Press "Enter" to skip to content

“No evidence” to support former CDC director’s theory that coronavirus escaped from lab, scientists say

Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, informed CNN he believes the coronavirus initially escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. But a group of consultants from the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and a variety of virology consultants have mentioned the proof to support such a declare simply is not there.

“I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human. And at that moment in time, the virus came to the human, became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human to human transmission,” Redfield told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta throughout an interview taped in January, to be aired in full on Sunday. “Normally, when a pathogen goes from a zoonot to human, it takes a while for it to figure out how to become more and more efficient.”

Redfield, a virologist who headed the CDC underneath President Trump, pressured a number of instances that that is simply his opinion, not a indisputable fact. “I’m allowed to have opinions now,” he mentioned. According to Redfield, the extraordinarily quick transmission of the then-novel coronavirus, in his view, signifies that it was possible grown in a lab for that precise function. “Most of us in a lab, when trying to grow a virus, we try to help make it grow better, and better, and better, and better, and better, and better so we can do experiments and figure out about it. That’s the way I put it together,” he mentioned of his theory. 

Redfield, nonetheless, additionally mentioned he believes the virus started spreading months sooner than as soon as thought — maybe since September or October of 2019, a timeframe roughly supported by latest analysis. That additional time the virus might have spent circulating undetected may assist clarify the way it grew to become “efficient” at transmission — without having been “leaked” from a lab.

Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed Redfield’s feedback at Friday’s COVID-19 response briefing and prompt that most public well being officers disagree. He famous that if the virus had escaped from a lab, that would imply that “it essentially entered the outside human population already well-adapted to humans.”

“However, the alternative explanation which most public health individuals go by, is that this virus was actually circulating in China, likely in Wuhan, for a month or more before they were clinically recognized at the end of December of 2019,” Fauci mentioned. 

“If that were the case, the virus clearly could have adapted itself to a greater efficiency of transmissibility over that period of time, up to and at the time it was recognized. So, Dr. Redfield was mentioning that he was giving an opinion as to a possibility, but again there are other alternatives — others that most people hold by.”

Understanding when the coronavirus first emerged is a crucial piece of the epidemiological puzzle, one that scientists world wide, together with a group from the WHO, have been working to nail down. One study, lately printed within the journal Science, discovered “the period between mid-October and mid-November 2019” to be “the plausible interval when the first case of SARS-CoV-2 emerged in Hubei province.”

“It is highly probable that SARS-CoV-2 was circulating in Hubei province at low levels in early-November 2019 and possibly as early as October 2019, but not earlier,” reads the research. But for weeks or months, its prevalence was low sufficient to escape discover. “By the time COVID-19 was first identified, the virus had firmly established itself in Wuhan.”

Kristian G. Andersen, director of the infectious illness genomics, translational analysis institute at Scripps Research, informed CBS News that “none of (Redfield’s) comments” on the lab theory are “backed by available evidence.”

“It is clear that not only was he the most disastrous CDC director in U.S. history where he utterly failed in his sworn mission to keep the country safe, but via his comments, he also shows a complete lack of basic evolutionary virology,” Andersen mentioned.

Andersen was the lead writer of a study printed in Nature Medicine final year which discovered that the virus was a product of pure evolution. Furthermore, by means of evaluation of public genome sequence information, the scientists “found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered,” in accordance to a press release from Scripps.

“By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” Andersen mentioned on the time.

W. Ian Lipkin, a research co-author with Andersen and the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, mentioned that whereas there’s nonetheless loads we do not know in regards to the virus, together with precisely how lengthy it has been circulating, there’s “no evidence” to counsel that it was created in a lab. 

“The fact that we haven’t seen it before, doesn’t mean it was created in a laboratory,” he mentioned. Lipkin pointed to the coronavirus’ capability to replicate in different animals, resembling outbreaks amongst mink, and the emergence of extremely transmissible variants world wide — “without any modification from a laboratory” — as proof to the opposite. 

“The modifications that have been exploited by the virus are not ones that we would have predicted,” he mentioned, including, “even if we wanted to design such a virus, we wouldn’t have known how to do it.”

Lipkin referred to as Redfield’s feedback “counterproductive,” particularly given the rise in discrimination and violence in opposition to Asian Americans through the pandemic. “We should be moving away from finger-pointing,” he mentioned. 

Andersen and his colleagues concluded that the virus most definitely originated from one in every of two situations. The first is that “the virus evolved to its current pathogenic state through natural selection in a non-human host and then jumped to humans,” in accordance to the press launch. The second is that “a non-pathogenic version of the virus jumped from an animal host into humans and then evolved to its current pathogenic state within the human population.”

“We know bats carry viruses highly similar to SARS-CoV-2, so it’s plausible it came straight from bats. Like SARS, it’s possible that it may have come from an intermediate host — which we have not identified,” Andersen defined. “There is absolutely nothing unusual about the fact we haven’t found such an intermediate host (if one even exists in the first place) and anybody saying otherwise simply has not read up on the literature.”

The present CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, mentioned at Friday’s briefing that the White House group is “looking forward” to a report from WHO that “examines the origin of this pandemic and of SARS-CoV-2 in humans.” But China has not been forthcoming with data that could also be key to a full understanding.

Andersen famous that “we don’t know the origins (reservoirs) of most viruses that infect humans,” together with different latest ones like Ebola, “and for the ones we have some idea, it can take decades.”

“We know that the first epidemiologically linked cluster of cases came from the Huanan market and we know the virus was found in environmental samples — including animal cages — at the market,” he mentioned. “Any ‘lab leak’ theory would have to account for that scenario — which it simply can’t, without invoking a major conspiracy and cover up by Chinese scientists and authorities.”

His scathing conclusion: “Redfield has no idea what he’s talking about — plain and simple. It’s no surprise given his disastrous tenure as CDC director.”