A scientist at the center of the Covid lab leak theory has admitted he cannot rule out the possibility that the virus escaped a Chinese research facility.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Dr Peter Daszak, a British zoologist who funded risky virus research in the Wuhan lab months before the pandemic, said he doesn’t “completely reject” the theory and “never has.”
Dr. Daszak became infamous when he led a letter published in The Lancet denouncing the lab leak theory as a conspiracy in early 2020 without disclosing its conflict of interest.
He leads EcoHealth Alliance, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that has outsourced bat coronavirus research to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). He spoke to DailyMail.com this week after the US government extended his organization’s grant to study those viruses.
Dr. Daszak still maintains that the lab leak theory of Covid was “extremely unlikely” and states that there is no “smoking gun” linking the virus to experiments at WIV. This is despite the fact that the FBI and the US Department of Energy have publicly stated that a lab accident is the most likely cause of the virus.
Dr. Peter Daszak (pictured left next to Dr. Anthony Fauci) oversees the EcoHealth Alliance, which funneled NIAID funds to WIV. The nonprofit now receives an additional $2.3 million in US tax dollars over the next four years. The money will go to the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School in Singapore
The question of whether the global outbreak started with an overflow of wildlife sold at the market or leaked from the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has sparked fierce debates about how to contain the next pandemic. prevent. New studies point to a natural overflow in the Huanan game market. Positive smears from floors, cages and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwest corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbor Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)
Dr. Daszak said, ‘I do not reject (the laboratory leak theory). I never did it. (But) I believe it’s extremely unlikely based on the evidence.
“The lab leak theory is just that, it is a theory. To prove your theory you need some facts. Some proofs.
‘What a scientist has to do is look at the evidence and say which theory is correct and at the moment the lablek theory has no evidence for that. There’s no smoking gun.’
Proponents of the laboratory leak theory point to the lack of cooperation from Chinese officials and poor infection control measures at the WIV.
The lab was too full of problems in the years leading up to the outbreak of the pandemic.
In 2018, U.S. officials in China warned the State Department that the lab was not fit to conduct these kinds of experiments.
Even Chinese regulators had repeatedly reported biosafety problems at the institute, leaving the door open for harm to both the lab’s workers and the outside world.
In early 2021, the State Department reported that several researchers at the facility fell ill with a mysterious illness in late 2019 — well before the pandemic.
Chinese officials have not publicly reported these illnesses.
There are also reports of doctors speaking out about experiments in the Wuhan lab that were later silenced or disappeared.
In previous virus outbreaks, the intermediate animal between bats and humans was found within months.
Before SARS in the early 2000s, it was quickly confirmed that they were raccoon dogs. For MERS in 2012, camels.
Now, more than three years after the pandemic, the global hunt for the animal that spilled Covid on humans has still not been found.
The virus also had a furin cleavage site – on the virus’s spike protein and responsible for binding the pathogen to human cells – optimized for human infection.
It later turned out that researchers at the WIV did experiments in which they manipulated the virus in this way.
Dr. However, Daszak says a lack of direct evidence means a natural origin is still the most likely for Covid.
“If you look at the WHO report, it says very clearly that the lab leak theory was extremely unlikely,” Dr. Daszak, referring to a March 2021 report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“At the beginning of the outbreak, that was extremely unlikely. It was extremely unlikely after the WHO team sat down in that WIV and asked awkward questions to the WIV management and staff.
“And it’s extremely unlikely now, since there’s so much more evidence for the zoonotic origin.”
Proponents of the natural spillover theory will also point to the lack of direct evidence of a lab leak.
Publicly available data – which is limited due to a lack of cooperation from China – shows that the earliest cases of Covid were clustered around the Huanan Seafood Market.
This is only ten miles from the WIV.
Records show that many animals were present that could serve as vectors from bats to humans around the time the virus first emerged.
Dire ‘wet market’ conditions created a perfect cross-species breeding ground for a virus like Covid.
Dr. Daszak added: “We know that other viruses in Southeast Asia are very similar in bats.”
“Information about the wildlife trade in China, we now know that live animals were shipped to that market.
“All of these things were unknown at the beginning of the pandemic. And all the new evidence has come to the market through points, and the wildlife trade is the source of this virus.”
Investigators identified stalls in the southwest corner of the market where Covid is most prevalent. Much of the Covid samples collected in the area were from raccoon dogs, they determined
Pictured: The Wuhan Institute of Virology, where crucial data was erased by Chinese scientists
The consensus remains that Covid is a bat-borne virus, although after a massive search across China, scientists have still not found the intermediate host that transmitted the virus to humans.
Finding this animal would vindicate China, which has been under pressure recently for its potential role in the origins of Covid.
Meanwhile, WIV is one of the world’s leading research centers for coronaviruses.
Work with bat viruses was so prolific that one eminent scientist even earned the title of “Bat Lady” from her peers.
US taxpayers funded some of these experiments through an NIH grant to EcoHealth, which was then funneled to WIV.
Responding to the FBI and the Energy Department tending that the virus was a lab leak, Dr. Daszak said, “I don’t know how they looked. The evidence they looked at has not been made public.”
Despite lingering questions about the origins of Covid, the NIH has reinstated EcoHealth funding for bat coronavirus research.
As part of the grant, EcoHealth will receive $576,290 each year for the next four years for the grant title “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.”
In total, the nonprofit received $4.3 million as part of this grant.
The NIH ended the grant with EcoHealth in April 2020, led by Trump, who endorsed the lab leak theory.
It was later reinstated but suspended indefinitely while the intelligence community searched for the origins of Covid.
Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, at the southernmost tip of the island nation in Southeast Asia, will be the sole recipient of the grant for the next four years, said Dr Daszak.
Their work will examine hundreds of bat coronavirus samples collected from Asian countries such as China.
These researchers do not go into the field to collect new samples, but only work with what already exists in their databases.