Discover and read the best of Twitter Threads about #PopsicleOrigins

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I, for one, am not surprised or particularly disappointed there will not be a phase II of WHO's "collaborative process of discovery" in China searching for #OriginOfCovid

Consider that Phase I brought us the hypothesis that Covid originated from frozen foods #PopsicleOrigins
In Phase I, the scientists on their collaborative process of discovery were given tours in the top biosafety labs instead of the low biosafety labs where risky virus work had been done for years.

In Phase I, the scientists didn't ask for the Wuhan virus database to be shared.
In Phase I, the collaborative process of discovery produced conclusions that were based, not on science, but on trying to respect the findings of Chinese scientists.

Thank goodness the Chinese scientists didn't also try to pitch space origins.
Read 7 tweets
The #OriginOfCovid debate is an uneven one.

Zoonosis proponents can regularly put out speculative claims without losing credibility.

But those inquiring into lab leak are not forgiven for mistakes or speculations, accused of conspiracy theorizing & epistemic trespassing.
Remember when numerous well respected virologists signed up for the cold chain #OriginOfCovid hypothesis?
#PopsicleOrigin… Image
If you thought it was just the conflicted scientists sent by the @WHO to Wuhan in January 2021, think again.

Published in @ScienceMagazine by UK virologists.… Image
Read 12 tweets
What are the chances of someone catching COVID from international mail?

I'd say it's near impossible unless they were aerosolizing + inhaling their letters.

"contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection"…
If scientists are too fixated on mythical SARS-CoV-2 transmission via international mail, they might miss the actual community transmission of the virus.

This is unless there is somehow a new trend where people are mailing sputum to each other internationally.
There's also no study outside of China, afaik, that cites any evidence of cold chain transmission of Covid #PopsicleOrigins

The one non-China preprint was conveniently withdrawn in March 2021 right after being cited by the China-WHO joint study.…
Read 16 tweets
Thorough analysis by ⁦⁦@AshleyRindsberg⁩ ⁦@tabletmag

“the false narrative around the pandemic’s origins represented a tipping point—a comprehensive failure in journalistic quality and mores in a time of national emergency”…
Many good lines in this article:

“For Daszak, The Lancet letter was only the opening salvo in a yearlong media campaign in which the EcoHealth Alliance head would become an Ahmed Chalabi-like presence, leading the media with claims of evidence of zoonotic spillover.”
“these formed what we might call Daszak’s triangle, a mental model that made lab leak a social and political impossibility for anyone who did not want to be branded as an anti-science, right-wing xenophobe.”
Read 9 tweets
"Deep in the underbelly of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, freezers.. store bat tissue from around the world, dating back to the late 1980s."

Toronto, please create a local wildlife trade so that there is some ambiguity in case a lab leak occurs.…
You won't need much. Something on the order of 10 civet cats a month will ensure that an adequate number of top virologists will express near certainty that any novel virus must have come from the local food market instead of your lab with thousands of diverse pathogen samples.
"amassed roughly 15,000 bat specimens from 400 different species...

the technique also preserves whatever viruses are hiding in the mammals...

And bats carry a lot of viruses...

... the viruses they carry can sometimes ravage humans."

Enough said.
Read 9 tweets
The #OriginOfCovid saga has shown that some scientists have their priorities all messed up.

Early 2020, prominent scientists condemned the lab origin hypothesis as a conspiracy theory & some claimed they knew this virus was not genetically modified. Mostly everyone fell in line.
Later, the China-World Health Organization joint expert panel said this virus could've emerged in Wuhan from frozen meat #PopsicleOrigins

Instead of calling out the China-WHO joint study, several evolutionary biologists and virologists jumped in to support this hypothesis.
Over the past year and a half, we've seen time and again that scientists from the EcoHealth Alliance and Wuhan Institute of Virology were withholding key information about the origin of some of the closest relatives to SARS-CoV-2 and experiments done in the lab...
Read 8 tweets
To the scientists or journalists criticizing the pedigree of the organizations or reporters FOIA'ing communications involving the EcoHealth Alliance...
I wish I could say the scientific establishment pulled its weight in tracking the #OriginOfCovid (rather than obscuring it) but the reality turned out to be much more interesting.

This task fell to independent scientists, analysts and sleuths.
I honestly feel that at least half of my efforts looking into the #OriginOfCovid has been spent combatting the (hopefully unintentional) misinformation spread by reputable scientists and science journalists.
Read 9 tweets
"Shi has reported that her lab tested blood from the miners and did not find evidence of coronaviruses or antibodies to them."

But a 2016 doctoral thesis from the Chinese CDC director's lab said the WIV found SARSrCoV IgG in all of the sick miners tested.…
At least we finally have confirmation that Dr Linfa Wang did know about the cases and "helped with these analyses" - the doctoral thesis did thank Dr Wang for his help.
Also, I know that a lot of natural origin proponents think that location alone is the circumstantial evidence for lab origin. Although location is very important, it's not the most eyebrow raising piece of information.
Read 12 tweets
I address most of the points for natural origin made in this @ScienceMagazine article...…

... in my medium post arguing that we should be asking for data/info instead of guessing in the absence of evidence.…
@ScienceMagazine One of the last defenses of natural originists is that there is no way RaTG13 could've transformed into SARS2.

That's not what most people asking for an investigation into lab origins are claiming. Let's just discard of that straw man and deal with this:
Please, no more of this multi-market "multiple animal-market–associated spillover events" hypothesis.
Read 6 tweets
I guess there's no stopping a small group of scientists who intend to keep forcing natural origin hypotheses even in the face of an extensive intelligence report due to release next week.

Please do not judge the entire scientific community by these few individuals' actions.
This pandemic has repeatedly shown that a small group of top experts may not understand what is happening. People at the top of their fields who said no evidence of human-to-human transmission, no evidence masks work, no evidence SARS2 spreads by air, no evidence of lab origin...
A large part of the problem is that these types of questions cannot be solved just by looking at the genome of a virus.

You need to have intel on what's happening on the ground. You need to have access to authentic data describing outbreaks.
Read 5 tweets
From @sciencecohen @ScienceMagazine on @WHO next steps #originsofcovid
“Koopmans.. would welcome broadening the existing group’s expertise.. to conduct lab audits and to study the blood of more humans who.. may have been exposed.. before the outbreak”…
Gerard Keusch, who signed both infamous Lancet letters and partnered with Peter Daszak to apply for a grant, said of the new SAGO: “allowing individuals and governments to nominate themselves.. will result in a partisan, selective process and not lead to the best composition.”
I would like to ask Keusch if he witnessed the China-WHO joint study phase I team member selection process and whether he considers it non-partisan and of the “best composition”.
Read 20 tweets
US intelligence should really release what they know and put to bed all the confusion once and for all.

Were there WIV staffers sick with Covid symptoms in Nov 2019? Did one of their wives die? Or is this intelligence not solid?…
Dr Anderson was a visiting foreign scientist at WIV up to Nov 2019.

But we have this from @evadou @washingtonpost
"[WIV] records mention protocols for disclosing information to foreigners and the sealing of some research reports for up to two decades."…
How many people in total worked at the WIV?

"there is a procedure for reporting symptoms that correspond with the pathogens handled in high-risk containment labs"

But what about BSL2 (not high-risk containment) at which the live SARSrCoV work was performed?
Read 12 tweets
“The practical consequence of removing the sequences.. is that no one knew they existed prior to now, and they were not in the databases used.. for the joint WHO-China report” - ⁦@jbloom_lab

Thanks ⁦@alisonannyoung⁩ for this piece. 🏆…
The @WHO spokesperson told @alisonannyoung “We are aware of this report and, as we repeatedly asked, we hope that all data on early cases will be made available.”

I can’t handle any more of this. We should not be tasking WHO with investigating #OriginsOfCovid They have no power.
We have entered a futile cycle of asking @WHO to investigate one of their most powerful members, WHO sending experts (some with immense COIs) to China, who have no leverage (or even mandate) to investigate all plausible hypotheses, 🌎 being horrified by the work, rinse & repeat.
Read 12 tweets
Another miracle today. AFAIK this is the first @nytimes article to give the #OriginsOfCovid lab leak hypothesis fair consideration without the veneer of “but my expert friends said it was natural.”…
Striking similarities between the 2 searches for the origin of an outbreak proximal to a lab likely working on similar (if not the same) infectious agent that caused the outbreak.

Hopefully we don’t need to wait decades to find the origin of Covid-19.
The most important takeaway from the story of the 1979 anthrax lab leak is that it did not involve a giant conspiracy - just the usual cover up you'd expect from an authoritarian state.

People, each with little bits of information, being silenced or too fearful to come forward.
Read 19 tweets
I'm very happy to share that I will be co-authoring a book on the #OriginsOfCovid with @mattwridley - coming this November!

When Matt asked me to collaborate on Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, I knew that we had to write this book.
I've done an insane amount of tweeting this past year (more than 10,000 tweets) and co-authored 2 articles with Matt in the @WSJ and @Telegraph

But, a friend told me that these would all be lost & scattered with time.

If you write a book (a very good one), it can become canon.
I know that there will be possibly dozens of books on the #OriginsOfCovid - many on the politics & management of the pandemic in different countries (especially the US and China), and several very focused on persuading us that this virus definitely has natural origins.
Read 6 tweets
Re-upping this because I have recently made my way through the China-WHO full report and annexes on their Phase I study in Wuhan.

What their report tells me is that this team and this approach is not valuable in driving a credible investigation of the #OriginOfCOVID19
My opinion is that a Phase II joint study conducted under the same terms by the same team would be a monumental waste of time and resources.

By all means they can go ahead with it, but a separate actual investigation(s) are required.
Their approach is not even suitable for investigating natural origins, not to mention lab origins.

For instance, did any of the team members or journalists who read their report relay publicly that they had not visited the Wuhan Central Hospital or reviewed its patient data?
Read 11 tweets
New article on the origins of covid by Nicholas Wade who writes for @nytimes does not pull any punches: "the signatories of the Lancet letter were behaving as poor scientists: they were assuring the public of facts they could not know for sure were true."…
On the Proximal Origin @NatureMedicine correspondence, Nicholas Wade says "this was another case of poor science... Dr. Andersen and his colleagues were assuring their readers of something they could not know."
"... grounded in nothing but two inconclusive speculations, convinced the world’s press that SARS2 could not have escaped from a lab."
Read 11 tweets
I really like the point Nick made here about being able to express scientific uncertainty.

I don’t think people expected the China-WHO team or experts to know where COVID-19 came from. So hearing some experts proclaim they almost know for sure it was 100% natural is puzzling.
Many news outlets even today continue to report the China-WHO conclusions that a lab origin is extremely unlikely or that the scientific consensus is that the virus was 100% natural. Who exactly constitutes this consensus?

I think this is a major science communication problem.
There are also opinion pieces that the natural origin scenario must be much more likely. But based on what assumptions? That SARS viruses often spillover in Wuhan (untrue)? Vs the lab doing the most SARSrCoV research sitting in the middle of that city for close to 2 decades?
Read 11 tweets
Got a clue for the #OriginsofCOVID #PopsicleOrigins hypothesis:
At the 15:00 min mark Peter Daszak says they’ve got really good cold chain from remote sampling sites back to the labs - at least 16,000 bat samples collected.

Finally found a source of the myth going around that 3% of people in Yunnan have SARS antibodies and millions of people are getting bat viruses each year. This is a miscommunication. See the actual paper only surveying people living close to caves where SARS detected...
In contrast to the interview, the paper says “2.7% seropositivity for the high risk group of residents living in close proximity to bat colonies suggests that spillover is a relatively rare event” albeit some sero(+) could’ve faded in this high risk group.…
Read 10 tweets
Chatted with @schmidtwriting for his new @undarkmag article on the traps and dangers of advocating for an investigation into potential lab origins of covid-19. #laborigins #OriginsofCOVID
I think this piece by Charles @schmidtwriting was particularly well written because of how balanced it is. There were parts that I didn't like and had to grapple with. A lot has happened in the last year since I started looking into the evidence surrounding the #OriginsofCOVID
It comes at a time when the WHO-China team is expected to release their full report in the coming week(s). And @JamieMetzl and ~two dozen scientists (me too!) have posted a letter in the @WSJ pointing out major major flaws in the WHO-China not-an-investigation joint mission.
Read 22 tweets
We don't know when the WHO-China report on the origins of covid-19 will drop. Maybe in the next week. Maybe the week after. Maybe next month.

Their interim report was supposed to have been released in February.

These are basics journalists should ask...
Who is on the team?
"The joint international team comprise 17 Chinese experts and 17 international experts from ten other countries."

Who are these experts and do they have reasonably perceived conflicts of interests?…
What data did the team have access to?

Based on this access, which origins hypotheses could they have even possibly have studied properly?

We know they were not even able to access the original, full data on early cases or suspected early cases.
Read 6 tweets
In anticipation of some excellent articles on the origins of covid-19 coming out next week, I think it would be useful to cover a few areas of confusion relating to what experts mean by the "origins" of a virus, what counts as lab origins, and what counts as Gain-of-Function.
Over the past months, we've seen reports of SARS2-like viruses discovered across a wide geographic area from Thailand to Japan. Still the closest relatives to SARS2 are viruses from Yunnan, China.

What does this tell us about the origins of SARS2 and how it emerged in Wuhan?
Frankly, it tells us what we've known since the beginning.

That the ancestral origins of SARS2, like other SARS viruses, is in 🦇 and that the hotspot is in Yunnan, China or proximal to Yunnan.

Some experts are very keen to sample SE Asia just across the border from Yunnan...
Read 27 tweets
I think that it is important for scientists & public stakeholders across diverse fields of training to convene and discuss the range of pathogen research occurring worldwide as we tweet.

I wouldn't raise this except in the context of a pandemic that has shut the world down...
We may not know for years or even decades, for sure, how COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 came to be.

In this situation, we just have to prepare for each of the plausible origin scenarios - natural spillover, lab leak, and unfortunately, for some subset of 🌏, cold chain #PopsicleOrigins
Before we set up another forum or advisory board (which mustn't just be scientists this time) to discuss how to evaluate the risks of pathogen research, it's important to look back on the past few years of this type of debate among scientists on Gain of Function (GOF) research.
Read 29 tweets
Had a great conversation with @politicalmath over the weekend on what we know about #OriginsofCOVID

For me, it’s been 💯 interesting to hear about how smart, rational & curious people came to the question of whether SARS2 could’ve originated from a lab...…
For people who are interested in the basics behind the different origins hypotheses - whether zoonotic, lab or frozen foods #PopsicleOrigins - I think this is the podcast to listen to 🎺
I also really like the article @politicalmath wrote around the podcast (because it was so flattering to me 💎) which pointed out that “When I (Polimath) try to track down information, all the “lab escape” info comes from Fox News or Breitbart...”

This is a serious problem.
Read 4 tweets

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