The mystery of the origin of the virus: the WHO investigation between conflicts of interest and gray area

Il mistero dell’origine del virus: l’indagine dell’Oms tra conflitti di interessi e zona d’ombra

Con l’inchiesta “SARS-CoV-2 anatomia di un complotto”, in onda lunedì 29 alle 21.20 su Rai3, PresaDiretta torna a occuparsi della spy story legata alle origini del virus che in un anno ha già fatto milioni di morti e che tiene in scacco il mondo intero. Da dove arriva veramente il SARS-CoV-2? 

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The mystery of the origin of the virus: the WHO investigation between conflicts of interest and gray area

With the investigation “SARS-CoV-2 anatomy of a conspiracy”, broadcast on Monday 29 at 21.20 on Rai3, PresaDiretta returns to deal with the spy story linked to the origins of the virus which in a year has already killed millions and which the whole world in check. Where does SARS-CoV-2 really come from? With exclusive testimonies and unpublished documents, the program was able to reconstruct what happened during the 27 days of the WHO mission in China. The investigation into the origins of the pandemic had been expected for a year. It was the result of a long negotiation between Geneva and the Chinese government. The terms of the agreement were established in July 2020: nine pages in which the times and methods are set on who, how and what can be investigated in Wuhan, the ground zero of the coronavirus. The investigation by the international scientific team appointed by the World Health Organization recently ended and in the end the director general of WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus declared that “the tracks are still open” on the origin of the virus. PresaDiretta was able to interview one of the members of the team of experts, Dominic Dwyer, microbiologist at the University of Sydney, and to reconstruct with exclusive testimonies and unpublished documents what happened during the 27 days of the WHO mission in China. “It was a very quick visit – says Dominic Dwyer to Lisa Iotti -. If there is any hidden information that they haven’t given us, we obviously don’t know it. How could we know if they don’t tell us? In what we have seen, we have not seen any evidence of the existence of a problem. But if they haven’t told us everything, how could we know? ”An investigation, therefore, which ended with other questions. “Of course, everyone in China is very sensitive about the subject,” adds Dwyer. “The political attention around these issues is strong.” “This was not an independent investigation,” said Filippa Lentzos, biosecurity expert at King’s College London. “This was a joint China-WHO investigation, which means it was very political from the start. You see it in the terms of the agreement. This can be seen in the selection of the team’s experts. You heard the findings of the WHO investigation, they exactly reflect the Beijing story. “” Unfortunately, in this negotiation, China requested and obtained the power of veto over the appointment of the members of the investigation commission, that is, who participated and who did not. And she obtained the power and authority to carry out the actual investigation and present her conclusions to the WHO investigators “. Jamie Metzl, a WHO consultant, one of the signatories of the open letter of March 4 in which, together with other scientists, asks for “a complete and unrestricted international investigation into the origins of COVID-19”, spoke to DirectPocket. “The problem is that it is a largely controlled and almost entirely state-funded organization. And so, in a historical moment like this, the WHO finds itself in the very delicate position of having to investigate the actions of the same states that finance it. ” “Peter Daszak – adds Metzl – he is very respected in the virological community but it is scandalous that he is a member of the WHO commission of inquiry because he funded substantially the research on coronaviruses of bats of the Wuhan Institute of Virology” . And “since one of the main possible theories is an accidental escape from the laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, any scientist who has been involved in this type of collaboration should not be part of the investigation.” this survey are many. There are no images shot inside the places visited, no inspections in the hospitals where the first patients were hospitalized and where in the medical records of Covid patients there could be valuable clues, no animal – alive or frozen – has ever been found positive on the market. of Wuhan fish. And finally, the WHO investigation stops at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been studying SARS-like coronaviruses for 15 years. It is thanks to the experiments carried out at the Institute of Virology that the Wuhan researchers were the first in the world to prove something that seemed impossible, namely that certain bat coronaviruses can directly infect human cells. “The work of the Wuhan Institute it mainly focused on the part of the protein that binds the Ace2 receptor – what we call RBD – that is, the key that enters human cells ”. Etienne Decroly, research director of the CNRS in Marseille, raises all the questions about the natural origin of this virus. “It is clear that we have to ask ourselves questions and other hypotheses emerge, such as a laboratory accident: because we know that a Wuhan there was not only the Institute of Virology, but various laboratories that worked on coronaviruses, and they are the most specialized laboratories in the world “. There are at least nine institutions in Wuhan that have one or more high-security laboratories. To the north of the city, 250 meters from the fish market where the first cases of Covid19 appeared, is the new building of the CDC, the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Center, with a BSL2 laboratory. A little further south, the University of Wuhan, is also working on coronaviruses here. In the summer of 2019, a team of graduates from the Department of Ecology participates in a one-month campaign to capture and study bats in Yunnan. And then there is the Wuhan Historical Institute of Virology, specializing in basic research on viruses, with the BSL2 and BSL3 laboratories, the enclosure with various types of animals, including bats. At the end of 2019, the institute had two patents approved for breeding them in captivity: the Hubei CDC and the Hubei Animal CDC. Huazhong University of Agriculture, which itself has a BSL3 that works on coronaviruses. And finally, the large Zhengdian Scientific Park, 60 hectares of campus in the industrial district south of the city: 20 BSL2, three BSL3 and one BLS4 laboratories. Peter Daszak, who worked in Wuhan with Professor Shi, explains exactly what kind of research was being done in these laboratories, the world reference point for studies on bat viruses. “We have found over one hundred new coronaviruses very similar to SARS. Some are able to enter human cells in the laboratory, others can cause SARS symptoms in humanized mouse models. They are not treatable with monoclonal antibodies and vaccines do not work against these viruses, ”explains Daszak. “And there are dozens of spillovers happening all over the world that we don’t see. Any of these viruses could become pandemic ”. “The risk of the virus passing from animals to humans largely depends on the spike protein. And it’s easy enough for virologists to manipulate coronaviruses in the lab, we work on this with Ralph Baric. You can obtain the spike sequence, insert this sequence into the scaffolding of another virus and carry out laboratory studies that allow you to predict the danger of a given sequence. Today, for example, to develop a vaccine for SARS, we use the sequence of the virus that caused the pandemic, but why don’t we try to use similar virus sequences instead to see if we get a better vaccine? bats to enable them to infect human cells and recognize dangerous mutations in nature is the specialty of Professor Shi and Doctor Daszak. These kinds of controversial experiments that give viruses an extra capacity are called gain of function. “It’s the way scientists study new genes, take individual genes and sometimes move them to a different host, which they have studied and know very well.” Molecular biologist Alina Chan, from MIT in Boston, now a kind of Twitter star for her counter-analysis of the official Beijing narrative, explains it to Direct Presa. “I’m not saying what they were doing was particularly wicked, not at all, it’s quite common, but the fact that they were picking up all these SARS-like viruses increases the risk, as does taking them to a city of 11 million inhabitants, with an international airport, from which other continents can be immediately reached. This makes the risk high ”.

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