COVID-19: Fauci Backed Strengthening of Viruses Despite Admitting Risk of Pandemic, Australian Newspaper Reports

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. virus expert, acknowledged the risk of a pandemic from an accidental leak of a fortified virus but supported the research anyway, The Australian newspaper has reported.

Anthony Fauci (NIAID/Wikimedia Commons)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. Nat­ional Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wrote in an academic paper nine years ago that he supported “gain-of-function” research on viruses despite admitting a “remote” possibility that such “important work” could lead to a global pandemic if such a fortified virus escaped from a lab, The Australian newspaper reported on Friday.

In October 2012, Fauci wrote a paper for the American Society for Microbiology, in which he said:

“In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic? Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario – however remote – should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky.”

The newspaper’s revelation comes as President Joe Biden announced this week an investigation into whether the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)’s lab in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic first broke out. 

Fauci, who had dismissed that possibility and insisted the virus had natural transmission from another species to humans, on May 11 reversed himself, saying at a conference that he was “not convinced” of the coronavirus’ natural origins and said authorities needed to learn “exactly what happened.”

Fauci has denied allegations that his NIH helped fund gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan lab. He told a U.S. Senate hearing this month that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the WIV.” But The Australian reported: “Papers published as late as last year in American peer-­reviewed academic journals that include WIV researchers – including its prominent virologist Shi Zhengli – disclose that work on coronaviruses had been funded by at least three NIH grants.”  The newspaper did not provide links to these papers.

On Tuesday, Fauci testified to Congress that the NIH indeed funded the WIV through the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance in the amount of $600,000 over a five-year period. He denied the funding was for gain-of-function research. Republicans later called on him to resign.

Lifted the Ban

Wuhan Institute of Virology is a research institute by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Jiangxia District, south of the Wuhan city, Hubei province, China. (Ureem2805/Wikimedia Commons)

Though he favored gain-of-function research despite the risks, Fauci in his October 2012 paper supported a then voluntary ban on the research. But The Australian reported that in December 2017 Fauci unilaterally reversed an Obama administration 2014 ban on such experiments precisely because of the danger that a leak could cause a pandemic. The Australian quoted former Trump administration officials as saying that no one at the Trump White House knew that Fauci had lifted Obama’s ban.

“It kind of just got rammed through,” one official told the newspaper. “I think there’s truth in the narrative that the (National Security Council) staff, the president, the White House chief-of-staff, those people were in the dark that he was switching back on the research.” Fauci has not yet commented on the latest revelations.

Gain-of-function research by manipulating, splicing and recombining viruses increases its lethality and contagiousness in the apparent attempt to help combat future viruses.

The Australian reported that prominent scientists oppose the research, including 200 researchers at the Cambridge Working Group who issued this warning in 2014:

“Accident risks with newly created ‘potential pandemic pathogens’ raise grave new concerns. Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza, poses substantially increased risks.

An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control. Historically, new strains of influenza, once they establish transmission in the human population, have infected a quarter or more of the world’s population within two years.”

Steven Salzberg, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote in 2015 that gains from the research were “minimal at best” and could “far more safely be obtained through other avenues of research.”

“I am very concerned that the continuing gain-of-function research on influenza viruses, and more recently on other viruses, presents extremely serious risks to the public health,” he wrote.

Acknowledging the Risks

In his academic paper, Fauci detailed the risks involved with gain-of-function research, particularly in labs with substandard safety measures.

“Within the research community, many have expressed concern that important research progress could come to a halt just because of the fear that someone, somewhere, might attempt to replicate these experiments sloppily. This is a valid concern.

“Putting aside the specter of bioterrorism for the moment, consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations.” 

Fauci said virologists needed to respect “that there are genuine and legitimate concerns about this type of research, both domestically and globally.” He added:

“We cannot expect those who have these concerns to simply take us, the scientific community, at our word that the benefits of this work outweigh the risks, nor can we ignore their calls for greater transparency, their concerns about conflicts of interest, and their efforts to engage in a dialogue about whether these experiments should have been performed in the first place.

Those of us in the scientific community who believe in the merits of this work have the responsibility to address these concerns thoughtfully and respectfully.

Granted, the time it takes to engage in such a dialog could potentially delay or even immobilize the conduct of certain important experiments and the publication of valuable information that could move the field forward for the good of public health.

If we want to continue this important work, we collectively need to do a better job of articulating the scientific rationale for such experiments well before they are performed and provide discussion about the potential risk to public health, however remote.” 

Among the evidence being looked at in the U.S. probe into a possible lab leak is a CIA finding, first reported in February from a State Dept. fact sheet by The Wall Street Journal, that three lab workers at the WIV became seriously ill with a flu-like disease and were hospitalized in November 2019.

Facebook Lifts Ban

As a consequence of the Biden administration probe into a possible lab leak, Facebook announced Friday that it would no longer censor comments saying that the coronavirus was man-made.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge.”

This appears to be one more example of a social media giant following whatever the latest Democratic Party policy happens to be.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

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45 comments for “COVID-19: Fauci Backed Strengthening of Viruses Despite Admitting Risk of Pandemic, Australian Newspaper Reports

  1. May 30, 2021 at 10:03

    Joe Lauria, you are a great reporter. It should be required reading by our current crop of media stars where too often propaganda trumps factual and balanced reporting. For the curious the word trump had meaning before our former president took office.

  2. Gerry L Forbes
    May 30, 2021 at 02:12

    Peter Daszak is the president of EcoHealth Alliance which funded the research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Daszak also organized and drafted a February 19, 2020 letter to the Lancet from a group of virologists which ” strongly condemn(ed) conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” This was at a time when it was impossible to know the origin of the virus (unless you had created it, that is). Daszak has spent all his time since then denying the possibility that the virus could have come from a lab. Except when he was on the WHO team investigating the possibility that the virus came from the WIV. If it walks like a cover-up and talks like a cover-up it probably isn’t a duck.

  3. Sean I Ahern
    May 29, 2021 at 18:39

    OMG real investigative reporting! How shocking! You mean human beings should make informed choices regarding risk? Thanks to CN and editor Joe Lauria for continuing the tradition of critical thinking and investigative journalism or to be more blunt, grown up thinking. This in itself is a radical break from the pablum fed to readers of the NYT and mainstream media.

    But wait isn’t there another layer to this story? It’s not just about the risk associated with scientific investigation, there is the even greater danger that comes from such research being funded with an aim for employment in biological warfare. Even if the virus did escape from a Chinese lab, were they essentially trying to play catch up with the US military’s bio warfare?

  4. Drew Hunkins
    May 29, 2021 at 17:08

    We need to open up the US’s Fort Detrick bio-weapons lab to international inspection.

  5. Realist
    May 29, 2021 at 16:46

    Humans always seem to have the unquenchable urge to “just go for it” regardless of the consequences if something profoundly important seems within their grasp. We saw the same impulses played out in the Trinity atomic bomb test when there was plausible reason to believe that the resultant chain reaction could spread to the entire world, destroying humanity along with the planet. Then again at CERN, when scientists were searching for the Higgs Boson, there were plausible reasons to expect that a black hole which could consume the entire planet and surrounding Solar system could result.

    We always end up pushing the shiny red button if we can. We can’t resist the temptation, especially after committing so many dollars, material resources and man-hours to the endeavor. Elon Musk told the world, he is going to Mars expecting his pioneers to die there. Challenger, Columbia, Apollo 13… Just the price of making advancements towards a greater and better future. Heck, people pay the ultimate price just to get an adrenaline rush from base jumping or wing suit flying.

    The kicker is that the rest of us who stand to be subsumed in a debacle when “big science” screws up royally usually never get to have a say or even share in the knowledge of what’s going down.

  6. May 29, 2021 at 13:44

    Offensive or Defensive bio weapon research is a war crime.

    “…. Colonel David Huxsoll, Commander of the Army’s Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases, has admitted that offensive research is indistinguishable from defensive research…..”

    hXXps://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2002/S00184/us-biowarfare-programs-have-13000-death-scientists-hard-at-work.htm

  7. Jan
    May 29, 2021 at 11:22

    Thank you for publishing this piece. For most of last year, the only reliable source of information I could find was GM Watch, which did did excellent investigative work on the issue: hXXps://mailchi.mp/gmwatch.org/wuhan-and-us-scientists-used-undetectable-methods-of-genetic-engineering-on-bat-coronaviruses?e=28e4910fa4

    The GM Watch article provides clear evidence that WIV did indeed conduct gain-of-function research, as did the University of North Carolina. The role of that institution in this complex matrix needs much closer scrutiny. Also meriting a close look are the actions of a certain key US virologist, Peter Daszak, a major proponent of gain-of-function research. He made major efforts from the very beginning to redirect attention to a natural cause for the virus. The recent article by Nicholas Wade at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists begins to hold Daszak accountable: hXXps://mailchi.mp/gmwatch.org/wuhan-and-us-scientists-used-undetectable-methods-of-genetic-engineering-on-bat-coronaviruses?e=28e4910fa4

    • Ian Perkins
      May 29, 2021 at 14:10

      So far as I know, not only were Daszak and the WIV acting in good faith, believing their research would be of benefit to humanity in understanding coronaviruses and avoiding pandemics, but they were acting with the blessing of US authorities, which used a ‘national security’ clause in the legislation around gain-of-function experiments to allow US funding and collaboration.

      So holding Daszak accountable would mean what? Making him pay for the damage that has resulted, if it can be shown that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the WIV? I strongly doubt he has anywhere near enough money to make the slightest impact. He could be fined for as much money has he has, and imprisoned for life, but what would that achieve? Besides, fairness, and perhaps the legal system, would insist on equal punishment for all involved, which isn’t likely to happen, and also wouldn’t be very productive, leading to years of legal wrangling and little else.

      Wouldn’t it be far more sensible and productive to say the possibility this virus resulted from GoF research means the debate is over, and it needs to be banned, with no more loopholes on the grounds of national security or whatever? That seems something which could be done quickly and with general agreement, unlike finding someone to blame, which would be a bottomless can of worms stirring up national and international conflict with no end in sight.

      • Jan
        May 30, 2021 at 00:32

        It does indeed appear that Daszik has been acting in bad faith. Nicholas Wade, in the article I referenced above, writes that Daszik organized and drafted a letter signed by a group of virologists to the British medical journal Lancet in February of 2020: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” Wade points out that at that early date it was impossible to make such an assertion. Furthermore, Daszik did not admit to a major conflict of interest, despite the declaration in the letter that its authors have no competing interests. Daszik is president of EcoHealth Alliance, which funded coronavirus gain-of-function research in Wuhan. If that is not a major conflict of interest, then the term has no meaning.

        Wade holds Daszik responsible for spreading disinformation right at the critical point when it was most important to know the nature of the virus and the best protocols to control it. “… instead of providing public health authorities with the plentiful information at his disposal, he immediately launched a public relations campaign to persuade the world that the epidemic couldn’t possibly have been caused by one of the institute’s souped-up viruses.”

        The Wade article is the polite take-down of Daszik. For a far more detailed and less polite exposure of Daszik’s character and motives, I recommend the article by Jonathan Matthews at GM Watch: hXXps://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/archive/2020-articles/19437-why-are-the-lab-escape-denialists-telling-such-brazen-lies

        As for holding people like Fauci and Daszik accountable, we must keep in mind the worldwide horrors they have helped to unleash – the unthinkable numbers already dead and yet to die. Exposure of their self interest and lies needs to be part of the process. Even if their actions were not illegal, they were grossly immoral. And yes, a worldwide ban on gain-of-function research clearly needs to be implemented as quickly as possible.

  8. Blue Pilgrim
    May 29, 2021 at 11:11

    In reference to the statement of Cambridge Working Group Consensus Statement on the Creation of Potential Pandemic Pathogens (PPPs) ; “A modern version of the Asilomar process, which engaged scientists in proposing rules to manage research on recombinant DNA, could be a starting point” there is a a statement by Paul Berg on the subject, from 2004, hXXps://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/1980/berg/article/ , “Asilomar and Recombinant DNA
    by Paul Berg
    1980 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
    26 August 2004”

    which is very apropos to the current issue,, and updating an Asilomar process. Issues such as glyphosate, GMO soy and other organisms, and proprietary vaccines and limits on vaccine distribution, costs, and intellectual property are all important to discuss.

  9. May 29, 2021 at 10:33

    During the early days of the [ongoing] COVID global health nightmare, the internet had a huge number of suspicion references to the summer 2019 closure of the 1,000,000 square-foot Fort Detrick biological laboratory, – however there wasn’t so much as a peep coming from western corporate media or the Trump administration, or the U.S. Congress, about that closure or the insinuations.

    People might wish to imagine an analogous scenario where huge rumors were circulating worldwide about themselves being mass murderers, and the accused then deciding to remain totally silent, [irrationally] choosing to allow the potential reputation/life-destroying slander to continue..

    The choice of total silence instead of the absolute strongest refutation in [non]response to globally-seen-and-read reports suggesting Fort Detrick as the source of COVID-19 was and remains worrisome indeed.

    Given the clear history of human beings implementing deception as a prime tactic in the conducting of illegal wars of aggression, the possibility of covert biological warfare cannot be dismissed – absent the most serious, all-inclusive of investigations the world has ever seen.

    Peace.

  10. Robert Emmett
    May 29, 2021 at 09:35

    We’ve all learned something in 2020, especially those with highest risk factors, about weighing between risks & benefits and about accepting change, regardless of total or partial acceptance or denial. Even some of us on the lower end of the scientific literacy spectrum began to practice more conscientiously strains of the precautionary principle. (Would that it was more widely practiced in all sorts of everyday incidents)

    Even schoolchildren know, or used to, that real science begins with the freedom to ask & to explore the question, any question. How it proceeds from there can become, as we’ve seen, fraught, let’s say. The little I’ve learned about how viruses may jump from one species to another comes from reading David Quammen’s books years ago. It seems like we’re still a ways from reaching established proof of how Covid-19 took off in humans. But no matter the outcome, it still doesn’t change the overwhelming risks involved in continuing to disrupt ecosystems and to force new interspecies interactions under somewhat chaotic conditions that potentially could have severe & widespread consequences. (There’s that nagging risk factor again) Nor will the determination of how it started, important as it would be to know, settle to what degree humans ought to be investigating such potentially out-of-control infective matter in the first place, just because we can.

    If there is a reliable source that already has developed a sort of last word set of reasons, explained in what we use to call layman’s terms, for why this kind of research is important enough to absorb the risk of a deadly worldwide pandemic, I’d appreciate the reference so as to take a crack at reading & understanding it.

    What disturbed me most about this article is the implicit admission, out in the open for everyone to acknowledge, that humans are experimenting with stuff (in several labs around the world, it turns out) that, due to human error, can escape the labs & do the sorts of things that everyone worldwide got to experience in some form or another this past year+. And, secondly, that one person, if true, (just to be as scientifically literate as I can stand to be right now) gets to make a decision that could have triggered the whole thing.

    • Ian Perkins
      May 29, 2021 at 14:28

      One person? So far as I can make out, many people and agencies in both China and the USA were involved with or knew of this research.

      And had they come up with something that stopped this virus in its tracks soon after it was discovered, and were it shown to be of natural origins, say by finding a highly similar coronavirus complete with a furin cleavage site in pangolins in Laos or Thailand smuggled to Wuhan (they are the world’s most trafficked mammals), we’d probably be saying GoF research must continue.

      • Dr. R.k. Barkhi
        May 30, 2021 at 01:45

        So its ok to pursue life threatening research in labs here n in China(!?!) because it might lead to killing the lab made virus created there that’s killing us? U voted 4 Chump,both times didn’t u?

  11. Aime Duclos
    May 29, 2021 at 08:33

    Thanks, Joe. Another well researched article on a vital concern of our day.

    But I must ask: How might it really matter whether Covid-19 escaped The Wuhan Institute of Virology or was transferred to humans from another life form, other than for propaganda purposes? I, for one, believe that all virus research is critical, and as Dr Fauci says, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

    “Gain of Function” could in reality be translated simply to “research”. The fact is that we humans would not be who we are if the human gnome were not made up of about 8% endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). The February issue of National Geographic does a good job laying this out.

    I do see very little in the article that could remotely be negative to Dr Fauci, other than The Australian assertion “that in December 2017 Fauci unilaterally reversed an Obama administration 2014 ban on such experiments precisely because of the danger that a leak could cause a pandemic”, an assertion of importance that would seem to require verification. On the contrary, it would seem that he was doing what any good scientist would do.

    Also, I find it interesting that a February report from the CIA, that bastion of MIC underhanded activity that has been shown to be hardly trustworthy, is asserted in the article as evidence of a Wuhan Lab viral escape.

    Good article as always Joe. Much food for thought. Thanks.

  12. Ian Perkins
    May 29, 2021 at 02:33

    There was considerable debate among scientists years ago about the merits of gain-of-function research versus the risks, as this article makes abundantly clear. Whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology is ultimately found to have been the source of SARS-CoV-2 or not, it seems unlikely further such research will be conducted, as all concerned are no doubt aware that this pandemic may have resulted from a laboratory leak, or at the very least, that many believe this a possibility. I see no reason at all for the current widespread demonisation of Fauci, Shi Zhengli and others. They were acting in good faith, with Zhengli and her colleagues knowingly taking great personal risks in handling bat coronaviruses suspected of being lethal. I sincerely hope her team continues to investigate these pathogens, but I strongly doubt they will be doing GoF experiments again. So let’s recognise her as a brave and conscientious scientist working for the good of humanity, even if in retrospect some of her research was perhaps a bad idea, and not as an evil lunatic wilfully endangering us all.

    • Oregoncharles
      May 29, 2021 at 15:43

      “not as an evil lunatic wilfully endangering us all.” Sorry, can’t just let that go by.

      Let me separate the GOF issue from Covid and China for a moment. (It’s worth remembering that a lab at U N. Carolina was also in the thick of it.) I first saw this in a science program – probably Nova: an American scientist trying to insert the virulence factors of the 1918 flu pandemic into a modern bird flu. My hair stood on end, what there is of it: who’s letting him DO that? He’s literally putting the whole world in danger. Stop him, and sterilize that lab.

      Sorry, you do indeed have to be a reckless “lunatic” to endanger EVERYBODY like that; besides which, the supposed benefits were/are imaginary. We have a test case: where are the benefits? The Chinese were able to publish the genome right away, but not because of making diseases worse – the essence of “gain of function research.” The commenter’s claim above that it’s synonymous with “research” is dangerously wrong. Most research doesn’t make diseases worse.

      This is actually worse than nuclear experimentation, which doesn’t self-propagate. It’s criminal, or should be.

      • Dr. R.k. Barkhi
        May 30, 2021 at 01:57

        I completely agree,n remember the same experiment. My reaction was identical-what is wrong with these people(scientists) who do these things?. Aren’t there enough problems here already with out creating new and worse ones?

        How come these scientists ,mostly using public funds, are working on risky projects that only interest their circle of peers or our War Department with no regard for the other 99.9999999% of the population?

  13. May 28, 2021 at 22:19

    Why was this Newsweek article from over a year ago ignored so long?
    hXXps://www.newsweek.com/dr-fauci-backed-controversial-wuhan-lab-millions-us-dollars-risky-coronavirus-research-1500741

  14. Carolyn M. Grassi
    May 28, 2021 at 19:33

    Thanks, once again, Joe Lauria, for your journalism. Now that Trump is gone, the Dems are looking into origin of the pandemic! I guess better late, than never, to seek for truth . I was a huge fan of Fauci at the start of the pandemic and glad he was speaking publicly to reassure Americans in 2020. But now, sad to say, he has become the over the top darling of the Democratic establishment. His political party preference is oh so obvious. But he is a Brooklyn boy, like I am a Brooklyn girl….and so ….yet sad about this latest revelation. Keep up your work Joe Lauria. We need you!

  15. Blue Pilgrim
    May 28, 2021 at 17:12

    Following up on my previous commenet, I found a few links of Prof. Racaniello discussing the gain of function experiments with h5n1.

    posts can be found at hXXps://www.virology.ws/2012/05/ and hXXps://www.virology.ws/2012/06/ and hXXps://www.virology.ws/2012/07/

    and an interview with Prof. Racaniello at hXXps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cefnT2u7poc&t=2s

    • Consortiumnews.com
      May 28, 2021 at 17:31

      Your point is taken. But the article quotes a letter from 200 scientists who feel gain of function is too risky. Even Fauci acknowledged the risks. And the Obama administration saw it as so risky that it shut it down.

      • Blue Pilgrim
        May 28, 2021 at 19:30

        If you refer to an article in The Australian, I can’t argue — when I tried to find the article it was behind a paywall, and I don’t know what letter is being referenced, what it said, or who the scientists are.

        I have noted many scientists involved in discussion about the virus have little or no knowledge about viruses, epidemiology, etc. and do not refer to hard data or scientific peer reviewed papers, etc. Often these scientists are engineers, geologists, or others with particular knowledge about the subject. Of course, there are many in science who are not particularly competent in any field outside their narrow specialties (and occasionally even there). I recall the Great Barrington Declaration which turned out to be more a statement of political ideology rather than science, and has largely been shown to be mistaken. Scientists can be badly opinionated too, of course — which is why science should always be data driven, as well as skeptical.An ‘appeal to authority’ can have some validity if the ‘authority’ is well vetted, but even then its the data and evidence which must prevail.

        To the current question regarding the origin of the virus, the WHO team has about the best evidence available so far, in the ongoing investigations. As to gain of function research, that’s standard in principle for any research, in any field: ‘see how the thing works’. Going to Mars may be risky: there may be Martians or space aliens who decide people are getting to frisky and dangerous and destroy us — it’s a possibility — but it seems unlikely to me, although its a good science fiction plot. Such speculative sci-fi stories are usually written to sell books and movies, of course, or manipulate the populace, or drive them to support war, often playing on unjustified fears. We need to be aware of these things, and look possible motives.

  16. Revyn
    May 28, 2021 at 16:34

    Is the Biden administration also going to look into the US’ own virology programs (the programs fauci deregulated) for a potential leak? Or is this a de facto crusade against China? Wuhan is where the virus was first identified, but there has been no proof I’m aware of that it was where the virus definitively originated. One of the first suspected cases was a US soldier participating in the military Olympics in wuhan in the fall of 2019. Did he contract it there? Or was he patient zero in Wuhan? I have also read or heard numerous accounts of unknown pneumonia-like cases that were appearing all over the world throughout 2019, but especially in the US. I myself experienced a very strange cold-like illness unlike any I’ve had before that persisted for almost a month in January of 2020, the same time the supposedly earliest cases in the US appeared. It is almost a certainty that the virus existed prior to its discovery, so why is that not more of a focus in discovering its origin?

    It seems very convenient to blame Wuhan for all this, when the US is positioning itself to go to war with China due to economic decline and shifting power dynamics. I believe it’s fair to scrutinize the situation in Wuhan, but I also feel that we should consider the possibility that the virus was already in the wild by the time they identified it in wuhan. Especially in light of how incredibly fast the virus seemed to spread, in spite of lockdown and social distancing efforts.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      May 28, 2021 at 17:16

      The genome of the Covid-19 coronavirus was mapped out first in China. Wuhan is where the epidemic began later to become a pandemic. There’s no evidence those ill US soldiers had Covid-19. None of them tested positive for Covid-19. The Trump administration was certainly politicizing this against China. If it is found to have been an accident at the Wuhan lab that in no way should be grounds to ramp up animosity towards China and we should hope that that would not happen. There are divisions within the US government about whether this was a lab leak or naturally caused, so there is not at the moment a monolithic US view.

  17. Piotr Berman
    May 28, 2021 at 16:28

    “Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.”

    People passionate about their work tend to misjudge associated risks. Once I read that the profession with highest mortality due to work accidents is vulcanology. In that case, the research is safe for the society, as vulcanologists cannot make volcanoes to erupt. Virologists…

    Concerning the sickness of workers in WIH, the fact that CIA got hand on something does not make it true, “mildly likely” at best. And vast majority of such cases before the pandemic was a common cold which was called “common” for a reason. IMHO, there is no way to “get to the bottom” of a politicized case when disinformation is expertly produced and there are zealots who forever believe in their pre-conceptions — compare with “Russian subversion of elections” and “Russian collusion”, unfortunately, one of many examples.

  18. Blue Pilgrim
    May 28, 2021 at 16:17

    ‘Gain of function’ can mean various things, including things which have nothing to do with transmission or virulence, and involving nothing to do with human, animal, or even plant hosted viruses. It has to do with basic virus functions which can include anything. It may mean changing a virus so that it can infect another non-human virus, or even a different sort of cells in a petri dish, or change the reactions with various chemicals. It’s part of the basic science needed to understand how a virus works — including a loss of function so that a virus can not infect particular cells it could ordinarily infect.

    I’ve been listening to microbe.tv and doing other research and learning for over a year now, and learned how important it is to understand how the research is done, and not be confused by what journalists, politicians, ideologues, and alarmists may jump on. All sorts of researching different fields may possibly lead to nasty consequences, and that includes very unlikely probabilities even when ‘possible’. Nothing in the world is 100%, but that doesn’t mean we should not do research or exploration. Knowledge is a major factor in enhancing our safety and well being.

    There are quite a few things people do to minimize risks in exploring, including the various safety levels of laboratories — or just shaking out your shoes before putting them on when exploring in a jungle to make sure nothing nasty has crawled into them during the night. Many people have succumbed to dangerous things over the centuries because we did not do enough research and learning, and that is true of diseases and infectious agents as well.

    • KS
      May 28, 2021 at 23:14

      Oh, please. hXXps://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/01/h5n1-researchers-announce-end-research-moratorium

      “The move essentially ends the H5N1 controversy, which began in late 2011 when two research teams showed how to reengineer the virus, which normally infects birds, so that it could move between mammals.

      In a teleconference today, the letter’s lead author said he does not expect researchers to be able to begin studies immediately. “It takes time to shut down research, and it takes time to start it back up,” said virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus MRC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who led one of the controversial studies. But Fouchier already has an idea of what kinds of studies he would like to do. One focus will be figuring out exactly which mutations enable the H5N1 virus to move between mammals through the air or in respiratory droplets. Researchers have so far found “five to nine” mutations that enable transmission in mammals, he noted. Fouchier is also interested in knowing whether the same mutations can make other H5N1 strains “airborne.”

      And nine years earlier, in 2004. https://wi.mit.edu/news/battle-over-biodefense

      “NIAID chief Anthony Fauci, a key architect of the current biodefense effort, flatly denies that politics are driving research or that the program has reduced allocations for other areas of biomedical research. “It is brand new money,” he insists. “It wasn’t money that was moved around from one research direction to another.”Fauci also emphasizes that the research being supported is dual-purpose.

      “The intent, or at least the expressed intent, of the U.S. bioweapons agent program is defensive,” says Richard Ebright, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. “However, in practice, this is a de facto offensive bioweapons agent program. It has all the characteristics, all the properties. The scale is larger, in terms of dollar volume and also in terms of research personnel, than the Soviet offensive bioweapons program.”

      Reputable people have been writing about the likelihood of a lab origin of COVID-19 for over a year and all any journalist had to do was follow links to a problem that’s been hiding in plain sight.

    • Ian Perkins
      May 29, 2021 at 02:15

      “It may mean changing a virus so that it can infect another non-human virus.”

      Impossible. Viruses can only infect cells.

      • Blue Pilgrim
        May 29, 2021 at 08:46

        Yes — I meant to say non-human cells or species.

        • Blue Pilgrim
          May 29, 2021 at 08:54

          (With a few exceptions such as mamavirus and ‘sputnik’ satellite virophage virus)

          • Ian Perkins
            May 29, 2021 at 14:58

            Despite being known as a virophage, Sputnik doesn’t infect mamavirus, but rather depends on mamavirus for its own replication, which still takes place inside a cell – amoebae, I think. Without a cell, they’re both inert lumps of protein and DNA, unable to do anything except eventually fall apart.

            • Ian Perkins
              May 29, 2021 at 15:06

              Consortium! Please delete that comment – “Despite being known …” – or print this one with it.

              I appear to be wrong about that. It looks like Sputnik can indeed infect some viruses.

    • Alan Ross
      May 29, 2021 at 09:09

      “Knowledge is a major factor in enhancing our safety and well being.”

      Real research is to find out what is true but when it is being done for profit or military purposes it has been corrupted from the start. Historically, knowledge has always been used for both good and bad purposes because man is dual. We have shown we are not smart enough to avoid bumping off our species. So when the downside risk is too large there should be a worldwide ban until there can be a true consensus on how such research can be done. e.g. Nuclear power will be just a boon to mankind when we can be trusted to safely run the power plants and dispose of the waste. People looking to make a profit off it, or just run by ego, have made it a dangerous enterprise. Isn’t that why we fear Iran getting nuclear weapons – ego masquerading as religion. Here we have profit making by a few families masquerading as national security.

  19. John D Zeigler
    May 28, 2021 at 16:11

    Would you please publish the fuller quote from Fauci in the 2012 paper, providing us with fuller context? Otherwise, this appears that the Australian publication has a political axe to grind by not so doing. To simply publish such a partial quote supporting a position that Fauci rejects in a quote further into your article is confusing, at best, and misleading.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      May 28, 2021 at 16:55

      Here is a link to a wider extract from Fauci’s 2012 paper: hXXps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3484390/

      There is nothing confusing about Fauci’s quotes nor does he later reject what he said. He said the benefits outweighed the risks. He admitted from the start that there were risks and the later quotes expand on those risks but in no way contradict his position that the research was still worth it. He simply says the concerns are valid and must be addressed to alleviate those concerns. There is no reversal of his position.

  20. J
    May 28, 2021 at 15:40

    With all due respect, The Australian paper is being a bit dishonest it seems:

    “Fauci has denied allegations that his NIH helped fund gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan lab. He told a U.S. Senate hearing this month that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the WIV.” But The Australian reported: “Papers published as late as last year in American peer-­reviewed academic journals that include WIV researchers – including its prominent virologist Shi Zhengli – disclose that work on coronaviruses had been funded by at least three NIH grants.”
    Yes, work on coronavirus was done BUT there is NO EVIDENCE that GoF (Gain of Function) research was done there. Do any of the grants speak of GoF research? I do not believe so. If that is the case, the Aussie paper is playing fast and loose. Yes a lot of research on Corona viruses was done there. Why? Covid-19 is is the third serious Coronavirus outbreak in less than 20 years, following SARS in 2002-2003 and MERS in 2012. The Wuhan lab was set up to study such viruses.

    This is part of the effort to pin the pandemic and the millions of deaths on China, a propaganda triumph for the US. The WHO put together a panel of experts who studied and reported on the virus origins. Four hypotheses were put forward and the lab leak hypothesis ranked lowest, and was called “extremely unlikely.” We scientists do not like to use words like far-fetched or absurd. Least likely is about as damning as it gets. No one dissented from those conclusions.

    The WHO also put together an Independent Panel which even included former UK FM Milliband and they were in agreement with the investigation and provide a very valuable time line in their study.

    The pneumonia cases at the Wuhan hospital are unsourced. And it would not be surprising for a number of people to go there in flu season, especially since in China emergency rooms are often used for primary care.

    One can go on with this, but it is clear that the Deep State is at work on this potential propaganda bonanza. Meanwhile we hear no detailed account of the phenomenal success, unprecedented historically, of China in dealing with the pandemic and protecting nearly 20% of humanity even though they had to deal with it first.
    We should treat this with the same skepticism that the Russiagate hoax deserved. The consequences are potentially too severe to deal with it in any other way.

    Keep up the great work at CN!! A precious resource.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      May 28, 2021 at 16:24

      The WHO has since revised its position that a leak was unlikely. “Even the WHO’s own director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for a new investigation, saying: “All hypotheses remain open and require further study.”

      hXXps://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57268111

      • Wei-Ting
        May 29, 2021 at 02:48

        The BBC article says two things.

        1. the WHO team concluded the lab-leak theory was “extremely unlikely”, and the BBC article provided a link of a letter (literally a letter, not an academic research paper) on Science magazine.

        2. Even the WHO’s own director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for a new investigation, saying: “All hypotheses remain open and require further study.”

        To address point 1., the letter in Science really didn’t refute any findings and only complain about the number of pages were too small (~4 pages). It looked more like a political move than care about science or facts, and also like a smearing letter to WHO. WHO was not independent blablabla… In this sense, the intelligent agencies are definitely not independent and I doubt those scientist dare to write a letter to point this out.

        To address point 2. , The answer is easy. The origin has not been found yet, so that means more investigations are needed. As a scientist, hardly anything nothing can be said with 100% confidence, so all hypotheses remain open and require further study.

        The Fauci’s paper didn’t add anything, since it is a consensus that lab leakage is one possibility and thus WHO investigated on that. The origin was not clear yet so they need more investigations. Just really normal things.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      May 28, 2021 at 17:06

      This is in no way comparable to Russiagate. The article is factual. Fauci took a position in 2012 knowing that such research was risky but said the dangers of it leading to a pandemic were remote. Fauci know says a leak from a lab is a possibility. Certainly Trump was going after China in his rhetoric about the virus. If the Biden administration were just doing that why did it first dismiss the possibility of it being an accident at a Chinese lab? China not allowing the WHO to investigate that possibility certainly raises questions.

      • Lee C. Ng
        May 29, 2021 at 03:27

        China did allow WHO to investigate the origin of the virus at Wuhan. Perhaps there are other aspects that were not investigated but that should’ve been brought up during the investigation, not after it was over and done with. That the WHO director was under pressure from certain Western nations to go back to Wuhan to look for more “clues” was was obvious and had been speculated by people even before he “revised” his position.

        Nevertheless China didn’t say “no” yet to WHO’s return. What it says is that WHO should also investigate the US Fort Detrick biological weapons research lab which was shut down by the CDC on July 2019 after it failed a safety inspection. There were also reports, at the time, of people at nursing homes suffering from strange flu-like diseases accompanied by symptoms apparently similar to Covid 19 (“deadly respiratory illness” at Fairfax, Virginia).

        Besides China, Russia also mentioned that WHO should look at the many US bio-weapons labs stationed from the Ukraine to the Chinese border at places like Vietnam and reportedly Laos.

        • Oregoncharles
          May 29, 2021 at 16:05

          ” WHO should also investigate the US Fort Detrick biological weapons research lab which was shut down by the CDC on July 2019 after it failed a safety inspection. There were also reports, at the time, of people at nursing homes suffering from strange flu-like diseases accompanied by symptoms apparently similar to Covid 19 (“deadly respiratory illness” at Fairfax, Virginia). ”

          Absolutely correct. there is also the virology lab at the University of N. Carolina, run by a Dr. Baric, which was working closely (and co-publishing) with the Wuhan lab.

    • Oregoncharles
      May 29, 2021 at 16:02

      “This is part of the effort to pin the pandemic and the millions of deaths on China, a propaganda triumph for the US.”

      This is an attempt to deflect from the real issues: the origin of Covid (apparently in China – until something else is found); and gain-of-function research that makes diseases worse. Good propaganda tactic, but hopefully won’t fly here.

      It’s worth saying that (1)the Chinese government performed heroically, once it admitted it had a problem, in suppressing Covid-19 among its own population; and (2) Presently, they’re acting very guilty by refusing to cooperate with international efforts to pin down the origin. Since they control the information, their present attitude makes it unlikely we’ll ever know.

      On the precautionary principle, that means we have to assume it was engineered in the lab and act accordingly by forever banning that type of research. We have quite enough dangerous diseases; we don’t need to make more of them.

      • Sean I Ahern
        May 29, 2021 at 19:07

        Trump’s efforts to blame COVID on the Chinese clearly had a self serving motivation. By the same token, The Chinese have every interest to oppose such efforts that places blame on their labs or response to the initial outbreaks. Where is the truth? Neither the US nor the PRC admits to conducting biological warfare research, and both, it would seem share an interest in covering up such programs should they exist. See for reference the reluctance of the scientific community to investigate the origins of the AID epidemic: hXXps://www.aidsmap.com/news/mar-2001/was-aids-epidemic-caused-1950s-polio-vaccine-trials

  21. ANDREW GOREFF
    May 28, 2021 at 14:22

    Thank you, Consortium News, for you invaluable coverage of the most important issues of our time!

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