The WSJ is now feeding the news cycle another article claiming to have "damning" evidence that COVID was created in a lab. It's a scientific claim, so one I can assess. 🧵
I value scientific experience (the kind that brought you the vaccine), so note the authors are (1) a self-proclaimed entrepreneur in breast health & coronavirus, who has received FDA warning letters (2) a Koch-funded climate denying physicist, albeit one who changed his position.
They reference the CGG codon that David Baltimore called a "smoking gun" in Nicholas Wade's piece. Baltimore told me he only meant to point out that we should consider a lab-origin hypothesis (uncontroversial). He told @profvrr that Wade twisted his words.
CGG is rare in coronaviruses but it exists. @K_G_Andersen is no longer on Twitter but he points out that 3% of arginine is CGG in SARS-CoV-2; 5% is CGG in SARS1 etc. See the thread @waybackmachine
Andersen also pointed out that feline coronaviruses have CGG-CGA, meaning it's a single nucleotide difference (ie evolution can make these codons in viruses). An A to G switch happens frequently because it's synonymous, it doesn't change the function of the amino acid.
But in WSJ, our esteemed breast health entrepreneur & climate-denying physicist argue that this mutation couldn't happen RANDOMLY. Reader: Mutations happen randomly. Evolution doesn't have an aim or a direction. It's actually pretty awesome.…
I talked @AlJazeera about how the media is feeding the media on this runaway story about a lab-leak, with smarter comments from @BeijingPalmer & @GidMK
To be clear, a lab leak is possible because we don't have enough evidence to rule it out. But this uncertainty is being manipulated. I talk about this with @noabaker @NaturePodcast (we discuss the CGG issue, specifically, too)…
I wrote this piece about how unsubstantiated allegations of a lab leak & the volatility of the debate may IMPEDE studies on Covid origins & interfere with the ability to end this pandemic & prepare for the next one. That requires collaboration & consensus.…
.@hiltzikm put the lack of evidence for a lab-leak plainly, up top.…
This doesn't stop influential figures from pushing a provocative story about how the scientific establishment/science journalists suppressed a lab-leak hypothesis because they're liberal/cancel culture. Consider we look for the science & it's not good.

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More from @amymaxmen

27 May
"More studies needed" is a constant refrain in science. But this debate over a lab-leak has become toxic and risky.

“We need to look at the big picture and focus on incentives that get us where we want to go," says @glassmanamanda

By me @Nature…
Allegations aren't a great way to encourage collaboration on an origin study. And beyond origin studies, countries must work together to curb this crisis and prepare for the next one.
The toxicity of the debate is also fueling shameful online harassment, and @angie_rasmussen can tell you that's not fun.
Read 5 tweets
25 May
Dear @washingtonpost "Fact Checker," who checked your fact that the natural origin investigations have failed?

Please name emerging infectious diseases whose sources were nailed down in <5 years. I'll wait.
For fun, posting a photo I took in northern Liberia in 2019, of researchers searching for bats carrying Ebola in an abandoned mine where bats roost. We STILL don’t know the origin of the 2014 outbreak.
Relevant note from the trip: Some Liberians I met near this mine blamed the Ebola outbreak on the US. US scientists were there studying viruses, then US troops came to “help” with the outbreak. They seemed to be making 💰 from it. Fishy.

+ Another 🦇 study photo from the trip
Read 4 tweets
23 May
🌎Here is the most important #lableak question:

Where will mounting US demands for an investigation of Chinese labs lead?

Foreign policy experts see few potential gains, and HUGE losses.
In a letter to Science, @DavidRelman & other earnest scientists request all primary data from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Eg. the specs of the antibody tests used to test all staff at the lab, number of tests & proof of the result.…
The letter lends credence to demands from Congress, Fox News, Pompeo. Will the demands convince China to fork over its lab notebooks, re-test Wuhan scientists, etc?

Why? Even US & EU threats of sanctions haven’t curbed China’s abuse of Uighurs. China sanctioned back.
Read 10 tweets
28 Apr
I spent 8 months investigating how exploitation, poverty & discrimination drove COVID—and why scientists haven’t really addressed these issues, despite studying them for 150 years.

“Where is the urgency?” asks @Arrianna_Planey.

My latest #longform + 🧵…
In October, I went to Cali's San Joaquin Valley as it surged with COVID.

Many people impacted by the virus were immigrants who worked at farms & in meat plants. They felt their work was of value to society but not their lives. Low wages, no protection & blatant discrimination.
What I heard from agriculture workers reminded me of an investigation by Rudolf Virchow, 1848:

“The plutocracy…did not recognize Upper Silesians as human beings, but only as tools.” His radical solution was that “the worker must have part in the yield of the whole.”
Read 19 tweets
6 Apr
Media: Stop freaking people out with scary variant headlines! They're frazzled & we want the public to know when a variant *ACTUALLY* escapes vaccines regularly.

Questions to ask when you see a press release 🧵:
-Why do scientists think it's deadlier, etc?
("Double mutant"👇🏼🙄)
-If scientists think a variant is contagious because cases are up, ask about the correlation. At UC Berkeley, @staciakwyman found that outbreaks on campus were from parties, not B117.

-Behavioral reasons for surges are less newsy than Scary Mutant, but people can change behavior
-If scientists think variants evade an immune response because of studies in petri dishes or in mice, put that in the headline. eg… This isn't the same as finding that vaccinated people get COVID.
Read 5 tweets
30 Mar
I read this 320-page investigation into COVID origins so you don't have to!

The undercurrent here is that the market-origin hypothesis is back.

The flashpoint is that even @DrTedros isn't happy that his team didn't have more access to the Wuhan lab.…
The team dug deep into data to figure out when the outbreak started spreading in earnest: Conclusion is December 2019.

They spent a lot of time on data from the Huanan market, finding that people w/Covid had visited the same stalls where positive samples were found.
They also went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology & asked a ton of questions. The list of rumors they confronted there are listed in the Appendix. eg
Read 7 tweets

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