The cave most likely containing bats infected with SARS-CoV-2 is in Yunnan province. Yunnan provice is nearly 1,100 miles away from Wuhan, according to Google Maps. As Dr. Botao Xiao correctly stated, it would be unlikely for any bats to be living naturally in Wuhan, as it is a metropolis district that is avoided by most wildlife. Additionally, most bat species would be in hibernation around the time of outbreak.
One possible explanation would be that a farmer or laborer in Yunnan went into this cave (for example, to collect bat feces known as “guano” which is apparently used for agricultural reasons), and then travelled to Wuhan later after being infected. However, if this is the case, it is unlikely that the outbreak would have reached epidemic levels in Wuhan first. Consider that, again according to Google Maps, a trip from Yunnan to Wuhan would take over a day:
If Patient Zero had taken a bus or other form of public transport, SARS-CoV-2 would have begun spreading along that route, not in Wuhan. It would be fairly easy for Chinese authorities to determine a mutual connection amongst original cases by simply asking them if they had travelled recently and if so, what bus, train, or flight they took. Consider that this type of “contact tracing” was already used to determine that the Huanan Seafood Market was the original source of the outbreak (at least, according to Chinese state media).
Even if Patient Zero had driven him or herself to Wuhan, they most likely would have stopped along the way for bathroom and food breaks. Again, they would have spread the virus at whatever rest stop they went to. However, if this happened, it has not been reported.
If the outbreak indeed started from the Huanan Seafood Market, that means an animal at the market would have had to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, there were no bats sold at the Huanan Seafood Market: There Are Few Bats in Wuhan. This means that a spillover event, from a bat to some other intermediary animal, could not have occured at the Huanan Seafood Market. The intermediary animal would have had to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 before it arrived at the market.
The Huanan Seafood Market is known as a “wet” market, in which animal carcasses are sold rather than individual animal parts (i.e. you would buy a dead pig but not packaged pork). This means that the animal was almost certainly not safely packaged at the time of purchase or at the time it arrived at the market.
Consider the amount of people any type of meat encounters before finally reaching its consumer. First, the animal must be hunted before being sent to a market (wouldn’t the hunter be Patient Zero? Surely China would be able to look at its medical records to find hunters who died of unknown causes at the beginning of the outbreak). Depending on where the animal was first killed, this trip could take days and involve multiple modes of transportation, such as an airplane, bus, truck, train, or car. In every case but one (car) the animal would be inserted into the vehicle by employees at an airport, bus station, train station, or warehouse loading ramp. In every case but one, these are typically locations that have very high levels of foot traffic. If transporting the animal took multiple trips, this means that multiple employees at each location would have been exposed to the infected animal before it was finally placed on sale at the Huanan Seafood Market. We assert that it is highly unlikely anyone would drive a car filled with animal carcasses. Consider the stench.
Where are the sick employees who handled this infected animal? Where are the localized epidemics caused by these employees? What are the odds that every single one of them did not get sick until the animal reached the Huanan Seafood Market?
And, let’s also not take for granted, that in order for this animal to even get infected with SARS-CoV-2, it itself would have had to be involved in a spillover event with a bat. Remember that bats were hibernating during this time period.
In order for this pandemic to have originated outside of a Wuhan biological laboratory, the following would have had to take place:
- An unknown animal comes into contact with a bat carrying the virus that would become SARS-CoV-2. This bat, for some reason, is not hibernating during the winter unlike most other bats.
- This animal is then hunted and killed by some unknown person who does not fall ill and does not spread SARS-CoV-2 to anyone else.
- This animal is then sent from its original location to the Huanan Seafood Market. Along the way, it is handled by dozens to hundreds of transportation employees, all of whom do not get sick and do not spread the virus.
- The animal finally reaches the market, at which point multiple people who encounter it are hospitalized, and the virus begins to spread at very high rates.
Perhaps this virus had been spreading undetected amongst animal populations for the past few months prior to the outbreak. But if this is the case, why would the spillover event to a human occur in Huanan Seafood Market? China has many hundreds of these markets in every province. We are looking at 1-in-several-thousand-odds that a natural outbreak would begin in this market versus all the others.
Consider the odds we are looking at of a natural outbreak occuring in a market less than 10 miles away from two labs which have previously housed bats and conducted research on bat coronaviruses, rather than any other market in China.
Four months into the outbreak, China, with its vast electronic surveillance network and army of CCTV cameras, still has not been able to provide any evidence that this virus originated anywhere other than the market in Wuhan.
We argue that it would be incredibly unlikely for a virus to materialize out of thin air in this particular market.
Claim 2: Did SARS-CoV-2 Begin From an Infected Lab Worker or Animal in Wuhan?
We will begin this claim by first acknowledging that, obviously, the answer to this question remains unknown as of now. However, it is appropriate to collect and highlight all evidence that may support this theory, and evidence that may disprove it.
In Claim 1, we proved that it is highly probable that SARS-CoV-2 could have been present in the WIV or the WHCDC – either as samples in a lab, or in live animals held in cages. In either situation, a single accident could result in exposure (“Laboratory-Acquired Infection”) to a human being that would become Patient Zero of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we will provide evidence that such accidental exposure is also highly probable.
Hypothetical Spillover Events
We claim that a spillover event involving these labs could have occured in one of several ways:
- A researcher working in a BSL-2, BSL-3, or BSL-4 lab could have been exposed to the pathogen while performing an experiment. Because SARS-CoV-2 has an incubation period between several days and several weeks, and because infected people can spread it asymptomatically, a researcher who is infected would not know they are infected until symptoms appear, possibly hundreds of hours later. This is sufficient time for them to spread the virus to others if they do not self quarantine.
- Lab animals involved in experiments could have been improperly disposed of or even illegally sold to markets. Whoever comes into contact with infected tissue would be at risk of infection, for example if they touch the animal and then touch their face, or even eat the animal.
- An infected lab animal could have bitten or otherwise exposed a researcher to SARS-CoV-2, and they could either have not quarantined at all or quarantined for too little time (i.e. they would still be contagious past the quarantine period).
We will prove in this claim that evidence exists to support all three possibilities.
Bio-Laboratory Accidents Are Not Impossible
There are many factual, peer reviewed accounts of biolab accidents. Some have even resulted in dozens of human deaths. We will list only a fraction here.
As a foreword, accidents in these settings are a byproduct of the human condition. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It would be foolish to attribute malice where one can attribute stupidity (Hanlon’s Razor) – a bad day, one missed step, an unpredictable test subject, overworked or overstressed personnel – all of these can, have, and will lead to accidents.
It is also important to mention that these accidents have led to widespread improvements in lab work safety – preventing these types of accidents is the basis of the BSL system.
The following are accidents that allegedly occured in the Soviet Union, mainly brought to light by Ken Alibek in his 1999 book “Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World – Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It” (ISBN 0-385-33496-6).
His book is freely available in PDF form from the National Institute of Health. We highly recommend you read it.
Aral Smallpox Incident (1971)
The Aral smallpox incident was a July 30, 1971 outbreak of the viral disease which occurred as a result of a field test at a Soviet biological weapons (BW) facility on an island in the Aral Sea. The incident sickened ten people, of whom three died, and came to widespread public notice only in 2002.
According to Alibek, an open-air aerosolized smallpox bomb was dropped above a group of monkeys to demonstrate its efficacy. While the attempt was successful at infecting and ultimately killing the monkeys, an unfortunate gust of wind allegedly blew the aerosolized smallpox over a small research boat, which infected human Patient Zero.
Self-Inflicted Marburg Virus Infection (1979)
At least one laboratory accident with MARV, resulting in the death of Koltsovo researcher Nikolai Ustinov, occurred during the Cold War in the Soviet Union and was first described in detail by Alibek.
Ustinov had been injecting Marburg into guinea pigs with the help of a lab technician, working through a glove box. He was not in a full space suit and was wearing two thin layers of rubber gloves instead of the thick mitts normally required for such work in Zone Three. The gloves provided the flexibility to control the laboratory animals, who will otherwise squirm and try to wriggle out of a technician’s grip. Our rules required that animals targeted for injection be strapped to a wooden board to hold them securely in place. That day, Ustinov wasn’t following procedure. He decided to steady the guinea pigs with his gloved hand. Perhaps he thought it would help calm them. Or perhaps he was in too much of a hurry. The technician became distracted and nudged him accidentally. Ustinov’s hand slipped just as he was pressing down on the syringe. The needle went through the guinea pig and punctured his thumb, drawing blood.
Ustinov was cared for until death by his wife, who was also a bioweaponeer at Koltsovo. Notably, he documented his own ill-fated journey into death, writing down his own symptoms in the hopes that it would be useful to medical research until finally losing consciousness. Alibek writes that the Marburg strain had evolved inside Ustinov’s body to become even deadlier; samples of his blood were later taken and became the basis for a second bioweapon based on Marburg virus.
A virus grown in laboratory conditions is liable to become more virulent when it passes through the live incubator of a human or an animal body. Few were surprised, therefore, when samples of Marburg taken from Ustinov’s organs after his autopsy differed slightly from the original strain. Further testing showed that the new variation was much more powerful and stable.
No one needed to debate the next step. Orders went out immediately to replace the old strain with the new, which was called, in a move that the wry Ustinov might have appreciated, “Variant U.”