Dr. Alina Chan Makes the Case for a Lab Leak

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Today the NY Times published an opinion piece by Dr. Alina Chan making the case that the pandemic was caused by a lab leak in Wuhan. At this point it's honestly hard for me to tell if any of this is new information but it is very well organized and presented. She has broken it into five points.


Point one is that Wuhan was the site where bat scientist Shi Zhengli had been collecting and experimenting with bat viruses for years. Wuhan is roughly 1,000 miles from the colonies of bats where the viruses most similar to SARS-CoV-2 were found.

The SARS‑CoV‑2 virus is exceptionally contagious and can jump from species to species like wildfire. Yet it left no known trace of infection at its source or anywhere along what would have been a thousand-mile journey before emerging in Wuhan.

Point two is the Defuse research project proposed as a collaboration by EcoHealth Alliance. That plan would create a virus with a furin cleavage site, making it more transmissible to humans. The project was never funded but that doesn't mean the Chinese scientists couldn't have gone ahead without US backing.

While it’s possible that the furin cleavage site could have evolved naturally (as seen in some distantly related coronaviruses), out of the hundreds of SARS-like viruses cataloged by scientists, SARS‑CoV‑2 is the only one known to possess a furin cleavage site in its spike. And the genetic data suggest that the virus had only recently gained the furin cleavage site before it started the pandemic...

When the Wuhan scientists published their seminal paper about Covid-19 as the pandemic roared to life in 2020, they did not mention the virus’s furin cleavage site — a feature they should have been on the lookout for, according to their own grant proposal, and a feature quickly recognized by other scientists.


Point three is that the Wuhan lab worked under low safety conditions.

An early draft of the Defuse proposal stated that the Wuhan lab would do their virus work at BSL-2 to make it “highly cost-effective.” Dr. Baric added a note to the draft highlighting the importance of using BSL-3 to contain SARS-like viruses that could infect human cells, writing that “U.S. researchers will likely freak out.” Years later, after SARS‑CoV‑2 had killed millions, Dr. Baric wrote to Dr. Daszak: “I have no doubt that they followed state determined rules and did the work under BSL-2. Yes China has the right to set their own policy. You believe this was appropriate containment if you want but don’t expect me to believe it. Moreover, don’t insult my intelligence by trying to feed me this load of BS.”

Point four is that there is no evidence the virus originated in the Wuhan wet market.

A pair of papers published in Science in 2022 made the best case for SARS‑CoV‑2 having emerged naturally from human-animal contact at the Wuhan market by focusing on a map of the early cases and asserting that the virus had jumped from animals into humans twice at the market in 2019. More recently, the two papers have been countered by other virologists and scientists who convincingly demonstrate that the available market evidence does not distinguish between a human superspreader event and a natural spillover at the market.

And point five is that all of the evidence which has connected previous SARS-like outbreaks to specific animal species is missing the case of Covid. No ancestral variants of the virus have been found in other animals. To sum it up:


The pandemic could have been caused by any of hundreds of virus species, at any of tens of thousands of wildlife markets, in any of thousands of cities, and in any year. But it was a SARS-like coronavirus with a unique furin cleavage site that emerged in Wuhan, less than two years after scientists, sometimes working under inadequate biosafety conditions, proposed collecting and creating viruses of that same design.

This one has some good comments. Here's the top comment.

This is a good example for us liberals to remember that we’re not right about everything. Having an open dialogue about a variety of topics is always better than shutting down debate and accusing the other side of idiocy. I for one ridiculed those who believed in the “lab virus” theory. I was wrong

It's a pretty compelling case and worth reading in full if you have the time.

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