Saturday, June 12, 2021

Vox now offers the penultimate examination of the lab leak hypothesis for coronavirus

Pride 2019 DC


Vox now has a penultimate booklet article, by Umair Irfan, “The Lab-Leak Hypothesis, Explained”.  The tagline is “We may never know for sure if the virus that causes Covid-19 leaked from a lab. But that won’t stop the debate.”

This article pretty much covers everything.

If points out that there were two slightly different variants in Wuhan in January 2020.  Had a lab leak started the pandemic, that sounds unlikely.

On the other hand, the article really doesn’t address the claim by some recent experts (like Quay in the WSJ) that the PRRA insert into the genome, allowing the spike protein to perform furin cleavage, was unknown in coronaviruses and hasn’t been seen even in the closest bat viruses (the Majoing Caves variant in 2012).  It’s important to nail down when this codon was first seen.  Some virologists say that such an insert could happen in nature if an immunocompromised animal or human were infected at the same time with an unrelated virus with the cleavage.

Looking back in time, it sounds as though having a large portion of people infected with HIV might have exacerbated other infections or viruses – but in fact there’s no real evidence that it actually did.  That’s a speculation the religious right could indulge in the 80d.

It’s also curious to remember that there was more than one HIV, and there are other retroviruses around that infect humans (and other mammals).  One was HTLV1, which caused a T-cell leukemia and otherwise caused AIDS-like immunosuprression, and was prevalent in Japan in the early 1980s and apparently disappeared.  It never became a big epidemic.  What you wonder is, could there be some other bizarre agent out there in nature that caused the SARS cleavage that we don’t know about yet.

Update:  Daily Beast has a long piece by Harry Siegel, "Dr. Larry Brilliant spoke with Harry Siegel about why it’s too late to hope for herd immunity despite the “magic” of vaccines, and much more."  Larry was the driver of the smallpox vaccination decades ago.  Brilliant points out that the virus is moving between humans and many animal species, which increases the possibility of radical mutations. 

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