Monday, March 2, 2020

More Re The Origin Of The Coronavirus

What you'll find below is basically a twitter thread that appears at Zerohedge under this title:

"What Are The Odds?" - A Timeline Of Facts Linking Covid-19, HIV, & Wuhan's Secret Bio-Lab

What I've done is to strip out the embeds to make it read smoothly and edit it out some of the more technical details. Then I pasted in the abstract and conclusion from a paper by Indian scientists who suggest that the virus behind Covid-19 was engineered based on the model of HIV1 (the technical details are beyond me). I have also added a limited number of comments of my own, in the hope of pointing to the significance of certain points.

The author of the original twitter thread and the link to that thread:

Scott Burke,  CEO of crypto-related firm Groundhog, ...

Again, the question is: If this virus was engineered and then escaped "into the wild," what was the purpose of the engineering? Legitimate scientific inquiry? Use as a bioweapon when perfected? Both? Do the seemingly extreme reactions of governments around the world--compared to flu outbreaks--indicate that they may know things that aren't being shared?

Here is Scott Burke:

A disclaimer: I am not a virologist. This is me synthesizing what we have learned since the outbreak began and reviewing public scientific papers. I believe each of the following statements is a solid fact, backed up by a citation.


So there’s original SARS, which is a type of coronavirus. SARS infects cells through the ACE2 receptor in hosts. 

The S spike protein plays a key role in how the virus infects cells. Each of the little spikes that surround the coronavirus is a spike protein (or S protein). That’s what gives the coronavirus it’s name - it’s “crown” of these spikes.

The S protein binds to the targeted cell through the ACE2 receptor, and boom, your cell is infected and becomes a virus replication factory.

After the first SARS outbreak, there was a “land rush” to find other coronaviruses. A collection of SARS-*like* coronaviruses was isolated in several horseshoe bat species over 10 years ago, called SARS-like CoVs, or SL-CoVs. Not SARS exactly, but coronaviruses similar to SARS.

[Elsewhere I've read that the similarity of Covid-19 to SARS is in the 81-87% range. Thus the description of the virus as "SARS-like".]

In 2007, a team of researchers based in Wuhan, in conjunction with an Australian laboratory, conducted a study with SARS, a SARS-like coronavirus, and HIV-1.

The researchers noted that if small changes were made to the S protein, it broke how SARS-CoV worked - it could no longer go in via ACE2. So they inferred the S protein was critical to the SARS attack vector. 

They also predicted based on the S-ACE2 binding structure, that SARS-like CoVs were not able to use this same attack method (ACE2 mediation).

They decided to create a pseudovirus where they essentially put a SARS-like CoV in a HIV envelope.

It worked.

Using an HIV envelope, they replaced the RBD (receptor binding domain) of SL-CoV with that of SARS-CoV, and used it to successfully infect bats through ACE2 mediation.

[I'm speculating here, but it appears that the purpose of the HIV envelope would be to make it more difficult for an organism to resist infection, whether through natural resistance, through mutation of the SARS virus, or through vaccination. Read the abstract/conclusion of the Indian paper in light of this comment.]

12 years goes by ...

A SARS-like CoV begins sweeping the globe that is far more infectious than previous outbreaks. 

Ground Zero for this outbreak (not first human patient, but first spreading event) is considered to be Wuhan Seafood Market. 

Wuhan Seafood Market is 20 miles from the National Biosafety Laboratory at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Amidst the outbreak, a team of Indian bioinformatics specialists at Delhi University released a paper pre-print...

COVID-19 has a unique sequence about 1,378 nucleotide base pairs long that is not found in related coronaviruses. [The Indian researchers] claimed to identify genetic similarities in this unique material between COVID-19 and HIV-1.

Specifically, they isolated 4 short genetic sequences in key protein structures (the receptor binding domain, or RBD).

Two of the sequences were perfect matches (albeit, short), and two of the sequences were matched but each with an additional string of non-matching material appearing in the middle of the sequence.

[Here are the paper's abstract and conclusion:]
We are currently witnessing a major epidemic caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The evolution of 2019-nCoV remains elusive. We found 4 insertions in the spike glycoprotein (S) which are unique to the 2019-nCoV and are not present in other coronaviruses. Importantly, amino acid residues in all the 4 inserts have identity or similarity to those in the HIV1 gp120 or HIV-1 Gag. Interestingly, despite the inserts being discontinuous on the primary amino acid sequence, 3D-modelling of the 2019-nCoV suggests that they converge to constitute the receptor binding site. The finding of 4 unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV, all of which have identity /similarity to amino acid residues in key structural proteins of HIV-1 is unlikely to be fortuitous in nature. This work provides yet unknown insights on 2019-nCoV and sheds light on the evolution and pathogenicity of this virus with important implications for diagnosis of this virus. 
Our analysis of the spike glycoprotein of 2019-nCoV revealed several interesting findings: First, we identified 4 unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike glycoprotein that are not present in any other coronavirus reported till date. To our surprise, all the 4 inserts in the 2019-nCoV mapped to short segments of amino acids in the HIV-1 gp120 and Gag among all annotated virus proteins in the NCBI database. This uncanny similarity of novel inserts in the 2019- nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag is unlikely to be fortuitous. Further, 3D modelling suggests that at least 3 of the unique inserts which are non-contiguous in the primary protein sequence of the 2019-nCoV spike glycoprotein converge to constitute the key components of the receptor binding site. Of note, all the 4 inserts have pI values of around 10 that may facilitate virus-host interactions. Taken together, our findings suggest unconventional evolution of 2019-nCoV that warrants further investigation. Our work highlights novel evolutionary aspects of the 2019-nCoV and has implications on the pathogenesis and diagnosis of this virus. 

[In other words, the authors of this paper believe that the novel features of Covid-19 were engineered on the model of HIV1 rather than being the result of random mutation of a SARS-like virus.]

The paper was criticized and numerous attempts have been made to debunk it. After the criticism, the authors voluntarily withdrew it, intending to revise it based on comments made about their technical approach and conclusions.

One key debunking attempt claims this:

The same sequences are found in a variant called BetaCoV/bat/Yunnan/RaTG13/2013, which had been found “in the wild” in bats.

This is an attempt to prove that it was not engineered, but mutated naturally in the wild.

But there’s a problem...

This strain was only known by and studied at the Wuhan Virology Institute, and although they claim it was discovered in 2013, it wasn’t published or shared with the scientific community until immediately after the Indian paper, on January 27, 2020.

The RatG13 strain publication and the HIV research paper from 2008 share an author.

I discovered this on my own by comparing the two papers and then quickly realized this scientist’s contact information was the information that ZeroHedge was suspended from Twitter for sharing.

Their article identifies this author in question including some contact information from the Wuhan Virology Institute web site.

You can read the public comments and discussion of the original paper here:

There is a line of inquiry about how the sequences are remarkably stable in between the “bat” CoV and the nCoV, where in nature they would likely have mutated in between their shared evolution. Also a call for greater scientific evidence that the strain was collected in the wild.

Here is the only point in this thread where I will offer my opinion rather than a list of facts: In light of all the previous facts, the efforts to debunk the paper are not yet convincing in my view. 

The RaTG13 paper makes the claim that, oh, that HIV-related material you identified that happens to protein fold to become a perfect attack vector for nCoV to attack ACE2?

It’s a relative of this other secret virus which came from the wild which we forgot to tell the scientific community about until now for no reason.

Here’s the secret virus - it came from bats - and here’s the new virus, see, they have the same HIV-related sequences... so... bats!

Totally not secret pathogen research which escaped the lab.

What are the odds that a SARS-like coronavirus with overlapping genetics from HIV mutated and crossed over into humans, next door to a laboratory which had been enhancing coronavirus with HIV for over a decade? And conversely, what are the odds it leaked out of the laboratory? 


  1. Caixin, business news provider, published an article behind a paywall that screams coverup by the Central Chinese Government.

    Non paywall version:

    The Twitter banning of Zerohedge says a lot...

  2. Is this information still valid?

    "Last year a mysterious shipment was caught smuggling Coronavirus from Canada. It was traced to Chinese agents working at a Canadian lab. Subsequent investigation by GreatGameIndia linked the agents to Chinese Biological Warfare Program from where the virus is suspected to have leaked causing the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak."

    "Chinese Biological Espionage

    In March 2019, in mysterious event a shipment of exceptionally virulent viruses from Canada’s NML ended up in China. The event caused a major scandal with Bio-warfare experts questioning why Canada was sending lethal viruses to China. Scientists from NML said the highly lethal viruses were a potential bio-weapon.

    Following investigation, the incident was traced to Chinese agents working at NML. Four months later in July 2019, a group of Chinese virologists were forcibly dispatched from the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory (NML). The NML is Canada’s only level-4 facility and one of only a few in North America equipped to handle the world’s deadliest diseases, including Ebola, SARS, Coronavirus, etc."

    "Dr. Xiangguo Qiu made at least five trips over the school year 2017-18 to the above mentioned Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was certified for BSL4 in January 2017."

    - LM

    1. As far as I know, yes it is. If you know otherwise, let me know.

  3. Socialism, which is simply a manifestation of the timeless grift of authoritarianism gussied up in socio-economic flim-flam, cannot coexist with the Judeo-Christian God. The entire point of Socialism is to create a substitute (Party/State/Persona) for God so the masses can receive true guidance in their pathetic existence without confusing concepts like human dignity/decency or Natural Rights; and, surprisingly, the only actors they know who can play that important a part are Socialists in good standing like themselves (not bad socialists like Krensky, Hitler or Mussolini). Inevitably they realize that gods are expected to do godlike things and there's hardly anything sez 'godlike' more than a plague of Biblical proportions.
    One wonders how this will be spun by Party organs (CNN when they can no longer deny it outright: "Xi had a midnight sweet tooth attack and was rummaging around in the lab freezer for a couple of scoops of Rocky Road or Pistachio Mint and accidentally spilled some HIV into a Tupperware container of coronavirus mislabeled 'bat food'."
    The wrong-headedness of the idea behind construction of the Tower of Babel was obvious when the first brick was laid down, not just as the last course was finished. Knowledge and Power are not synonyms for Wisdom.
    Tom S.

    1. "Socialism, ... cannot coexist with the Judeo-Christian God."

      Which is why the religious establishment of the West has had to change Christianity.

  4. "And conversely, what are the odds it leaked out of the laboratory?"

    My current theory is that China intentionally released the Coronavirus, primarily, to help circumvent the US-China trade deal that's in the works and to weaken Trump during an election year. Other benefits include bioweapon and population control research opportunities.

    Given China's initial cover-up of the original outbreak, continued obstruction, and long history of disrespect for human life, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume the worst from them. The idea that it accidentally leaked from a nearby government research lab may just be plausible deniability.

  5. For an authoritative decision on this I again go to my Beijing-born girlfriend - she says yes - it's a man-made virus from the Wuhan lab.

    Americans don't understand the vicious - "you are the enemy" - behavior of Chinese Communists toward their own fellow citizens. They treat foreigners much better. Sort of like the CIA & FBI does.

  6. I don’t think Chiba would purposely release it in their own country, and destroy their economy. Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, Hanlon’s Razor.

    - lab near the wet market was studying CoronaVirus
    - China’s lab bio safety record is poor
    - technology is good enough to modify viruses
    - China has been losing through their teeth on the origin / history

    - Economic repercussions for China will be worse than to us, both short term and long term
    - China’s leader will be blamed, due to centralization of power
    - China is being hit harder with Coronavirus due to sanitation / cleanliness / social space issues
    - Trump will not allow himself to be Blamed, like Bush was for Katrina
    - Trump has been very aggressive in his actions, both in actual and perceived.
    - possible Democratic nominees have poor electability
    - fracking is a huge boost to the economy

    1. Of course this wasn't intentional. Visit a Chinese hospital and you will quickly understand how diseases can very easily spread. Chinese sanitation practices are disgusting, even in hospitals.

    2. "I don’t think Chiba would purposely release it in their own country, and destroy their economy. Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, Hanlon’s Razor."

      Incompetence is definitely a possible cause. Sure is convenient timing and circumstances to be incompetent, though.

      In regard to destroying their own economy, I don't think that will be the end result. The alternatives were an unfavorable economy until a US-China trade deal is signed or an unfavorable economy after the US-China trade deal is signed. They also just finished signing Phase 1 of the deal, after having delayed an agreement for years. Is the Coronavirus a bargaining chip for the rest of the deal? Will it relieve them of responsibilities under Phase 1 and future phases?

      If China could hurt the US economy enough to stop Trump from being reelected, China could go back to business-as-usual and forget about their national nightmare that is Trump. Worst case, Trump is reelected, but they were able to delay or circumvent pending trade deals/negotiations. That's my current theory anyway . . .

    3. My assumption, like Ray's, is that it wouldn't have been intentional. Re dfp21's contention, there's a good article at AmThinker today making exactly that point:

      Another argument against intentional release (assuming it did get loose from the lab) is that there is no guarantee that this thing will go dormant in warmer weather. I just did some research on that point, and the experts aren't too optimistic in that regard. I may update in that regard.

    4. My girlfriend's Dad needed a lung x-ray. He couldn't walk too well & had a wheelchair. I was happy to work the wheelchair & Mr Zhao down the apartment-building stairwell, being the only other man in the group. Into a cab to the hospital. Wheel him into the hospital. Doctor looks at Mr Zhao, has a conversation with him, admits him for an x-ray. But first he has to be placed on a gurney. So my girlfriend & relatives help Mr Zhao onto the gurney. The x-ray room is in a different building. The big muscular guy wearing a hospital badge standing in the corner of the room doesn't move. Doctor doesn't get out of his chair. Nobody moves. My girlfriend explains to me I have to push Mr Zhao to the next building. I'm thing - WTF - we're in a hospital and there's a hospital guy standing right here who looks like he could carry a refrigerator but nobody's going to push the gurney? I'm going to do it?

      Turns out the muscular hospital guy was there to lead the way. He walked in front of us all the way to the x-ray room in an adjacent building. I was bringing up the rear pushing Mr Zhao on the gurney. I actually enjoyed h whole thing. I felt useful.

      Couple years later Mr Zhao has been admitted to a hospital bed for treatment. We arrive Beijing from Los Angeles & get a cab to the hospital. Elevator to 3rd floor. Elevator door opens. Weird odor of human waste & Pine Sol hits me. Exit the elevator & look for the source of the stench. It's the bathroom at the end of the elevator bank. Floor is wet. We walk past the bathroom to the patient rooms. I'm thinking "good luck" to anybody admitted to this hospital.

      This was 4 years ago in Beijing. I have more stories. But I don't want to make anybody sick listening to them.

    5. Most Americans have no idea how medicine in other cultures work. Even back in the early 70's Japan had socialized medicine. That means the hospital ward, which unlike your experience was spotless, was free; but if you wanted clean bedding someone brought it from home and changed your sheets, and took the dirty ones home to wash. Need a sponge bath, a family member takes care of it. Personal care in a U.S. hospital is phenomenal by world standards. One of the reasons our medical care is so 'expensive' (not) compared to what you get.
      Tom S.

  7. Wow on the article Mark linked, and dfp21’s experience. Thanks for sharing them.

  8. @dfp21

    I think this situation will result in an enormous loss of Face in China with serious (but to a westerner, unpredictable/unknowable) consequences.

    What does your GF think?

    1. Chinese already know how relatively unsanitary/unsafe their medical/food/air is. Native Chinese don't feed their babies Chinese formula if they can get foreign stuff. If you complain to a Hospital doctor about the conditions they'll laugh you off as "a foreigner". I listened to my girlfriend scream at a doctor for 2 or 3 minutes about her Dad laying in a filthy bed. I asked her what was said. She told me the doctor asked her "where are you from?" because she's obviously not Chinese anymore if she's complaining about the medical treatment. She told the doctor we came from Los Angeles. And the doctor said "H-ha! You foreigners expect too much. This is the Chinese way."

      No way are Chinese going to feel ashamed of this virus thing. It's just a the Chinese way. They already wear facemasks to protect against the coal dust. So now the same facemasks protect against a virus. Not really a big deal. And there's nothing anybody can do about it anyway. Complaining will only get you noticed by the government. And that's not good.

      There's nothing for Chinese to be ashamed about anyway, compared to us lazy westerners who whine about everything. Chinese are amazingly friendly (to foreigners) and hard-working people. Difficult conditions have strengthened them.

    2. @dfp21


      Here is a contrary view on the potential embarrassment, and, yes, loss of face that this situation is causing:

    3. I read that article insisting that Chinese people must feel embarrassment. I don't know. I asked my girlfriend last night "Do you think China will be embarrassed by" and she started to laugh before I could finish the sentence.

      There's a difference between "the Chinese" and official China which interacts with the world. Official China will be defiant. "The Chinese" have nothing to be embarrassed about - they are victims of the Communist party and they know it. They argue freely in crowded restaurants, but not in taxi cabs which are all bugged. The Chinese have self-respect and they know they work harder than Westerners.

      Maybe there'll be another Tiananmen Square protest and 10,000 dead protesters. Official China won't care. Just like our DoJ does not care about "other" Americans. They care only about their positions of power.

  9. I think the more accurate phrase is unauthorized release rater than 'unintentional'. I give this a 3 to 1 prbability of intentional creation of this monstosity. I can't fathom any rational reason to make a coronavirus more contagious or letal except as a weapon, meaning the ChiComs intended to use it someday against someone.
    Tom S.

    1. But it could have still been in a developmental stage, or it could have been a dead end experiment for some reason, but was still maintained. The bottom line is that the kind of work they were doing with coronaviruses is well documented and has been known for at least a decade. As you say, there's really no reason to do that except as weapons research. There was that French researcher at the Pasteur Institute who stated some years ago, when he heard about the research the Chicoms were doing, that it was too risky to be warranted.

    2. My point is that for practical purposes, as in a war crimes trial, that it is irrevelant whether release was 'timely' or not. That they even created it is more than enough guilt for capital punishment in a rational world. That the Italians, Iranians, Koreans, Japan, UN, etc. have not already filed charges with the ICC speaks to how unserious they all are about Crimes Against Humanity, for if this isn't one then the unicorn truely doesn't exist.
      Tom S.