Over a year after the coronavirus epidemic broke out, the cause of the pandemic remains unknown. WHO investigators went to Wuhan, hoping they could find the starting point of the health crisis. The hypothesis of a laboratory leak has been ruled out quickly, and the lead of an animal-to-human transmission, probably from bat, has been opted for.
Yet, in a letter released in Science, 18 biologists think the lead of a laboratory leak should not be ruled out. They judge WHO’s conclusion is not scientifically justified. Investigators also claimed the laboratory-related hypothesis was highly unlikely.
In this letter, scientists declare this lead has been only superficially studied and claim for a new independent investigation focusing on all likely Covid-19 origins. They think, laboratory-related hypotheses should be taken as seriously as natural origins. They also wish Chinese laboratories and agencies to open their files to independent analyses.
Among these 18 biologists are found Marseille-based scientists who have very convincing arguments. Virologist and co-signatory of the letter released in Science magazine Etienne Decroly has carried out an in-depth study on the "Spike" protein enabling the virus to enter one's cells and multiply there.
In view of these works, the searcher and his peers first though Covid-19 was the outcome of a natural mutation. "At that moment, we though it was a natural evolution. Then, we browsed the scientific literature and saw the very essence of Wuhan Institute of Virology was to modify viruses to understand the barrier-crossing between species", Decroly explained to L'Express.
This first element encourages searchers to wonder. Bruno Canard - friend and colleague of the virologist - also speaks about a study released by scientists working at the Wuhan laboratory on February 13, 2020. This article describes Sars-CoV-2 - alsmot a year before the disease spreads across the world. "They presented a figure of the spike, but cut it to hide this cleavage site through furin. These scientists are the best experts and they missed this crucial point? To me, this is unexplainable", the scientist goes on.
Both scientists and their peers are very upset about the political influences disturbing scientists' work. "We wanted to put science back into the debate, show the thorough way we should not leave any hypothesis out", Decroly claims.
Since calls to study this lead more thoroughly have been launched. When WHO investigators went to China, they were denied access to Wuhan laboratory or to sensitive data. Several countries, the United States of America included, have been calling for transparency from China. The latter considers this hypothesis is related to conspiracy-theories.
Mid-July, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has required an audit from laboratories set in areas where the first Covid cases have been reported. This Thursday July 22, 2021, China has reacted against and rejects the inquiry. Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission says this showed "disrespect for common sense and arrogance toward science". For now, the country does not allow the investigation to continue.
Head of a World Health Organization-led team sent in China for investigation Peter Embarek has since then told Danish TV channel TV2 that one of the most likely hypotheses is the Covid-19 patient zero is one of the employees of the Wuhan laboratory. As for WHO, the organization has called China for access to data related to the first Covid cases and allow another examination of samples. This request has been denied, the nation considering this was more "political" than "scientific".