On the “lab leak impossible” BS

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 09:17am



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    On the “lab leak impossible” BS

Mounting Lab Accidents Raise SARS Fears [behind paywall]
Science – 30 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5671, pp. 659-661
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5671.659


Summary: For the third time in less than a year, an outbreak of SARS seems to have originated from a failure in laboratory containment. This latest incident, revealed in China late last week, is the most serious.

Lab Accidents Prompt Calls for New Containment Program
Science – 28 May 2004


While breathing a sign of relief that the latest outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China is over, health officials are still deeply troubled that they have not pinpointed the original source of the infection. They are also questioning whether research on the virus should be restricted to prevent further lab accidents.

Investigators are convinced that the infections in April involved two separate biosafety lapses within the Institute of Virology at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing. But they have been unable to pin down what went wrong. With four separate infections within the last year at three different institutions in Beijing, Singapore, and Taipei, *** health experts fear that the next SARS epidemic may be more likely to emerge from a research lab than from the presumed animal reservoir. ***

“We need a global containment program for SARS,” says Julie Hall, the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinator for communicable disease surveillance and response in Beijing. Such a program would involve reducing the number of labs working with the SARS virus and ensuring that the research is done by “fully trained people in proper facilities with the right supervision,” she says. It would be modeled on existing programs for smallpox and polio. She adds that discussions are just getting started and any program will take time to set up.

It is clear that the two researchers became infected in separate incidents. One was working with fragments of the SARS viral genome, which should not be able to cause disease. The other’s research did not involve SARS at all. Hall says that the institute’s biosafety level 3 lab, which WHO recommends for work involving viral cell cultures and manipulations involving growth or concentration of the SARS virus, is new, well-equipped, and capable of properly containing the virus. But the infections are believed to have occurred outside the biosafety level 3 area, where some research involving the inactivated or killed virus was apparently conducted.

SARS escaped Beijing lab twice
Laboratory safety at the Chinese Institute of Virology under close scrutiny
Apr 25, 2004


The latest outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China, with eight confirmed or suspected cases so far and hundreds quarantined, involves two researchers who were working with the virus in a Beijing research lab, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday (April 26).

“We suspect two people, a 26-year-old female postgraduate student and a 31-year-old male postdoc, were both infected, apparently in two separate incidents,” Bob Dietz, WHO spokesman in Beijing, told The Scientist.

The woman was admitted to hospital on April 4, but the man apparently became infected independently 2 weeks later, being hospitalized on April 17. Both worked at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing, part of China’s Center for Disease Control.

China has level three research guidelines and rules in place for handling the SARS virus, which are “of acceptable quality” to WHO, Dietz told The Scientist. But “it’s a question of procedures and equipment. Frankly we are going to go in now a take a very close look,” he said.

In the meantime, the lab has been closed, and the 200 staff have been put in isolation in a hotel near another lab in Cham Ping, about 20 kilometers North of Beijing. China is rushing its own investigative teams to check lab security, according to state media.

Antoine Danchin, an epidemiologist with the Hong Kong University–Pasteur Research Center, who studied the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, told The Scientist the latest incidents were probably the result of lab accidents.

“Normally, it’s not possible to contaminate people even under level two confinement, if the security rules are obeyed, with the appropriate hoods, and so on,” Danchin said. SARS work requires level three. “So it suggests there has been some mishandling of something.”

“The lab might have all the right rules, but the people may not comply! For example, notebooks are not supposed to be taken out, a lot of things like that. A virus doesn’t jump on people!” Danchin said.However WHO Beijing is relatively sanguine about the current threat, despite the fact that the 26-year-old infected had taken a long journey on the country’s rail network. The index cases are known, and contacts had been traced, Dietz said. “We see no significant public health threat at this point.”

Inside China’s pathogen lab
Maximum-security biosafety facility nears approval, sparking excitement and concern.
23 Sep 2017


But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.

State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses
14 Apr 2020


  • Fri, May 01, 2020 - 12:01am



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    On the “lab leak impossible” BS

Laboratory accidents/containment failure can and do happen – and the research lab coincidentally being 8 miles away from the suspected place of outbreak leads to a lot of suspicions. There is a lot of material seemingly “proving” these, or lead the reader into following this theory, to be found on the internet.

Keeping different animal species in small cages in close proximity is a recipe for disaster. To this day good farmers keep their life stock apart – many years ago my grandfather explained to me that they all can become sick –  so the wet markets as a source of zoonotic diseases spreading remains a possibility, too.

An immense problem seems to be political slants (just one below)


which makes it even more difficult to ascertain the real cause of the pandemic.

Perhaps it would be wiser to get through it first and then bring out the long list of questions that need to be asked?


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