafood Market.18 Zhengli, who has a lab at the institute called P4, is considered an expert on bat-originated diseases like SARS and their transmission.
A quick look at journal contributions that Zhengli co-wrote reveals the researchers created new, synthetic viruses. For example, a letter published in Nature Medicine says:19
"[T]o examine the emergence potential (that is, the potential to infect humans) of circulating bat CoVs [coronaviruses] we built a chimeric virus encoding a novel, zoonotic CoV spike protein — from the RsSHC014- CoV sequence that was isolated from Chinese horseshoe bats1 — in the context of the SARS-CoV mouse-adapted backbone.
The hybrid virus allowed us to evaluate the ability of the novel spike protein to cause disease independently of other necessary adaptive mutations in its natural backbone. Using this approach, we characterized CoV infection mediated by the SHC014 spike protein in primary human airway cells and in vivo, and tested the efficacy of available immune therapeutics against SHC014-CoV."
Spike proteins, also called S proteins, use the human angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2)20 to infect humans.21 That means, say Zhengli and her colleagues in a previous Nature article, that "intermediate hosts may not be necessary for direct human infection.”22
Coronaviruses' use of the human ACE2 molecule as their entry receptor "is considered a hallmark of its cross-species transmissibility," the researchers write in an article in Nature.23
After creating the synthetic virus, which they call SHC014, Zhengli and her coauthors write that they "next synthesized a full-length SHC014-CoV infectious clone based on the approach used for SARS-CoV."24 Other papers Zhengli co-wrote focus on the transmission of coronaviruses from one species to another, according to the documentary.

Is Covid-19 a Re-Engineered Virus?

Zhengli and her fellow researchers admit they used a "reverse genetics system" to generate "a chimeric virus expressing the spike of bat coronavirus,"25 raising legitimate fears that COVID-19 is also reverse-engineered, according to "Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus."
Virologists wrote to Nature that they were uncomfortable with the fabricated chimeras Zhengli and her colleagues produced. Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, warned, "If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory."26
A withdrawn paper posted on bioRxiv, a preprint biology server where scientists can post their work before it is published, said of the COVID-19 genome:27
"We found 4 insertions in the spike glycoprotein (S) which are unique to the 2019-nCoV and are not present in other coronaviruses. Importantly, amino acid residues in all the 4 inserts have identity or similarity to those in the HIV- 1 gp120 or HIV-1 Gag ...
The finding of 4 unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV, all of which have identity /similarity to amino acid residues in key structural proteins of HIV-1 is unlikely to be fortuitous in nature. This work provides yet unknown insights on 2019-nCoV and sheds light on the evolution and pathogenicity of this virus with important implications for diagnosis of this virus ...
Our results highlight an astonishing relation between the ... protein of HIV, with 2019-nCoV [COVIF-19] spike glycoprotein. These proteins are critical for the viruses to identify and latch on to their host cells and for viral assembly."
According to Mikovits, the S proteins seen on COVID-19 that make it so transmittable to humans come from "cutting and pasting of two different viruses" and the apparent insertion of four new genes could not have been generated from a natural "zoonotic transmission."28
They had to come from a medical, bioweapons or lab setting, says Mikovits. Other scientists in the film agree that COVID-19 is a re-engineered, laboratory-driven virus.29
General Robert Spalding, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former senior strategy director at the National Security Council, believes the media have suppressed coverage of lab-driven viruses to keep lucrative Chinese revenue streams. The viruses could be intended by the Chinese to reap rewards for a vaccine that targets them or as bioweapons, he says:30
“I believe they have them [bioweapons]. I believe that they’re developing them and I think they want to be the most advanced nation on earth when it comes to biological weapons."

US-Funded Research in China Was Temporarily Halted

In 2014, the NIH announced a halt to research that few Americans were aware of — gain-of-function (GOF) experiments with the SARS, MERS and influenza viruses awarded to Chinese entities:31
"U.S. government agencies will institute a pause on the funding of any new studies involving these experiments ... NIH has funded such studies because they help define the fundamental nature of human-pathogen interactions, enable the assessment of the pandemic potential of emerging infectious agents, and inform public health and preparedness efforts.
These studies, however, also entail biosafety and biosecurity risks, which need to be understood better."
In her 2015 Nature Medicine article that discussed chimeras, Zhengli refers to the U.S. funding pause. She writes that ongoing research into engineering viruses:32
" … must be considered in the context of the US government-mandated pause on gain-of-function (GOF) studies ... scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue, as increased pathogenicity in mammalian models cannot be excluded."
The research in the paper mentioning the GOF studies was funded by grants from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease and the National Institute of Aging (both part of NIH) as well as awards from the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Technical help was received from the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas.33

Censoring Science and Whistleblowers

Censorship by the Chinese government is the rule, not the exception, according to "Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Virus." On January 10, 2020, a Chinese lab released the entire genome sequence for the scientific community to analyze, but subsequently the lab was closed.34 Zhengli's Institute of Virology's P4 Lab was taken over by the military after COVID-19 surfaced, says the film.35
The censorship was reminiscent of the case of Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistleblowing Chinese doctor who contracted the virus while working at Wuhan Central Hospital, and who tried to warn others. Wenliang was investigated for "spreading rumors" and died of the virus on February 7, 2020.36 The Chinese government later apologized. Chinese researchers who originally talked to Philipp later refused to do so, he says.37
The deadly characteristics of the COVID-19 virus, the engineered viruses and the proximity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology/Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory to the Wuhan Seafood Market raise serious biosecurity and global health questions. Let's hope the truth comes out.
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