Researchers say that a mutated strain of COVID-19 appears to be more contagious when compared to other strains of the virus, and transmission of the virus is less likely to be prevented by wearing a mask or washing hands.
The mutation, according to researchers, could be due to the virus’s response in circumventing masks and other social distancing-related efforts to tamp down the spread of the virus.
What are the details?
According to a Wednesday report from The Washington Post, scientists say that the study — conducted in Houston and released on Wednesday — appears to be the largest of its kind in the U.S., and is comprised of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus.
Scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine, the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin all contributed to the study.
The study — which was not peer reviewed — found that people infected with the D614G mutation had higher loads of virus, meaning it was more contagious when compared with other strains of the virus.
“The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes,” the Post reported. “All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say.”
The outlet reported that 99.9 percent of cases during the “second wave” in the Houston area were infected with the D614G mutation.
Research suggests virus can become more contagious
David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the new research suggests that the virus could adapt to become more contagious.
“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious, it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” Morens, who is senior adviser to Dr. Anthony Fauci, explained.
He added, “Although we don’t know it yet, it is well within the realm of possibility that this coronavirus, when our population-level immunity gets high enough, this coronavirus will find a way to get around our immunity. If that happened, we’d be in the same situation as with flu. We’ll have to chase the virus and, as it mutates, we’ll have to tinker with our vaccine.”
Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told the outlet that he believes the Houston paper “highlights the fact that, with respect to SARS-CoV-2, we need to remain vigilant, and increase our capacity to monitor the virus for mutations.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying there’s a virus we should watch, the mainstream media went straight to fear-mongering. But, like the coronavirus, there is very little to fear – other than the mainstream media’s reporting.
A new studypublished on Monday in the American journal PNAS has reported on a brand-new viral threat, just as we were beginning to tire of the old one. This time it is a new strain of swine flu, dubbed G4 EA H1N1, or G4 for short. The study claims the virus replicates efficiently in human airways and has infected some workers who handled the pigs without causing disease.
Fauci said the virus is not an immediate threat where infections are occurring but said it’s something we “need to keep our eye on.” And this morning, headlines across mainstream media read “pandemic potential” probably terrifying the already scared masses. “In other words, when you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchange of genes,” Fauci told lawmakers.
“And they’re seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts like swine.” Perhaps it’s just a way to keep people afraid to leave their homes or push the mask agenda (which is odd, to say the least). Fauci even says it’s nothing to worry about, yet the media still drives home the fear.
In the same article, CNN also states that Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University’s public health school, warned the public not to “freak out.” Other articles cite the WHO (World Health Organization) which states “we cannot let our guard down.”
“[The study] also highlights we cannot let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic,” the WHO’s Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing.
CNN wrote: “Chinese researchers have discovered a new type of swine flu that can infect humans and has the potential to cause a future pandemic, according to a study released on Monday.” Are people not panicked enough about the scamdemic? Is that why we need another thing to fear? Has the American public’s patience with lockdowns and restrictions based on lies finally worn thin? Or, is this just predictive programming to prepare the public for endless waves of pandemics to force vaccines? Are they trying to get people excited about mass surveillance and tracking? At this point, any or all of those could be possible.
An intelligence report conducted by private analysts and presented to the US Senate intelligence committee suggests that there may have been a “hazardous event” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology between October 6 and 11, during which time roadblocks were put in place to prevent traffic from coming to the facility, according to the report obtained by NBC News.
The 24-page report includes an analysis of phone data from around the institute, including a pattern analysis of devices that frequent the WIV, show no mobile phone activity from October 7 to 24.
The analysis shows that device traffic “in and around the WIV in the months prior to October was consistent,” but that “Beginning on October 11th, there was a substantial decrease in activity,” suggesting that the ‘window for incident’ was October 6th – 11th.
“During this time, it is believed that roadblocks were put in place to prevent traffic from coming near the facility.”
That said, NBC‘s anonymous government expert has urged caution, suggesting that the report may rely on limited commercially available mobile phone data, and that there could be any number of reasons why no activity was detected during the period in question.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee (presumably following their briefing), tweeted on May 6: “Would be interesting if someone analyzed commercial telemetry data at & near Wuhan lab from Oct-Dec 2019,” adding “If it shows dramatic drop off in activity compared to previous 18 months it would be a strong indication of an incident at lab & of when it happened.”
?Would be interesting if someone analyzed commercial telemetry data at & near Wuhan lab from Oct-Dec 2019
If it shows dramatic drop off in activity compared to previous 18 months it would be a strong indication of an incident at lab & of when it happened https://t.co/7DQh8F6DXg
According to the report, the first cases of the novel coronavirus were reported at the end of December, however a new paper from five infectious-disease researchers in China reports that Chinese social media platform WeChat searches for “SARS” , “Coronavirus” , “shortness of breath” , “dyspnea” , and “Diarrhea” began to spike on November 17 – suggesting that COVID-19 was circulating in China weeks before the first cases were officially diagnosed and reported.
NBC News provides the following body of evidence commonly referenced by those who suspect COVID-19 escaped from the WIV:
A Jan. 24 study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that three of the first four cases — including the first known case — didn’t provide a documented link to the Wuhan wet market.
The bats that carry the family of coronaviruses linked to the new strain aren’t found within 100 miles of Wuhan — but they were studied in both labs.
Photos and videos have emerged of researchers at both labs collecting samples from bats without wearing protective gear, which experts say poses a risk of human infection.
A U.S. State Department expert who visited the WIV in 2018 wrote in a cable reported by The Washington Post: “During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, [U.S. diplomats] noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.”
According to Senate Intelligence Committee member Tom Cotton, R-Ark., the Chinese military posted its top epidemiologist to the WIV in January.
According to U.S. intelligence assessments, including one published by the Department of Homeland Security and reviewed by NBC News, the Chinese government initially covered up the severity of the outbreak. Government officials threatened doctors who warned their colleagues about the virus, weren’t candid about human-to-human transmission and still haven’t provided virus samples to researchers.
Scott Burke, CEO of crypto-related firm Groundhog, unleashed what we feel may be the most complete timelines of facts to help understand the controversial links between COVID-19 and HIV, and COVID-19 and Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Want to go down a (strictly fact-based) rabbit hole?
Here is the full slightly-edited-for-formatting twitter thread…
A disclaimer: I am not a virologist. This is me synthesizing what we have learned since the outbreak began and reviewing public scientific papers. I believe each of the following statements is a solid fact, backed up by a citation.
I also want to say that I understand some people are worried about blame being cast for this outbreak. Obviously we are all in this together, and my intention here is not to cast blame. These links overwhelmingly compel further scrutiny but are not conclusive.
I do think however that information is being downplayed and suppressed by some scientists and media outlets and it’s our duty to find out the facts about this virus, do what we can to mitigate the outbreak and prevent it from happening again.
So there’s original SARS, which is a type of coronavirus. SARS infects cells through the ACE2 receptor in hosts.
The S spike protein plays a key role in how the virus infects cells. Each of the little spikes that surround the coronavirus is a spike protein (or S protein). That’s what gives the coronavirus its name – it’s “crown” of these spikes.
The S protein binds to the targeted cell through the ACE2 receptor, and boom, your cell is infected and becomes a virus replication factory.
After the first SARS outbreak, there was a “land rush” to find other coronaviruses. A collection of SARS-*like* coronaviruses was isolated in several horseshoe bat species over 10 years ago, called SARS-like CoVs, or SL-CoVs. Not SARS exactly, but coronaviruses similar to SARS.
In 2007, a team of researchers based in Wuhan, in conjunction with an Australian laboratory, conducted a study with SARS, a SARS-like coronavirus, and HIV-1.
The researchers noted that if small changes were made to the S protein, it broke how SARS-CoV worked – it could no longer go in via ACE2. So they inferred the S protein was critical to the SARS attack vector.
They also predicted based on the S-ACE2 binding structure, that SARS-like CoVs were not able to use this same attack method (ACE2 mediation).
They decided to create a pseudovirus where they essentially put a SARS-like CoV in an HIV envelope.
Using an HIV envelope, they replaced the RBD (receptor binding domain) of SL-CoV with that of SARS-CoV and used it to successfully infect bats through ACE2 mediation.
12 years go by…
A SARS-like CoV begins sweeping the globe that is far more infectious than previous outbreaks.
Ground Zero for this outbreak (not first human patient, but first spreading event) is considered to be Wuhan Seafood Market.
Wuhan Seafood Market is 20 miles from the National Biosafety Laboratory at Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Amidst the outbreak, a team of Indian bioinformatics specialists at Delhi University released a paper pre-print…
COVID-19 has a unique sequence of about 1,378 nucleotide base pairs long that is not found in related coronaviruses. They claimed to identify genetic similarities in this unique material between COVID-19 and HIV-1.
Specifically, they isolated 4 short genetic sequences in key protein structures (the receptor-binding domain, or RBD).
Two of the sequences were perfect matches (albeit, short), and two of the sequences were matched but each with an additional string of non-matching material appearing in the middle of the sequence.
The paper was criticized and numerous attempts have been made to debunk it. After the criticism, the authors voluntarily withdrew it, intending to revise it based on comments made about their technical approach and conclusions.
One key debunking attempt claims this:
The same sequences are found in a variant called BetaCoV/bat/Yunnan/RaTG13/2013, which had been found “in the wild” in bats.
This is an attempt to prove that it was not engineered, but mutated naturally in the wild.
But there’s a problem…
This strain was only known by and studied at the Wuhan Virology Institute, and although they claim it was discovered in 2013, it wasn’t published or shared with the scientific community until immediately after the Indian paper, on January 27, 2020.
The RatG13 strain publication and the HIV research paper from 2008 share an author.
I discovered this on my own by comparing the two papers and then quickly realized this scientist’s contact information was the information that ZeroHedge was suspended from Twitter for sharing.
Their article identifies this author in question including some contact information from the Wuhan Virology Institute web site.
You can read the public comments and discussion of the original paper here:
There is a line of inquiry about how the sequences are remarkably stable in between the “bat” CoV and the nCoV, wherein nature they would likely have mutated in between their shared evolution. Also a call for greater scientific evidence that the strain was collected in the wild.
Here is the only point in this thread where I will offer my opinion rather than a list of facts: In light of all the previous facts, the efforts to debunk the paper are not yet convincing in my view.
The RaTG13 paper makes the claim that, oh, that HIV-related material you identified that happens to protein fold to become a perfect attack vector for nCoV to attack ACE2?
It’s a relative of this other secret virus which came from the wild which we forgot to tell the scientific community about until now for no reason.
Here’s the secret virus – it came from bats – and here’s the new virus, see, they have the same HIV-related sequences… so… bats!
Totally not secret pathogen research which escaped the lab.
What are the odds that a SARS-like coronavirus with overlapping genetics from HIV mutated and crossed over into humans, next door to a laboratory which had been enhancing coronavirus with HIV for over a decade? And conversely, what are the odds it leaked out of the laboratory?
* * *
Finally, there is a great thread here by Trevor Bedford (@trvrb) examining the evidence for and against, with key replies challenging the conclusions made as well.
There is a nice "Bayesian" way to compare theories and think about evidence. I'm showing the probability of observing the data at hand given different theories. We want to compare the likelihood of observing this data, compared to other outcomes consistent with a theory. 3/21 pic.twitter.com/HaiNvCVxUo