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FTR #1156 Bio-Psy-Op Apocalypse Now, Part 16: An Ounce of Prevention . . . .

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FTR #1156 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: In past pro­grams, we have briefly not­ed that mil­i­tary and [osten­si­bly] civil­ian pro­grams offi­cial­ly involved with “epi­dem­ic pre­ven­tion” might con­ceal clan­des­tine bio­log­i­cal war­fare appli­ca­tions designed to cre­ate epi­demics.

This pro­gram fur­ther devel­ops that inquiry

The offi­cial dis­tinc­tion between “offen­sive” and “defen­sive” bio­log­i­cal war­fare research is aca­d­e­m­ic.

In that con­text, one should note that the offi­cial title of Unit 731, the noto­ri­ous Japan­ese bio­log­i­cal war­fare unit was “the Epi­dem­ic Pre­ven­tion and Water Purifi­ca­tion Depart­ment of the Kwan­tung Army.”

Note­wor­thy in that gen­er­al con­text is the obser­va­tion by Jonathan King (pro­fes­sor of mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gy at MIT), that Pen­ta­gon research into the appli­ca­tion of genet­ic engi­neer­ing to bio­log­i­cal war­fare could be masked as vac­cine research, which sounds “defen­sive.”

In FTR #1130, we not­ed the role of four-star gen­er­al Gus­tave Per­na in Trump’s “Oper­a­tion Warp Speed,” insti­tut­ed by Gen­er­al Mark Mil­ley, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Whether the pro­gram serves as cov­er for mil­i­tary research seems a rea­son­able ques­tion to ask, under the cir­cum­stances.

In our last pro­gram, we weighed New York Times colum­nist Charles Blow’s thoughts about a white-suprema­cist minor­i­ty grouped around the GOP. Blow saw those inter­ests work­ing to pre­serve their priv­i­lege in a num­ber of respects.

This pro­gram asks, in effect, if the glob­al equiv­a­lent of Blow’s male­fac­tors might be doing some­thing sim­i­lar with the Covid-19 “op” and relat­ed, over­lap­ping clan­des­tine oper­a­tions. How might the inter­ests we saw in FTR #1128

Select­ed excerpts of a Whit­ney Webb arti­cle pro­vide insight into the pos­si­ble offen­sive nature of pro­grams osten­si­bly aimed at pre­vent­ing epi­demics. Like Unit 731 (see above), “Epi­dem­ic Pre­ven­tion” may well be mask­ing “epi­dem­ic cre­ation.”

In con­nec­tion with that pos­si­bil­i­ty, the DARPA focus on gene-dri­ving tech­nol­o­gy is fright­en­ing and fraught with dev­as­tat­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Whether or not gene-dri­ving impacts DARPA assist­ed Covid-19 vac­cine devel­op­ment by Mod­er­na and Inovio, the Pen­ta­gon under­writ­ing of these firms is of con­cern.

Some inter­est­ing points raised by Dr. Daniel R. Lucey are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant in light of the infor­ma­tion we have devel­oped in the past about gain of func­tion exper­i­ments.

Lucey’s points of inquiry–although not dis­cussed in this article–are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant when con­sid­ered in con­junc­tion with the joint U.S./Chinese pro­gram to inves­ti­gate bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es, a pro­gram whose Amer­i­can fund­ing appa­ra­tus involved USAID, a fre­quent front for CIA oper­a­tions.

The gain of func­tion exper­i­ments we dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 1116, 1117 and 1121 involv­ing adapt­ing the H5N1 avian flu virus to fer­rets is worth con­tem­plat­ing in the con­text of infor­ma­tion indi­cat­ing that the SARS Cov‑2 virus is par­tic­u­lar­ly infec­tive for fer­rets.

Was part of the mod­i­fied H5N1 flu virus adapt­ed to SARS Cov‑2?

A key fac­tor spurring our sus­pi­cion con­cern­ing genet­ic-engi­neer­ing of one or more vari­ant of the Covid-19 virus con­cerns a 2015 Gain-of-Func­tion exper­i­ment. This should answer Dr. Lucey’s query.

“. . . . Ralph Bar­ic, an infec­tious-dis­ease researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, last week (Novem­ber 9) pub­lished a study on his team’s efforts to engi­neer a virus with the sur­face pro­tein of the SHC014 coro­n­avirus, found in horse­shoe bats in Chi­na, and the back­bone of one that caus­es human-like severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome (SARS) in mice. The hybrid virus could infect human air­way cells and caused dis­ease in mice. . . . The results demon­strate the abil­i­ty of the SHC014 sur­face pro­tein to bind and infect human cells, val­i­dat­ing con­cerns that this virus—or oth­er coro­n­avirus­es found in bat species—may be capa­ble of mak­ing the leap to peo­ple with­out first evolv­ing in an inter­me­di­ate host, Nature report­ed . . . .”

Crit­ics have flagged Gain-Of-Func­tion research as dan­ger­ous. Pro­po­nents are not dis­suad­ed, includ­ing Peter Daszak. “. . . . But Bar­ic and oth­ers argued the study’s impor­tance. ‘[The results] move this virus from a can­di­date emerg­ing pathogen to a clear and present dan­ger,’ Peter Daszak, pres­i­dent of the Eco­Health Alliance, which sam­ples virus­es from ani­mals and peo­ple in emerg­ing-dis­eases hotspots across the globe, told Nature. . . .”

Of more than pass­ing inter­est is the dis­clo­sure that the project on bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es con­duct­ed in the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry was a joint U.S./Chinese project, and that Ralph Bar­ic was a key Amer­i­can part­ner in the project.

This is the under­tak­ing about which we have report­ed and dis­cussed exten­sive­ly in the past! . . . . One of Dr Shi’s co-authors on that paper, Pro­fes­sor Ralph Bar­ic from North Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view with ‘Sci­ence Dai­ly’ at the time: ‘This virus is high­ly path­o­gen­ic and treat­ments devel­oped against the orig­i­nal SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebo­la fail to neu­tralise and con­trol this par­tic­u­lar virus.’ . . . .”

We note that the WIV project co-fund­ed by USAID involved genet­ic manip­u­la­tion of bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es.

” . . . . Now Dr Richard Ebright, an infec­tious dis­ease expert at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty (USA), has alert­ed the pub­lic to evi­dence that WIV and US-based researchers were genet­i­cal­ly engi­neer­ing bat virus­es to inves­ti­gate their abil­i­ty to infect humans, using com­mon­ly used meth­ods that leave no sign or sig­na­ture of human manip­u­la­tion. Ebright flagged up a sci­en­tif­ic paper pub­lished in 2017 by WIV sci­en­tists, includ­ing Shi Zhengli, the virol­o­gist lead­ing the research into bat coro­n­avirus­es, work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Peter Daszak of the US-based Eco­Health Alliance. Fund­ing was shared between Chi­nese and US insti­tu­tions, the lat­ter includ­ing the US Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health and USAID. The researchers report hav­ing con­duct­ed virus infec­tiv­i­ty exper­i­ments where genet­ic mate­r­i­al is com­bined from dif­fer­ent vari­eties of SARS-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es to form nov­el ‘chimeric’ ver­sions. . . .”

In May, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion ter­mi­nat­ed the fund­ing for the project. A key point of analy­sis was set forth by Dr. Chris­tine John­son: ” . . . . Virus sam­ples in labs are almost nev­er still infec­tious, after being frozen in nitro­gen dur­ing the col­lec­tion process and then inac­ti­vat­ed in the lab to pre­serve their genet­ic sequence. . . .

1a. Note­wor­thy in that gen­er­al con­text is the obser­va­tion by Jonathan King (pro­fes­sor of mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gy at MIT), that Pen­ta­gon research into the appli­ca­tion of genet­ic engi­neer­ing to bio­log­i­cal war­fare could be masked as vac­cine research, which sounds “defen­sive.”

In FTR #1130, we not­ed the role of four-star gen­er­al Gus­tave Per­na in Trump’s “Oper­a­tion Warp Speed,” insti­tut­ed by Gen­er­al Mark Mil­ley, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Whether the pro­gram serves as cov­er for mil­i­tary research seems a rea­son­able ques­tion to ask, under the cir­cum­stances.

Gene Wars: Mil­i­tary Con­trol Over the New Tech­nolo­gies by Charles Piller and Kei­th R. Yamamo­to; Beech Tree Books/William Mor­row [HC]; Copy­right 1988 by Charles Piller and Kei­th Yamamo­to; ISBN 0–688-07050–7; p. 217

. . . . King, who has chaired the micro­bial phys­i­ol­o­gy study sec­tion for the NIH, believes that with­out inten­sive inde­pen­dent scruti­ny, the Pen­ta­gon is free to obscure its true goals.

“The Defense Depart­ment appears to be pur­su­ing many nar­row, applied goals that are by nature offen­sive, such as the genet­ic ‘improve­ment’ of BW agents,” King says. “But to achieve polit­i­cal accept­abil­i­ty, they mask these inten­tions under forms of research, such as vac­cine devel­op­ment, which sound defen­sive. . . .

2.  In past pro­grams, we have briefly not­ed that mil­i­tary and [osten­si­bly] civil­ian pro­grams offi­cial­ly involved with “epi­dem­ic pre­ven­tion” might con­ceal clan­des­tine bio­log­i­cal war­fare appli­ca­tions designed to cre­ate epi­demics.

The offi­cial dis­tinc­tion between “offen­sive” and “defen­sive” bio­log­i­cal war­fare research is aca­d­e­m­ic.

In that con­text, one should note that the offi­cial title of Unit 731, the noto­ri­ous Japan­ese bio­log­i­cal war­fare unit was “the Epi­dem­ic Pre­ven­tion and Water Purifi­ca­tion Depart­ment of the Kwan­tung Army.”

“Unit 731”; Wikipedia.com.

Unit 731 (Japan­ese: 731部隊, Hep­burnNana-san-ichi Butai), also referred to as Detach­ment 731, the 731 Reg­i­mentMan­shu Detach­ment 731The Kamo Detach­ment,[3]:198 Ishii Unit,[5] Ishii Detach­ment[5] or the Ishii Com­pa­ny, was a covert bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal war­fare research and devel­op­ment unit of the Impe­r­i­al Japan­ese Army that under­took lethal human exper­i­men­ta­tion dur­ing the Sec­ond Sino-Japan­ese War (1937–1945) of World War II. It was respon­si­ble for some of the most noto­ri­ous war crimes car­ried out by Impe­r­i­al Japan. Unit 731 was based at the Ping­fang dis­trict of Harbin, the largest gas cham­ber in the Japan­ese pup­pet state of Manchukuo (now North­east Chi­na), and had active branch offices through­out Chi­na and South­east Asia.

It was offi­cial­ly known as the Epi­dem­ic Pre­ven­tion and Water Purifi­ca­tion Depart­ment of the Kwan­tung Army (関東軍防疫給水部本部, Kan­tō­gun Bōe­ki Kyū­suibu Hon­bu). . . .

3. Select­ed excerpts of a Whit­ney Webb arti­cle pro­vide insight into the pos­si­ble offen­sive nature of pro­grams osten­si­bly aimed at pre­vent­ing epi­demics. Like Unit 731 (see above), “Epi­dem­ic Pre­ven­tion” may well be mask­ing “epi­dem­ic cre­ation.”

In con­nec­tion with that pos­si­bil­i­ty, the DARPA focus on gene-dri­ving tech­nol­o­gy is fright­en­ing and fraught with dev­as­tat­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Whether or not gene-dri­ving impacts DARPA assist­ed Covid-19 vac­cine devel­op­ment by Mod­er­na and Inovio, the Pen­ta­gon under­writ­ing of these firms is of con­cern.

“Bats, Gene Edit­ing and Bioweapons: Rec­cent DARPA Exper­i­ments Raise Con­cerns Amid Coro­n­avirus Out­break” by Whit­ney Webb; The Last Amer­i­can Vagabond; 1/30/2020.

  • ” . . . . the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far. . . . For instance, DARPA spent $10 mil­lion on one project in 2018 ‘to unrav­el the com­plex caus­es of bat-borne virus­es that have recent­ly made the jump to humans, caus­ing con­cern among glob­al health offi­cials.” Anoth­er research project backed by both DARPA and NIH saw researchers at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty exam­ine the coro­n­avirus that caus­es Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) in bats and camels ‘to under­stand the role of these hosts in trans­mit­ting dis­ease to humans.’  . . . For instance, one study con­duct­ed in South­ern Chi­na in 2018 result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of 89 new ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ strains that use the same recep­tor as the coro­n­avirus known as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS). That study was joint­ly fund­ed by the Chi­nese government’s Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, USAID — an orga­ni­za­tion long alleged to be a front for U.S. intel­li­gence, and the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Health — which has col­lab­o­rat­ed with both the CIA and the Pen­ta­gon on infec­tious dis­ease and bioweapons research.. . . .”
  • The DARPA research is osten­si­bly aimed at pre­vent­ing pan­demics but–very possibly–masking prepa­ra­tions for offen­sive bio­log­i­cal war­fare projects. ” . . . . Many of these recent research projects are relat­ed to DARPA’s Pre­vent­ing Emerg­ing Path­o­gen­ic Threats, or PREEMPT pro­gram, which was offi­cial­ly announced in April 2018. PREEMPT focus­es specif­i­cal­ly on ani­mal reser­voirs of dis­ease, specif­i­cal­ly bats, and DARPA even not­ed in its press release in the pro­gram that it ‘is aware of biosafe­ty and biose­cu­ri­ty sen­si­tiv­i­ties that could arise’ due to the nature of the research. . . . In addi­tion, while both DARPA’s PREEMPT pro­gram and the Pentagon’s open inter­est in bats as bioweapons were announced in 2018, the U.S. mil­i­tary — specif­i­cal­ly the Depart­ment of Defense’s Coop­er­a­tive Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram — began fund­ing research involv­ing bats and dead­ly pathogens, includ­ing the coro­n­avirus­es MERS and SARS, a year pri­or in 2017. . . .”
  • The Pen­ta­gon is research­ing  “gene-driving”–a biotech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment that can per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ic make­up of entire pop­u­la­tion groups and lead to the extinc­tion of oth­er groups. ” . . . . Con­cerns about Pen­ta­gon exper­i­ments with bio­log­i­cal weapons have gar­nered renewed media atten­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly after it was revealed in 2017 that DARPA was the top fun­der of the con­tro­ver­sial ‘gene dri­ve’ tech­nol­o­gy, which has the pow­er to per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ics of entire pop­u­la­tions while tar­get­ing oth­ers for extinc­tion. At least two of DARPA’s stud­ies using this con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­o­gy were clas­si­fied and ‘focused on the poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion of gene dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy and use of gene dri­ves in agri­cul­ture,’ accord­ing to media reports. The rev­e­la­tion came after an orga­ni­za­tion called the ETC Group obtained over 1,000 emails on the military’s inter­est in the tech­nol­o­gy as part of a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) request. Co-direc­tor of the ETC Group Jim Thomas said that this tech­nol­o­gy may be used as a bio­log­i­cal weapon: ‘Gene dri­ves are a pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous new tech­nol­o­gy and poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapons could have dis­as­trous impacts on peace, food secu­ri­ty and the envi­ron­ment, espe­cial­ly if mis­used, The fact that gene dri­ve devel­op­ment is now being pri­mar­i­ly fund­ed and struc­tured by the US mil­i­tary rais­es alarm­ing ques­tions about this entire field.’ . . . .”
  • The DARPA research has backed two companies–Inovio and Moderna–that use nucle­ic acid infu­sions into cells for their ther­a­peu­tic action.  ” . . . . The sec­ond phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that was select­ed by CEPI to devel­op a vac­cine for the new coro­n­avirus is Mod­er­na Inc., which will devel­op a vac­cine for the nov­el coro­n­avirus of con­cern in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. NIH and which will be fund­ed entire­ly by CEPI. The vac­cine in ques­tion, as opposed to Inovio’s DNA vac­cine, will be a mes­sen­ger RNA (mRNA) vac­cine. Though dif­fer­ent than a DNA vac­cine, mRNA vac­cines still use genet­ic mate­r­i­al ‘to direct the body’s cells to pro­duce intra­cel­lu­lar, mem­brane or secret­ed pro­teins.’ Moderna’s mRNA treat­ments, includ­ing its mRNA vac­cines, were large­ly devel­oped using a $25 mil­lion grant from DARPA and it often touts is strate­gic alliance with DARPA in press releas­es. . . .”
  • ” . . . . the very com­pa­nies recent­ly cho­sen to devel­op a vac­cine to com­bat the coro­n­avirus out­break are them­selves strate­gic allies of DARPA. . . . For instance, the top fun­ders of Inovio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals include both DARPA and the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA) and the com­pa­ny has received mil­lions in dol­lars in grants from DARPA, includ­ing a $45 mil­lion grant to devel­op a vac­cine for Ebo­la. Inovio spe­cial­izes in the cre­ation of DNA immunother­a­pies and DNA vac­cines, which con­tain genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered DNA that caus­es the cells of the recip­i­ent to pro­duce an anti­gen and can per­ma­nent­ly alter a person’s DNA. Inovio pre­vi­ous­ly devel­oped a DNA vac­cine for the Zika virus, but — to date — no DNA vac­cine has been approved for use in humans in the Unit­ed States. Inovio was also recent­ly award­ed over $8 mil­lion from the U.S. mil­i­tary to devel­op a small, portable intra­der­mal device for deliv­er­ing DNA vac­cines joint­ly devel­oped by Inovio and USAMRIID.

4. Some inter­est­ing points raised by Dr. Daniel R. Lucey are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant in light of the infor­ma­tion we have devel­oped in the past about gain of func­tion exper­i­ments.

Lucey’s points of inquiry–although not dis­cussed in this article–are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant when con­sid­ered in con­junc­tion with the joint U.S./Chinese pro­gram to inves­ti­gate bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es, a pro­gram whose Amer­i­can fund­ing appa­ra­tus involved USAID, a fre­quent front for CIA oper­a­tions.

The gain of func­tion exper­i­ments we dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 1116, 1117 and 1121 involv­ing adapt­ing the H5N1 avian flu virus to fer­rets is worth con­tem­plat­ing in the con­text of infor­ma­tion indi­cat­ing that the SARS Cov‑2 virus is par­tic­u­lar­ly infec­tive for fer­rets.

Was part of the mod­i­fied H5N1 flu virus adapt­ed to SARS Cov‑2?

Anoth­er sub­ject worth con­tem­plat­ing con­cerns Gilead Sci­ences, Tam­i­flu and the prog­nos­ti­ca­tions con­cern­ing a “twindem­ic” this fall, with influen­za and Covid-19 com­bin­ing to over­whelm the health sys­tem.

Might we see an enhanced H5N1 avian influen­za this fall, pro­vid­ing enor­mous prof­its to Gilead Sci­ences, which, as we saw in FTR #1138, made an enor­mous amount of mon­ey (for itself and for­mer Chair­man of the Board Don­ald Rums­feld) devel­op­ing Tam­i­flu to negate the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an H5N1 pan­dem­ic?

“Dis­ease Detec­tive Put Forth Point­ed Ques­tions” by William J. Broad; The New York Times; 7/14/2020; p. D7 [West­ern Edi­tion].

. . . . The sixth and sev­enth ques­tions go to whether the dead­ly pathogen leapt to humans from a lab­o­ra­to­ry. Although some intel­li­gence ana­lysts and sci­en­tists have enter­tained that sce­nario, no direct evi­dence has come to light sug­gest­ing that the coro­n­avirus escaped from one of Wuhan’s labs.

Even so, giv­en the wet market’s down­grad­ing in the inves­ti­ga­tion, “It is impor­tant to address ques­tions about any poten­tial lab­o­ra­to­ry source of the virus, whether in Wuhan or else­where,” Dr. [Daniel R.] Lucey wrote in his blog post.

To that end, he urges the W.H.O. inves­ti­ga­tors to look for any signs of “gain of func­tion” research — the delib­er­ate enhance­ment of pathogens to make them more dan­ger­ous. The tech­nique is high­ly con­tentious. Crit­ics ques­tion its mer­its and warn that it could lead to cat­a­stroph­ic lab leaks. Pro­po­nents see it as a legit­i­mate way to learn how virus­es and oth­er infec­tious organ­isms might evolve to infect and kill peo­ple, and thus help in devis­ing new pro­tec­tions and pre­cau­tions.

Debate over its wis­dom erupt­ed in 2011 after researchers announced suc­cess in mak­ing the high­ly lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu eas­i­ly trans­mis­si­ble through the air between fer­rets, at least in the lab­o­ra­to­ry.

In his blog, Dr. Lucey asks “what, if any,” gain-of-func­tion stud­ies were done on coro­n­avirus­es in Wuhan, else­where in Chi­na, or in col­lab­o­ra­tion with for­eign lab­o­ra­to­ries.

“If done well sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, then this inves­ti­ga­tion should allay per­sis­tent con­cerns about the ori­gin of this virus,” he wrote. “It could also help set an improved stan­dard for inves­ti­gat­ing and stop­ping the awful virus­es, and oth­er pathogens, in the decades ahead.”

Final­ly, Dr. Lucey asks the W.H.O. team to learn more about China’s main influen­za research lab, a high-secu­ri­ty facil­i­ty in Harbin, the cap­i­tal of China’s north­ern­most province. In May, he notes, a Chi­nese paper in the jour­nal Sci­ence report­ed that two virus sam­ples from Wuhan were stud­ied there in great detail ear­ly this year, includ­ing in a vari­ety of ani­mals. It report­ed that cats and fer­rets were high­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to the pathogen; dogs were only mild­ly sus­cep­ti­ble; and pigs, chick­ens and ducks were not sus­cep­ti­ble at all. . . .

7a. A key fac­tor spurring our sus­pi­cion con­cern­ing genet­ic-engi­neer­ing of one or more vari­ant of the Covid-19 virus con­cerns a 2015 Gain-of-Func­tion exper­i­ment. This should answer Dr. Lucey’s query, above:

“Lab-Made Coro­n­avirus Trig­gers Debate” by Jef Akst; The Sci­en­tist; 11/16/2015

. . . . Ralph Bar­ic, an infec­tious-dis­ease researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, last week (Novem­ber 9) pub­lished a study on his team’s efforts to engi­neer a virus with the sur­face pro­tein of the SHC014 coro­n­avirus, found in horse­shoe bats in Chi­na, and the back­bone of one that caus­es human-like severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome (SARS) in mice. The hybrid virus could infect human air­way cells and caused dis­ease in mice. . . . The results demon­strate the abil­i­ty of the SHC014 sur­face pro­tein to bind and infect human cells, val­i­dat­ing con­cerns that this virus—or oth­er coro­n­avirus­es found in bat species—may be capa­ble of mak­ing the leap to peo­ple with­out first evolv­ing in an inter­me­di­ate host, Nature report­ed. They also reignite a debate about whether that infor­ma­tion jus­ti­fies the risk of such work, known as gain-of-func­tion research. ‘If the [new] virus escaped, nobody could pre­dict the tra­jec­to­ry,’ Simon Wain-Hob­son, a virol­o­gist at the Pas­teur Insti­tute in Paris, told Nature. . . .

. . . . But Bar­ic and oth­ers argued the study’s impor­tance. “[The results] move this virus from a can­di­date emerg­ing pathogen to a clear and present dan­ger,” Peter Daszak, pres­i­dent of the Eco­Health Alliance, which sam­ples virus­es from ani­mals and peo­ple in emerg­ing-dis­eases hotspots across the globe, told Nature. . . .

7b. Of more than pass­ing inter­est is the dis­clo­sure that the project on bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es con­duct­ed in the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry was a joint U.S./Chinese project, and that Ralph Bar­ic was a key Amer­i­can part­ner in the project.

This is the under­tak­ing about which we have report­ed and dis­cussed exten­sive­ly in the past! . . . . One of Dr Shi’s co-authors on that paper, Pro­fes­sor Ralph Bar­ic from North Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view with ‘Sci­ence Dai­ly’ at the time: ‘This virus is high­ly path­o­gen­ic and treat­ments devel­oped against the orig­i­nal SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebo­la fail to neu­tralise and con­trol this par­tic­u­lar virus.’ . . . .”

In FTR #1121, we not­ed that Bar­ic was the selectee to recon­struct the SARS Cov2 virus from scratch. We also not­ed that: ” . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

“Coro­n­avirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against Chi­na bat virus pro­gram” by Shar­ri Mark­son; The Dai­ly Tele­graph; 05/04/2020

. . . . Their Novem­ber 2015 study, done in con­junc­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, con­clud­ed that the SARS-like virus could jump direct­ly from bats to humans and there was no treat­ment that could help.

The study acknowl­edges the incred­i­ble dan­ger of the work they were con­duct­ing.

“The poten­tial to pre­pare for and mit­i­gate future out­breaks must be weighed against the risk of cre­at­ing more dan­ger­ous pathogens,” they wrote. . . .

. . . . One of Dr Shi’s co-authors on that paper, Pro­fes­sor Ralph Bar­ic from North Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view with Sci­ence Dai­ly at the time: “This virus is high­ly path­o­gen­ic and treat­ments devel­oped against the orig­i­nal SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebo­la fail to neu­tralise and con­trol this par­tic­u­lar virus.” . . . .

7c. We note that the WIV project co-fund­ed by USAID involved genet­ic manip­u­la­tion of bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es.

“Wuhan and US sci­en­tists used unde­tectable meth­ods of genet­ic engi­neer­ing on bat coro­n­avirus­es” by Jonathan Matthews and Claire Robin­son; GMWatch; 05/20/2020

Evi­dence has emerged that researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) in Chi­na, work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with sci­en­tists in the USA, have been genet­i­cal­ly engi­neer­ing bat virus­es for the past sev­er­al years to inves­ti­gate infec­tiv­i­ty – using unde­tectable meth­ods. The WIV is just a few miles from the Chi­nese city where the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic is thought to have orig­i­nat­ed and is the chief sus­pect in the pos­si­ble sce­nario that the virus emerged from a lab.

The evi­dence rebuts claims by jour­nal­ists and some sci­en­tists that the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus respon­si­ble for the cur­rent COVID-19 pan­dem­ic could not have been genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered because it lacks the “signs” or “sig­na­tures” that sup­pos­ed­ly would be left behind by genet­ic engi­neer­ing tech­niques.

Those mak­ing these claims cite as evi­dence a let­ter pub­lished in Nature Med­i­cine in March by Amer­i­can micro­bi­ol­o­gist Kris­t­ian Ander­sen and col­leagues. The arti­cle stat­ed that there was no evi­dence that the virus had been genet­i­cal­ly manip­u­lat­ed and con­clud­ed that it emerged through nat­ur­al muta­tion and selec­tion in ani­mal and human hosts.[1]

Typ­i­cal of the media response to the Nature Med­i­cine let­ter was an arti­cle pub­lished in The Sci­en­tist, which stat­ed, “there are no signs of genet­ic manip­u­la­tion in the SARS-CoV­‑2 genome”. The BBC also report­ed that “the study of the coro­n­avirus genome … found no signs it had been engi­neered”.

Oth­er experts, how­ev­er, have point­ed out that there are well known ways of manip­u­lat­ing the genet­ic mate­r­i­al of a virus with­out leav­ing any such signs.

Now Dr Richard Ebright, an infec­tious dis­ease expert at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty (USA), has alert­ed the pub­lic to evi­dence that WIV and US-based researchers were genet­i­cal­ly engi­neer­ing bat virus­es to inves­ti­gate their abil­i­ty to infect humans, using com­mon­ly used meth­ods that leave no sign or sig­na­ture of human manip­u­la­tion.

Ebright flagged up a sci­en­tif­ic paper pub­lished in 2017 by WIV sci­en­tists, includ­ing Shi Zhengli, the virol­o­gist lead­ing the research into bat coro­n­avirus­es, work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Peter Daszak of the US-based Eco­Health Alliance. Fund­ing was shared between Chi­nese and US insti­tu­tions, the lat­ter includ­ing the US Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health and USAID. The researchers report hav­ing con­duct­ed virus infec­tiv­i­ty exper­i­ments where genet­ic mate­r­i­al is com­bined from dif­fer­ent vari­eties of SARS-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es to form nov­el “chimeric” ver­sions. This formed part of their research into what muta­tions were need­ed to allow cer­tain bat coro­n­avirus­es to bind to the human ACE2 recep­tor – a key step in the human infec­tiv­i­ty of SARS-CoV­‑2.

The WIV sci­en­tists did this, Ebright points out, “using ‘seam­less lig­a­tion’ pro­ce­dures that leave no sig­na­tures of human manip­u­la­tion”. This is note­wor­thy because it is a type of genet­ic engi­neer­ing that Ander­sen and his team exclud­ed from their inves­ti­ga­tion into whether SARS-CoV­‑2 could have been engi­neered – and it was in use at the very lab that is the prime sus­pect for a lab escape.

A group of sci­en­tists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na in the USA, with the WIV’s Shi Zhengli as a col­lab­o­ra­tor, pub­lished a study in 2015 describ­ing sim­i­lar exper­i­ments involv­ing chimeric coro­n­avirus­es, which were also cre­at­ed using stan­dard unde­tectable genet­ic engi­neer­ing tech­niques.

6. Of more than pass­ing inter­est is the dis­clo­sure that the project on bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es con­duct­ed in the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry was a joint U.S./Chinese project, and that Ralph Bar­ic was a key Amer­i­can part­ner in the project.

This is the under­tak­ing about which we have report­ed and dis­cussed exten­sive­ly in the past! . . . . One of Dr Shi’s co-authors on that paper, Pro­fes­sor Ralph Bar­ic from North Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view with ‘Sci­ence Dai­ly’ at the time: ‘This virus is high­ly path­o­gen­ic and treat­ments devel­oped against the orig­i­nal SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebo­la fail to neu­tralise and con­trol this par­tic­u­lar virus.’ . . . .”

In FTR #1121, we not­ed that Bar­ic was the selectee to recon­struct the SARS Cov2 virus from scratch. We also not­ed that: ” . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

“Coro­n­avirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against Chi­na bat virus pro­gram” by Shar­ri Mark­son; The Dai­ly Tele­graph; 05/04/2020

. . . . Their Novem­ber 2015 study, done in con­junc­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, con­clud­ed that the SARS-like virus could jump direct­ly from bats to humans and there was no treat­ment that could help.

The study acknowl­edges the incred­i­ble dan­ger of the work they were con­duct­ing.

“The poten­tial to pre­pare for and mit­i­gate future out­breaks must be weighed against the risk of cre­at­ing more dan­ger­ous pathogens,” they wrote. . . .

. . . . One of Dr Shi’s co-authors on that paper, Pro­fes­sor Ralph Bar­ic from North Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view with Sci­ence Dai­ly at the time: “This virus is high­ly path­o­gen­ic and treat­ments devel­oped against the orig­i­nal SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebo­la fail to neu­tralise and con­trol this par­tic­u­lar virus.” . . . .

7a. The research high­light­ed above was a joint U.S. and Chi­nese project, with fund­ing com­ing from USAID (a U.S. intel­li­gence cut-out) and the NIH (which has net­worked with, and front­ed for, both CIA and Pen­ta­gon.) In May, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion ter­mi­nat­ed the fund­ing for the project.

“Trump admin pulls NIH grant for coro­n­avirus research over ties to Wuhan lab at heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” by Conor Finnegan; ABC News; 05/01/2020

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has pulled fund­ing for a group of sci­en­tists study­ing coro­n­avirus­es in bats and the risk of their spillover into humans — the very kind of infec­tion that start­ed the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic — accord­ing to Eco­Health Alliance, the New York-based non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion con­duct­ing the research.

The can­cel­la­tion of the grant after more than a decade of work in this field seems to be tied to Eco­Health Alliance’s part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the bio­med­ical lab at the heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment cre­at­ed or unleashed the virus or the unproven the­sis that the out­break start­ed with an acci­dent because of faulty safe­ty stan­dards in the lab.

Either way, the group expressed regret at the deci­sion by the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to ter­mi­nate fund­ing, say­ing its work has helped in “design­ing vac­cines and drugs to pro­tect us from COVID-19 and oth­er coro­n­avirus threats” and point­ing out the Wuhan Institute’s par­tic­i­pa­tion had been approved by the NIH for years, includ­ing just last year under Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. . . .

. . . . Eco­Health Alliance has worked with that lab for over a decade, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the grant, as has the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Development’s PREDICT project, which for over 10 years has also stud­ied virus­es in ani­mals and pre­pared local part­ners around the world to detect that kind of “spillover.”

But in a let­ter last Fri­day, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health informed the Eco­Health Alliance it was ter­mi­nat­ing the grant and deny­ing it access to the remain­ing $369,819 in its account for Fis­cal Year 2020. . . .

. . . . Eco­Health Alliance has received NIH fund­ing for this work since 2008, amount­ing to $5.96 mil­lion over 12 years, accord­ing to NIHdata. That work has helped “devel­op pre­dic­tive mod­els of glob­al ‘hot spots’ for the future emer­gence of bat virus­es” and used its “large repos­i­to­ry of bat bio­log­i­cal sam­ples to con­duct tar­get­ed sur­veil­lance in these ‘hot spots’ for known and undis­cov­ered bat pathogens,” accord­ing to the group. . . .

. . . . Since Fis­cal Year 2014, that work has been award­ed to Eco­Health Alliance’s “Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence” project in par­tic­u­lar, which is explic­it­ly focused on Chi­na and done in part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute and oth­ers.

“This project aims to under­stand what fac­tors increase the risk of the next CoV [coro­n­avirus] emerg­ing in peo­ple by study­ing CoV diver­si­ty in a crit­i­cal zoonot­ic reser­voir (bats), at sites of high risk for emer­gence (wildlife mar­kets) in an emerg­ing dis­ease hotspot (Chi­na),” the group’s NIH-approved research abstract said. . . .

. . . . But while U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies look for clues of a poten­tial lab acci­dent, epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts say it’s high­ly unlike­ly the first trans­mis­sion hap­pened that way. Virus sam­ples in labs are almost nev­er still infec­tious, after being frozen in nitro­gen dur­ing the col­lec­tion process and then inac­ti­vat­ed in the lab to pre­serve their genet­ic sequence.

“It’s an unlike­ly prob­a­bil­i­ty because the lab­o­ra­to­ry is a con­trolled set­ting and peo­ple wear per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment. I’ve seen hearsay that they maybe didn’t have enough or they weren’t skilled enough, but there are bar­ri­ers, huge bar­ri­ers between peo­ple and virus­es in the lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting,” said Dr. Chris­tine John­son, prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor with USAID’s PREDICT project, which will end this Sep­tem­ber after 10 years and two six-month exten­sions as USAID launch­es a new project that applies the data PREDICT col­lect­ed. . . . 

. . . . In the face of that, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo has now start­ed to call into the ques­tion of China’s bio­med­ical labs, demand­ing that they pro­vide inter­na­tion­al inspec­tors access to them, although it’s unclear if the admin­is­tra­tion has for­mal­ly request­ed that of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Many of the sci­en­tists at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy have been trained by the U.S. government’s PREDICT project. . . .

. . . . A 2017 report by Eco­Health Alliance’s project, whose authors include Wuhan Insti­tute sci­en­tists, was pub­lished in the research jour­nal Viro­log­i­ca Sini­ca and warned that “some bat SARSr-CoVs [severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es] are able to direct­ly infect humans with­out inter­me­di­ate host.”

8a. In FTR#55, we not­ed in 1997 that U.S. Army researchers had suc­cess­ful­ly recov­ered genet­ic mate­r­i­al from the 1918 influen­za epi­dem­ic.

As will be seen in future pro­grams, one of the vari­ants of the Covid-19 does indeed behave like the 1918 flu virus. As we will also see in future pro­grams, that virus was res­ur­rect­ed by researchers in 2005.

“Genet­ic Mate­r­i­al from 1918 Flu is Found” by Gina Kola­ta; The New York Times; 3/21/1997.

A group of Defense Depart­ment researchers has found genet­ic mate­r­i­al from the noto­ri­ous Span­ish flu virus that killed at least 20 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide in the influen­za pan­dem­ic of 1918.

Frag­ments of the virus were found lurk­ing in a formalde­hyde-soaked scrap of lung tis­sue from a 21-year-old sol­dier who died of the flu near­ly 80 years ago. And now, med­ical experts say, inves­ti­ga­tors at last hope to answer a ques­tion that has trou­bled them for decades: what made this virus so dead­ly?

One part of the answer is that the Span­ish flu virus passed from birds to pigs and then to humans, a mode of trans­mis­sion that is thought to pro­duce the most dan­ger­ous strains of influen­za virus­es. Indeed, fear of a swine flu epi­dem­ic in 1976 caused Pres­i­dent Ger­ald R. Ford to mobi­lize the nation to immu­nize against a flu strain that infect­ed sol­diers at Fort Dix, N.J. That par­tic­u­lar virus, how­ev­er, turned out not to be a threat.

The search for the 1918 virus is of more than his­tor­i­cal inter­est, said Dr. Jef­frey K. Tauben­berg­er at the Armed Forces Insti­tute of Pathol­o­gy in Wash­ing­ton, the leader of the team whose report is being pub­lished today in the jour­nal Sci­ence. Dr. Tauben­berg­er and oth­er researchers hope that under­stand­ing the genet­ic code of the Span­ish flu virus might help sci­en­tists pre­pare for the next influen­za pan­dem­ic, which many sci­en­tists think is com­ing soon.

The Span­ish flu epi­dem­ic seems to have begun in the Unit­ed States in late spring and ear­ly sum­mer of 1918, when doc­tors report­ed scat­tered out­breaks in mil­i­tary instal­la­tions where recruits were report­ing for train­ing before going to France.

By Sep­tem­ber, when schools opened, the epi­dem­ic was roar­ing through the entire pop­u­la­tion and spread­ing rapid­ly to every cor­ner of the world, attack­ing the young and healthy and killing them, often with­in days.

The flu virus itself is gone, van­ished with the epi­dem­ic. But sci­en­tists have repeat­ed­ly tried to find traces of it, study­ing autop­sy spec­i­mens and even exhum­ing bod­ies buried in Alas­ka where, they hoped, the virus would have remained pre­served.

Even now, an expe­di­tion is being pro­posed to Spits­ber­gen, a Nor­we­gian arch­i­pel­ago in the Arc­tic Ocean about 400 miles north of Nor­way, to exhume the bod­ies of min­ers who died of the flu.

An epi­dem­ic like that of 1918 ”can come again, and it will,” said Dr. Robert Web­ster, chair­man of viral and mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gy at St. Jude’s Chil­dren’s Research Hos­pi­tal in Mem­phis.

Dr. Joshua Leder­berg, a geneti­cist and Nobel lau­re­ate who is pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of Rock­e­feller Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, called influen­za ”the most urgent, patent­ly vis­i­ble, acute threat in the world of emerg­ing infec­tions.” And, Dr. Leder­berg added, ”the soon­er we can learn what to antic­i­pate, the more like­ly we will be able to blunt the next appear­ance” of a dead­ly flu virus.

Dr. Tauben­berg­er stud­ied spec­i­mens from Span­ish flu vic­tims that are among the mil­lions of autop­sy spec­i­mens that the pathol­o­gy insti­tute has been stor­ing in ware­hous­es since the Civ­il War. But he said he doubt­ed that the study would suc­ceed in light of the dis­mal his­to­ry of failed efforts to find the virus.

For exam­ple, in the 1950’s, a group of sci­en­tists that includ­ed Dr. Mau­rice R. Hille­man, direc­tor of the Mer­ck Insti­tute in West Point, Pa., who was then direct­ing viral research at the Wal­ter Reed Army Insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, trav­eled to Nome, Alas­ka, in a secret mis­sion to exam­ine the exhumed bod­ies of Eski­mos who had died of the 1918 flu.

When Eski­mo flu vic­tims died, Dr. Hille­man said, they were buried in the mid­dle of win­ter, in the frozen ground. The Army thought that these bod­ies, buried in the per­mafrost, might have remained frozen and pre­served. But, Dr. Hille­man said, ”the bod­ies were in such an advanced state of dete­ri­o­ra­tion that no live virus was found.”

More recent­ly sev­er­al sci­en­tists, includ­ing Dr. Web­ster, exam­ined autop­sy tis­sue from the Armed Forces Insti­tute of Pathol­o­gy but were unable to find virus­es.

Dr. Tauben­berg­er decid­ed to go ahead any­way. Look­ing in the com­put­er­ized records, he request­ed autop­sy slides of the lungs of 198 sol­diers who died of the Span­ish flu.

In exam­in­ing the slides, he looked for a par­tic­u­lar type of pathol­o­gy. Since the flu virus stops repli­cat­ing with­in a cou­ple of days after a per­son is infect­ed, Dr. Tauben­berg­er and his team want­ed lung tis­sue from some­one who died quick­ly, with­in a week after becom­ing ill, so that there might still be virus par­ti­cles present.

That was pos­si­ble, Dr. Tauben­berg­er said, because the 1918 influen­za strain was so dead­ly.

”The lungs of some who died in a few days were com­plete­ly filled with flu­ids, as if they had drowned,” he said. ”No one has ever seen that before or since. It was a unique pathol­o­gy.”

Of the 198 cas­es that Dr. Tauben­berg­er request­ed, 7 met his cri­te­ria. But only one had oth­er fea­tures that led the researchers to believe that the flu virus was active­ly repli­cat­ing when the man died.

The man was a pri­vate from New York State sta­tioned at Fort Jack­son, S.C., when he caught the flu.

”He was a healthy 21-year-old male with no med­ical his­to­ry until he got this,” Dr. Tauben­berg­er said.

The sol­dier died with­in five days of infec­tion, on Sept. 26, 1918, and in Octo­ber his lung tis­sue was shipped to Wash­ing­ton, where it was stored, undis­turbed, for near­ly 80 years.

With the sol­dier’s lung tis­sue in hand, the researchers began the tedious process of try­ing to extract the viral genet­ic mate­r­i­al. The virus car­ries its genes in eight pieces of RNA that are pack­aged togeth­er in a pro­tein coat. But over the years of stor­age, the 15,000 nucleotides that make up the viral RNA had bro­ken apart into shards about 200 nucleotides long.

The researchers spent near­ly two years ampli­fy­ing the tiny seg­ments of viral RNA so that they would have enough to ana­lyze and assem­ble like a jig­saw puz­zle. In their paper in Sci­ence, they report on the sequences of nine frag­ments of the virus that include pieces of its major genes.

The group has ana­lyzed only about 7 per­cent of the virus, Dr. Tauben­berg­er said, although he expects that he will even­tu­al­ly be able to com­plete the job. Oth­ers, like Dr. Web­ster, agree, but say it is still uncer­tain whether even that will reveal the secret of the virus’s lethal­i­ty.

But with his pre­lim­i­nary analy­sis, Dr. Tauben­berg­er and his col­leagues have already ruled out two hypothe­ses on why the virus was so dead­ly.

One was based on an analy­sis of a chick­en influen­za virus that swept through flocks of chick­ens in the ear­ly 1980’s, killing them overnight.

The chick­en virus was pecu­liar. One of its pro­teins had three basic amino acids at a spot where the host’s enzymes had to break that pro­tein in order for the virus to infect a cell. Ordi­nar­i­ly, there was only one such amino acid at that spot. So, inves­ti­ga­tors thought, maybe the three basic amino acids were a clue to lethal­i­ty, and maybe they were a fea­ture of the Span­ish flu virus.

But, Dr. Tauben­berg­er found, that was not the case. There was noth­ing unusu­al about the amino acids at that posi­tion in the Span­ish flu virus.

Anoth­er hypoth­e­sis was that the flu had gone direct­ly from birds to humans. Ordi­nar­i­ly, human flu virus­es spread only in humans, but genet­i­cal­ly dis­tinct flu virus­es also fes­ter, inde­pen­dent­ly, in birds, which do not become ill when they are infect­ed. Occa­sion­al­ly, virus­es from birds infect ani­mals like pigs, and then jump to peo­ple. Even worse, some researchers pro­posed, might be a virus that jumped direct­ly from birds to humans.

Anti­bod­ies of sur­vivors of the 1918 epi­dem­ic indi­cat­ed that the virus had lived in pigs before infect­ing humans. But the anti­body evi­dence was indi­rect, and some thought it might be incor­rect. The genet­ic analy­sis, how­ev­er, indi­cat­ed that the virus had, indeed, come to humans from pigs.

”I can’t hold up one gene frag­ment and say, ‘This is the rea­son,’ ” Dr. Tauben­berg­er said. ”This is the begin­ning of the sto­ry.”

But it rais­es addi­tion­al ques­tions, the most imme­di­ate of which is whether the planned expe­di­tion to Nor­way should go for­ward.

The trip was pro­posed by Dr. Kirsty Dun­can, who stud­ies med­i­cine and geog­ra­phy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wind­sor in Ontario. Dr. Dun­can learned that sev­en min­ers who were dig­ging coal in Spits­ber­gen died of the flu in 1918 and were buried there. She and her col­leagues have been work­ing with Dr. Nan­cy Cox, the chief of the influen­za branch at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in Atlanta, to plan the trip to Nor­way.

Dr. Dun­can said the team would meet in Atlanta. ”We’ll be debat­ing how to pro­ceed,” she said.

Dr. Cox said the study of viral RNA from autop­sy spec­i­mens might reveal all of the virus’s secrets.

The ques­tion, of course, is whether it is worth­while to risk unleash­ing live virus­es that might still be in the frozen tis­sue of the min­ers.

8b. The above-men­tioned Ralph Baric–who did the gain-of-func­tion mod­i­fi­ca­tion on the Horse­shoe Bat coro­n­avirus, has been select­ed to engi­neer the Covid-19.

Note what might be termed a “viro­log­ic Juras­sic Park” man­i­fes­ta­tion:

“Biol­o­gists rush to re-cre­ate the Chi­na coro­n­avirus from its DNA code” by Anto­nio Regal­a­do; MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review; 02/15/2020

 . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

 

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