Where did SARS-CoV-2 come from?

I don’t know, of course. Neither does anyone we’ll ever meet, probably. But I have heard very heated comments on the topic of whether the Lab at Wuhan might have been involved – some people saying that such a thing is impossible, and the technology doesn’t exist (yet). That’s a bold claim at the best of times – just because you are “an expert” and you can’t do something, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Especially if your dismissal includes “yet” – an admission that it could be possible, later (or maybe now, elsewhere). Others claim that the presence in the genome of various recognisable features “proves” that it was mutated in a sequence of animals.

Anyway, I came across this, which seems to me to be pretty conclusive about what’s possible these days. It’s a publication in the U.S. National Library of Medicine from 2014, about success at generating a version of a bat coronavirus, with greater ability to replicate both in vitro and in mice, “by incorporating the (SARS)-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein ectodomain”. Sound familiar?

A Mouse Model for Betacoronavirus Subgroup 2c Using a Bat Coronavirus Strain HKU5 Variant


Interested parties will want to read at least the whole abstract for themselves, but here are a couple of extracts: (emphasis mine)

Synthetic-genome platforms capable of reconstituting emerging zoonotic viral pathogens or their phylogenetic relatives provide new strategies for identifying broad-based therapeutics, evaluating vaccine outcomes, and studying viral pathogenesis. IMPORTANCE The 2012 outbreak of MERS-CoV raises the specter of another global epidemic, similar to the 2003 SARS-CoV epidemic. MERS-CoV is related to BtCoV HKU5 in target regions that are essential for drug and vaccine testing. Because no small animal model exists to evaluate MERS-CoV pathogenesis or to test vaccines, we constructed a recombinant BtCoV HKU5 that expressed a region of the SARS-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein, thereby allowing the recombinant virus to grow in cell culture and in mice. 

I don’t profess to know a huge amount about either genetics or viruses, but I am pretty sure this shows that:

  • current technology exists which can combine viruses in a way similar to zoonotic adaptation
  • people are out there doing exactly that, with the specific goal of incorporating the SARS spike which attaches the virus to the ACE2 receptor in mouse (and human) respiratory cells into a bat corona virus – thereby making a potentially pandemic-capable “novel virus”.

Add to this the possibility that someone might make a mistake in a safety protocol somewhere, and a laboratory leak seems just as credible a source for SARS-CoV2 as any other story. IMHO.

I suspect that all those funding and performing such research have an (understandable) reluctance to (1) expose themselves to any blame, or (2) admit to the obvious risks of such undertakings. Hence the relegation of all “SARS-CoV-2 was released from a lab” ideas to the “conspiracy theory” bin.

It’s not a conspiracy theory – I’m not suggesting there has been any conspiracy at all. It’s just completely possible.

Global CO2 emmissions

This is an illustration from ourworldindata.org which I commend as a jolly interesting site. If you click the link and then click on the picture in their site, you can zoom in and actually read it.

To save you the trouble of looking, I point out that the UK’s emissions seem to be so insignificant that we don’t even justify a named box. It’s not really true though: the Dept. for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says the UK put out 366 million tons in 2018 – which is about the same at Thailand (somewhat strangely, it seems to me). Still only 1% of the global total though.

It’s also noticeable that all the world’s aviation and shipping combined are responsible for a fairly small 3.2% of C02 emissions. Even when everybody was still gadding about going on holiday all the time, as well as getting all their wordly needs from China. Arguably the effect of spreading various aerosols and gases in the upper atmosphere makes aviation’s contribution to global warming more than just its share of C02 output. Maybe double? Still only a couple of percent then.

All in all, I’m forced to observe that there’s really not much we can do about it all from here, is there? Even if we were to elect a gallant and spectacularly effective crusader, who inspired the whole of our home continent of Europe (remember?) to give up absolutely everything, immediately, it wouldn’t really affect the big boys in the game all that much. And so, given the scale of the issue, is it wrong to conclude that my personal life choices actually, quite literally don’t matter?