One takeaway from this pandemic is that we must act urgently to make pathogen research funded by the US more transparent. Recently FOIA’ed emails and documents show that by 2018 the US was funding chimeric human pathogen MERS research in Wuhan.…
I am starting to feel like a broken record on this, but somehow many experts in infectious diseases and biosafety still believe that all we need to do to prevent future pandemics is to keep working on the wildlife trade, which is important but so are lab-based outbreaks.
Researchers bringing thousands of high risk wildlife trade animal and human samples across 8 countries into one city can itself be considered a thriving conduit of pathogens into the human population.
The genetic engineering of potential pandemic pathogens, sometimes at surprisingly low biosafety levels, sometimes leading to unexpected gain of function, is another layer of unnecessary risk.…
We don’t have any more time left to waste on arguing whether a natural or lab #OriginOfCovid is more likely. Even if there is a 1 in 10 chance the Covid-19 pandemic emerged due to pathogen research, we must act now to mitigate this 21st century pandemic risk.
I’m just a postdoc. I can’t unilaterally organize a US moratorium on risky pathogen research. And I haven’t seen any signs of one being organized by scientific or political leadership.
Do we need to see any more FOIA’ed documents to know that the existing ePPP framework is not strict or transparent enough to prevent US dollars from funding risky potential pandemic pathogen research at home and abroad?

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More from @Ayjchan

3 Dec
Some scientists say they’re worried the focus on a lab #OriginOfCovid will distract from measures to curb the wildlife-to-human interface.

In Hubei, people are still touring bat caves, drinking water from bat caves & released hundreds of farmed wild animals without testing.
I don’t think even the people in China living near Wuhan believe this virus came from nature.
These reported behaviours are completely opposite to what you’d expect if the locals even slightly suspected that the virus might’ve come from the local wildlife.
Read 6 tweets
3 Dec
April 2020 Phillip Russell, former president of American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene told James Le Duc, former director of Galveston National Laboratory that signs "point to the lab as the source of the outbreak."

@USRightToKnow #OriginOfCovid…
@USRightToKnow "The flimsiness of the epidemiology pointing to the wet market, the absence of bats in the market, the failure to identify an intermediate animal host, the extraordinary measures taken by the Chinese government...
... including persecution and probable killing of two brave physicians, to cover up the outbreak, the steps taken to silence the laboratory personnel, the change in leadership of the lab, all point to the lab as the source of the outbreak.”
Read 17 tweets
1 Dec
I think it is very important to watch the @FaceTheNation interview of Dr Fauci, especially starting from the 37 min mark.

Tough topics #OriginOfCovid, gain of function, misinformation, politicization of science, the role of social media, what is science.
@FaceTheNation Transcript here.

Brennan asks about SARS-CoV-2 "I've heard so many virologists point to that that it was uniquely adapted to be just horrible in a human body. How did it get that efficient?"…
@FaceTheNation Dr Fauci said "It was very likely in a host... in typical fashion, I think trying to make sure that things don't get pointed to them, [the Chinese] probably got rid of the animals that were the intermediary hosts there."
Read 5 tweets
30 Nov
New hypothesis being floated is the Chinese accidentally destroyed evidence at the market and that’s why we can’t find the animal source of the virus.

That still doesn’t explain why the genetic and epidemiological data point to the market being a human superspreader event.
Earlier SARS2 variants were not detected at the market or in its cases. Even if the market was cleaned out, is there a reason why none of the surface samples or human cases there were infected with earlier variants of the virus? Zero of the hundreds of animal samples had SARS2.
The farms supplying the market were also traced - no virus - or shut down without testing.

Don’t know if the Chinese gov tested the handful of Wuhan animal traders / market vendors selling wild animals for antibodies. Would’ve been one of the first things to do.
Read 4 tweets
30 Nov
Just started: a discussion among virologists and evolutionary biology experts on the new Omicron variant, looking at data in the early days.…
Live tweeting some of the salient points:

There is not yet clear data on disease severity although there are concerns that the large number of mutations could possibly confer transmission advantage or immune evasion.
If we see novel variants e.g. Omicron replacing previous variants, it can suggest transmission advantage. But if this has only happened in one area, it could be due to a chance event. We need to see if the same thing happens in other countries where the variant has been detected.
Read 14 tweets
29 Nov
One of the best ways to make sure nothing gets done on an issue is to make it partisan.

Humanity, scientists & journalists, cannot afford to let lab-based outbreak prevention become an issue of one end of the political spectrum.
It is not anti-science to ask are we doing our pathogen research in a transparent and safe manner?

Yes, there are some anti-science folks using this issue to go after scientists they dislike.

We can't let that side drama distract us from actually protecting millions of lives.
Will journalists in the middle of the political spectrum please step in and do your part to make a discussion of the #OriginOfCovid (particularly an investigation of a potential lab origin) a centrist issue?

A pathogen that escapes from a lab doesn't care who you voted for.
Read 6 tweets

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