Scientists debate heatedly about the origin of Covid-19 2

Scientists debate heatedly about the origin of Covid-19 2

While some scientists believe it is necessary to investigate the possibility that nCoV leaked from a laboratory, others expressed disappointment that this hypothesis was promoted.

Stanley Perlman, who has researched viruses for 39 years, received a very unpleasant email on June 4: `Doctor Frankenstein just wants more public money and wants to research things that he should

Perlman, a virologist at the University of Iowa, did not know the author of the email and had nothing to do with the emergence of Covid-19, but he was compared to the character Victor Frankenstein, the scientist who created a monster

Virologist from the University of Iowa Stanley Perlman.

Many scientists still agree with that opinion, but the theory that nCoV leaked from the laboratory has never disappeared and is becoming hotter than ever.

Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called on Chinese scientists to be examined by outside experts.

The main argument in favor of the hypothesis that nCoV is of natural origin is that this has happened with countless viruses, including SARS, which caused an epidemic that killed about 800 people in 2002 and 2003. The SARS virus spread

Meanwhile, microbiologist David A. Relman from Stanford University, one of the co-signers of the letter sent to Science, said the political situation last year made many scientists dare not openly promote the hypothesis.

Relman said two scientists invited to sign the letter expressed concern that the hypothesis could inflame anti-Asian sentiment.

Relman insists he always considers both hypotheses.

`Theoretically, they could also have done something with some of the ancestral viruses of nCoV but not made it public. If so then they may have deliberately not talked about some of the work going on there.`

However, some scientists still reject the hypothesis that nCoV leaked from the laboratory and lean towards the option of the virus transmitting from animals to humans.

A report published this month in the journal Nature said that in the 2.5 years before the pandemic, markets in Wuhan sold more than 47,000 animals from 38 species, including badgers, minks, and ferrets.

Although tens of thousands of animals have been examined in China to search for intermediate hosts, researchers have not yet found the precursor strain of nCoV.

`It’s still out there somewhere that we haven’t detected yet,` said Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University.

He was upset that some colleagues supported the lab leak theory.

Scientists debate heatedly about the origin of Covid-19

Security guards stand outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in February.

Robert F. Garry Jr., a virologist from Tulane University, leans towards the hypothesis that the virus has a natural origin because nCoV has genetic characteristics that show it evolved naturally.

`I think people are fed up and a lot of people are looking for someone to blame,` he said.

As the Trump administration was about to leave office, the US State Department on January 15 released documents showing that a number of people working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in the fall of 2019 with symptoms similar to Covid-19 or

The controversy reminded many people of previous incidents of viruses leaking from laboratories.

Scientists debate heatedly about the origin of Covid-19

Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017. Photo: AFP.

The person at the center of the controversy over the origin of Covid-19 is Shi Zhengli, a world-famous coronavirus researcher who has collaborated with American scientists.

Although scientists may be skeptical about the research results of their colleagues, they often assume that their colleagues in the international scientific community are honest.

W. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, said that it is possible that nCoV exists in the Wuhan Institute of Virology but scientists do not realize it.

Lipkin said two scientific reports co-authored by Thach indicate that bat coronaviruses should only be handled in biosafety level 2 laboratories, rather than BSL-3 or BSL-4 laboratories.

He added that it is difficult to distinguish between viruses infected inside the laboratory and outside the laboratory.

Science is the process of discovering the unknown, and scientists are fundamentally comfortable with conclusions that are uncertain, vague, and provisional.

`We’re really short on information. That’s why we’re having such extensive discussions, even very intense discussions,` Perlman said.

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