A scathing Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal concludes that SARS-CoV-2 "was most likely uncontained in a laboratory where it was being worked on, and that it escaped unintentionally."
Authored by former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and NYU clinical professor Dr. Marc Siegel, the Op-Ed calls out the Chinese government for preventing the CDC from visiting Wuhan, China or the Wuhan Institute of Virology in early 2020 - which forced US investigators to "put together the circumstantial pieces of the puzzle on our own."
The doctors note:
On Sept. 12, 2019, coronavirus bat sequences were deleted from the institute’s database. Why? It changed the security protocols for the lab. Why? It put out requests for more than $600 million for a new ventilation system. What prompted this new need?
In January 2020 two hypotheses emerged about the origin of the novel coronavirus: that it began in a bat, then infected another animal before spreading to humans in a Wuhan “wet market,” where wild animals are sold for meat; or that it emerged from the Wuhan laboratory. The wet-market story was pushed by the Chinese CDC and the World Health Organization. Public-health leaders argued that Covid-19 was like SARS and MERS, earlier coronaviruses that emerged from bats and spread through an intermediate animal.
But neither of those viruses has ever evolved to the point where it can transmit efficiently from one human to the next. There have been fewer than 10,000 cases of each virus world-wide since SARS was discovered in 2003 and MERS in 2012. What virus comes out of a bat cave and infects humans by the millions? It’s not biologically plausible. If instead it evolved slowly over many years in nature, how come no one knew of it? -WSJ
What does bear investigation, they write, is the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 was "taught" to infect humans using humanized mice (grafted with human tissue and immune cells) in order to test whether the virus's 'cleavage site' was manipulated to more easily infect a human cell.
They also note a "growing body of circumstantial evidence" supporting the lab-leak theory - including info gleaned by the US State Department that Wuhan lab workers fell ill with Covid-like symptoms in the fall of 2019.
The story of SARS-Cov-2 started long before January 2020. We believe the virus was most likely uncontained in a laboratory where it was being worked on, and that it escaped unintentionally. A Harvard study of satellite images revealed a shutdown of traffic around the Wuhan lab in the late summer and early fall of 2019. Weeks later, in late September, the hospital parking lots were filling up.
There were hallmarks of scientific arrogance and failures in the containment system. China’s CDC initially appeared to be out of the loop but later became a key messenger, selling the natural-origin and wet-market theory. Another apparent misdirection was several key scientists’ insistence on a narrow definition of “gain of function” research to include remodeling, overt bioengineering, shaping or constructing a virus. As far as we’re concerned, if a virus is taught to or evolves in a lab to infect human tissue more efficiently, that’s gain of function. -WSJ
According to the doctors, there is a 'global need' to know the truth, because it affects how we approach the problem, and "variants are emerging rapidly that continue to change the game. All this is in keeping with a virus that more likely jumped from a bat to a lab, not to a rat or a rabbit."
Until we know what happened in Wuhan, Redfield and Siegel have called for a moratorium on so-called 'gain-of-function' research while authorities carefully craft policy to avoid the next pandemic.