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Berkeley scientists want answers.



Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Health experts have often assumed the novel coronavirus, which has killed at least 3.7 million people worldwide. It is transmitted from infected animals to humans. Whether in the natural environment of the animals or in the wildlife market.

They are now reviewing whether a virus called SARS-CoV-2 that appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan may have leaked from a laboratory where researchers studied the virus. and may change in ways that make them more contagious China and leading US health experts Many people have long ignored such possibilities. Which President Donald Trump at that time pushed early. But this has changed among some researchers. Last week, the White House called for an independent investigation.

Rasmus Nielsen, professor of integrative biology at the University of California-Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Rasmus Nielsen, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, is one of 18 researchers at prestigious universities around the world who, in a May 14 article in Science, called on the scientific community to explore laboratory leak theory. We asked him why all of a sudden. This has attracted attention. His answer, which has been edited to be long and clear. reflects his personal opinion.

ask: Last year, everyone said the virus was definitely from wild animals. Perhaps through China’s “fresh markets” that sell fresh produce, seafood and meat near the source of the first cases. What has changed since then?

answer: In a sense, not much has changed. I don’t think you’ll find many people to say it’s impossible that it comes from a lab. always on the radar screen we really don’t know

ask: After former President Donald Trump said in early April 2020 he believed the virus had leaked from a Chinese lab. Why would so many scientists argue otherwise?

answer: When Trump came out saying it came from the lab and no publicly available evidence That makes it political. It has become increasingly difficult for scientists to come out and talk about it.

ask: After the World Health Organization research team released a report in March last year. A lab leak was found to be improbable. but unable to diagnose Why are scientists unhappy?

answer: The WHO report doesn’t include an investigation into the lab’s leak hypothesis — it’s not part of the mandate and the report dismisses this hypothesis without actual data. It also hasn’t done many of the standard analyzes that you would do to find the source. The origin of the new epidemic Including detailed tracking of the first contact who is infected.

ask: Is there anything new this year that could increase the likelihood of laboratory accidents?

answer: We know more about what happened at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They are growing viruses in human cells. add another viral element Train the virus in human cells to see which is most infectious. when you do that You risk creating more infectious viruses.

queue: Is there evidence that the COVID-19 virus is being handled in a laboratory rather than just a naturally evolved pathogen?

Ah!: There is no scientific evidence one way or another. Nothing in the DNA sequence is a smoking gun. The SARS-CoV-2 sequence is consistent with evolution in the natural world.

ask: Then the conflicting reports of Wuhan lab dealing with Are coronaviruses with a “get function” method, essentially intended to make the virus more virulent, which they reject?

answer: In a sense, it’s a matter of semantics. Technically, there is no evidence of research on working ability. But there is evidence that the genetic modification of coronavirus in the laboratory They have published papers showing that they are working on the clown virus. (man-made)

Creating a clown virus may not be a performance experiment. You don’t need to accidentally insert something into a virus that you know will make it more effective or infecting. You might just mimic the nature of the recombinant virus.

queue Is it hard to tell from the viral gene sequence if it’s a dream or not?

Ah! Yes, that’s right, some methods of this work do not leave any obvious traces in the DNA (RNA) sequence.

ask: Why does it work like that?

answer: The reason you do this kind of research is that you want to know what viruses can cause outbreaks. to answer that question You have to grow in human cells. Not just a mad scientist The only crazy experiment to prepare for the next epidemic. that happened all over the place But it should be done under safe conditions.

queue: Wuhan Virology Laboratory Is 2 out of 4 biosecurity levels safe for that job?

Ah!: Personally, I think the security level is too low for that kind of research. This should be done in a BSL-3 or BSL-4 laboratory. The fact that it is being performed in BSL-2 is a concern.

ask: No COVID-19 virus found in animals, does that mean a lab leak?

answer: We didn’t find this for SARS-CoV-2, did we? But that doesn’t prove anything in itself. There is a virus that we do not know the origin of. We never know where Ebola came from. With multiple lab leaks over time, SARS-1 escaped the lab five times. But what has never happened before is a new virus from a leaked lab.

ask: The speed of developing a vaccine against COVID-19 Change your perspective on the benefits of viral research?

answer: The most wonderful thing is that we have an RNA vaccine. All you need is the viral genome. That’s an argument that you don’t need research on these viruses. You can make vaccines really fast. without prior research


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