London | PTI: A Canadian molecular biologist told multi-party Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday that a leak from a laboratory in China’s Wuhan region is now the origin “more likely “of global COVID-19. pandemic.
Dr. Alina Chan, a specialist in gene therapy and cell engineering and co-author of ‘Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19’, said in the evidence session of the Parliament panel on scientific research that the pandemic was being caused by the unique feature of the coronavirus called “furin cleavage site”, which has been linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
When asked by the panel about the probability that a laboratory leak is the origin of the pandemic, Chan said that “at this point, it is more likely a laboratory origin than a natural origin.”
“We all agree that there was a critical event at the Huanan seafood market, which was a human-caused super-spread event. There is no evidence that points to a natural animal origin of the virus in that market, ”he noted.
On the question of his level of confidence that the world could eventually establish the true origins of COVID-19, Chan said it was simply a matter of time.
“At this time it is not certain that people who know the origin of this pandemic will come forward. It could be five years from now, it could be 50 years from now, but we live in an era where so much data is collected and stored … we just need systematic and credible research, “he said.
On whether the virus was modified in the laboratory prior to a leak, Chan said: “We have heard from many of the leading virologists that a genetically modified origin of this virus is reasonable … and this includes virologists who have made themselves modifications to the first SARS virus.
“We now know that this virus has a unique characteristic, called a furin cleavage site, that makes it the pandemic pathogen that it is. So without this feature, there is no way this would cause this pandemic.
“Only recently, in September, was a proposal leaked showing that EcoHealth Alliance scientists were in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology developing this pipeline to insert new furin cleavage sites, these genetic modifications, into SARS-like viruses. at the laboratory”. Chan stressed that the scientists in question had the burden of proving that their work did not result in the creation of SARS-COV2, the virus behind COVID-19, and that an investigation of documents made available by the EcoHealth Alliance, based in the USA, press and hold.
His co-author, Lord Matt Ridley, was also asked similar questions about the theory of laboratory leaks and agreed with Chan’s claim that it was “more likely than not” the cause behind the pandemic.
“We have to face the fact that after two months we knew the origins of SARS through the markets, and after a couple of months we knew the origin of MERS through camels. In this case, after two years we still have not found a single infected animal that could be the progenitor of this pandemic; that’s extremely surprising, ”he said.
Ridley, along with Chan, agreed that any leak was likely an “accident,” as they tracked the scientists’ journey a few years ago to bring SARS-like viruses to Wuhan for experiments.
“It has to be taken seriously. It is unfortunate that in 2020 there was a fairly systematic attempt to close this issue, “he said.
Ridley added: “We need to find out so we can prevent the next pandemic. We need to know whether we should toughen the work in laboratories or whether we should toughen the regulations related to the sale of wildlife in the markets. At the moment we are not doing it either.
“We also need to know how to deter bad actors who are watching this episode and think that triggering a pandemic is something they could get away with.” Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the medical journal ‘The Lancet’, also agreed that the laboratory leak theory behind COVID-19 is a “hypothesis that must be taken seriously and further investigated.” as the world refers to. Health Organization (WHO).
The test session is part of the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into ‘research reproducibility and integrity’, which is expected to produce its findings in 2022.
Published by: Mallika mehzabeen