Covid-19: No evidence has been created in the laboratory
The conspiracy theory of creating a virus in the laboratory and then releasing it into the wild has been widely publicized. Nothing corroborates this hypothesis, but it can be explained why it prospers.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which is shaking our health systems, our economies and altering our habits, is also at the root of what was described by Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the Department of Pandemics and Epidemics of the World Organization for the Health. judiciously infodemic, viral circulation of rumors and false information.
Journalists, a former intelligence agent, Dany Shoham, and pseudo experts, such as former international law professor Francis Boyle, have seriously raised the possibility that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which reportedly caused the Covid epidemic -19 occurred at the recently built Level 4 Biosecurity Laboratory (BL4) in the Wuhan region, the epicenter of the epidemic in China.
Another popular theory among some suggests that the virus was introduced by the Jews to cause the collapse of the markets and to be able to enrich themselves through the use of privileged information. These theories have gone viral, to the point that recent polls show that 23% of Americans and 17% of French are convinced that the new coronavirus would have been intentionally made in the laboratory.
The conspiracy wave surrounding the Covid-19 epidemic is also being fueled by some governments, which are waging a veritable information war by politicizing the epidemic excessively. President Donald Trump insisted on the Chinese origin of Covid-19 in his speech on March 11, 2020, calling it the Chinese virus. In response, one of the spokesmen for the Chinese Foreign Ministry posted an article on his Twitter account that allegedly showed that SARS-CoV-2 was already present in 2019 in the US. USA And it was brought to China by American soldiers.
The spread of false information can make it difficult to respond to real epidemics. Therefore, it is essential to decipher the verifiable facts about the Covid-19 epidemic.
What do we know about the origins of Covid-19?
The results of the SARS-CoV-2 genome analysis are clear. Its sequence is 96% identical to that of the RaTG13 coronavirus isolated from a bat collected in the Chinese province of Yunan. However, the sequence of the receptor domain present on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 and allowing infection of human cells (RBD, receptor binding domain) differs strongly from the equivalent sequence observed in RaTG13. The SARS-CoV-2 RBD sequence, on the other hand, is very close, 99%, to that of an isolated pangolin coronavirus. This suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is the result of the recombination of two viruses. This recombination mechanism has already been described in coronaviruses.
Comparison of the naturally occurring coronavirus sequences, therefore, supports a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, SARS-CoV-2 does not contain traces of any genetic manipulation of human origin. More specifically, it does not contain residual sequences related to the vector systems conventionally used for genetic manipulation, suggesting that it would in fact be the product of a process of random natural selection.
BL4 laboratory, genetic manipulation: reality and myths
In fact, there is a BL4 laboratory in Wuhan, the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory. Built in association with France, it obtained its certification in 2017. After the SARS epidemics of 2002-2004 and H1N1 in 2009, China wanted to improve its ability to fight the epidemics. It is primarily tasked with conducting research on Ebola, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and SARS. The only documented accident related to a laboratory working with coronavirus in China was the infection of 9 individuals in April 2004 by the SARS-CoV-1 virus, responsible for the 2002-4 SARS epidemic. These were two students who worked in the Laboratory of the National Institute of Virology and their relatives.
Thirty BL4 labs are listed worldwide. His operation has always been a source of controversy and suspicion. Some of these laboratories were previously involved in the manufacture of biological weapons. The signing of the 1972 Biological Weapons Ban Convention, which prohibited the development, acquisition, storage and use of biological weapons, changed its purpose. These laboratories are now officially dedicated to fighting epidemics and biological weapons. However, despite the signing of this convention, certain states, including the former Soviet Union, have been shown to persist in funding investment programs.stigation, such as Biopreparat, intended for the development of biological weapons.
In fact, accidents have already been linked to the operation of these BL4 laboratories. For example, the Sverdlovsk disaster in 1979, which caused several dozen deaths, related to an accidental spread of spores of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, responsible for anthrax. The 2001 terrorist attacks with anthrax-contaminated envelopes in the US USA They have also been associated with a microbiologist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, who works in a BL4 laboratory in the US Army. USA Therefore, these highly secure laboratories are, quite rightly, extremely fertile ground for the development of conspiracy theories.
Finally, it is also true that the old deadly viruses have been resurrected in the laboratory, that the new viruses are created by genetic manipulation for research purposes, and that some viruses have already been disseminated in the wild. In 2005, the 1918 Spanish influenza virus was genetically modified and laboratory tested to better understand its exceptional virulence. In 2012, the H5N1 influenza virus was modified in the laboratory to give it the ability to infect ferrets by air to understand how the virus could mutate to infect humans by this route. The Australian government authorized in 2017 the massive spread of a strain of the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV1 K5) to reduce wild rabbit populations in its territory. Therefore, it is quite easy, from these well-documented facts, to generate an infinity of plot scenarios.
Russel's Teapot and Covid-19
What is in common between a celestial kettle and the Covid-19 conspiracy theories? Much more than you might think at first glance.
A teapot would be in orbit around the Sun, more precisely between Earth and the planet Mars. We cannot prove that this teapot does not exist, so we would have to believe it. The metaphor of the celestial kettle was proposed by the philosopher Bertrand Russell to challenge the idea that it would be up to the skeptic to refute the unverifiable basis of religion and to claim that it is up to the believer to prove it. Russel's Teapot is the cosmic version of Ockham's razor, also known as the principle of parsimony or simplicity. This principle recommends eliminating complex explanations of a reasoning phenomenon if the simplest explanations are plausible. There remains a fundamental principle of logical reasoning in science. It does not establish at all that the simplest explanation is necessarily true, but must nevertheless be considered first.
In the case of Covid-19, there is no verifiable fact to support the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 was intentionally manufactured in the laboratory. Various conspiracy theories are only supported by correlations, such as the existence of a BL4 in Wuhan. The RBD sequences of the virus could, in theory, result from an adaptation of the virus in the laboratory when grown in human cells. But the existence of a 99% identical RBD sequence in a coronavirus that infects the pangolin supports a more parsimonious hypothesis: the infection of a bat or a pangolin by two coronaviruses, which would have recombined to form a new virus that later infected a human; the famous and still unknown patient zero behind the Covid-19 epidemic.
There are many reasons for the adherence of an increasing number of individuals to conspiracy theses. It is well established that the exponential growth of specialized scientific knowledge has paradoxically resulted in a simultaneous increase in ignorance. And the overwhelming trend of recent decades of education to favor student employability rather than general education, especially in the scientific field, has not helped to bring citizens closer to science. Nor to allow them to develop a critical mind.
Conspiracy theories do not in part translate our visceral need to reassure ourselves by inventing a simplistic explanation of the natural phenomena that terrify us. Which hypothesis is the most unbearable? That mad scientists subsidized by a foreign power are at the origin of an epidemic capable of shaking our modern societies? Or that new epidemics naturally arise after the invasion and destruction of ecosystems? In the first case, it would be easy to end the nightmare. In the second, it is our way of life and our economic system that must change.