In another disturbing report on what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and similar labs before the pandemic, we have learned that researchers created viruses that held 10,000 times the viral load higher than their naturally-occurring counterparts (meaning that the engineered virus was significantly more infectious).
On top of that, we also learned that researchers at the lab conducted experiments on these enhanced viruses using “humanized mice.” These are mice that have been engrafted with human cells or tissues, allowing researchers to study the response from human cells to medical treatments and, you guessed it, diseases. Read as human experimentation without the danger of breaking any pesky ethics guidelines.
Funding for gain-of-function research that could potentially make naturally-occurring viruses more infectious was suspended in 2014 due to the reasonable concern that playing God with deadly diseases could be very dangerous. That suspension was lifted in 2017 for projects that underwent a review process by a special board to make sure that the projects were worth the risks.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is run by one Anthony “America’s Doctor” Fauci, decided not to flag the grant to EcoHealth Alliance for $3.1 million to study bat coronaviruses for review under the new guidelines. NIAID made this decision even though the grant application itself acknowledged potential dangers in the research, noting, “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”
Almost $600,000 of EcoHealth Alliance’s grant went to WIV to study and alter bat coronaviruses that were likely to infect humans.
So, we have researchers at the Wuhan lab using almost $600,000 in NIAID grant money to enhance the infectiousness of bat coronaviruses and observing their effectiveness in mice that contained human cells and tissue.
This all begs the question: Why?
Why would scientists funded by the government actively work to engineer deadly viruses so that they are more likely to infect humans?
Is it for the prospect of lucrative government contracts for the weaponization of such viruses? Is it because of a megalomaniacal arrogance stemming from the innate human drive to mess with things we shouldn’t? Or is it because they’ve somehow never seen a movie or read a book (there are dozens if not hundreds) where this sort of research went horribly wrong?
The scientists engaged in gain-of-function claim that the research will help identify new emerging diseases and will allow them to develop therapeutics, including vaccines, for those diseases before a pandemic hits. Some prominent scientists, however, don’t believe that the research has yielded enough benefits to be worth the risks. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch said in 2017 that gain-of-function has done “almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, and yet risked creating an accidental pandemic.”
“I haven’t seen any of the vaccine companies say that they need to do this work in order to make vaccines. I have not seen evidence that the information people are pursuing could be put into widespread use in the field,” Director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Thomas Inglesby told Vox in 2020.
Even if COVID-19 did not accidentally leak from the lab in late 2019, the actions of both American and Chinese scientists display a stunning lack of respect for nature and the potential apocalyptic consequences of their experiments.
We’ve seen the damage that can be wrought with natural diseases when they’re weaponized. Plagues unleashed by Unit 731, the Japanese bioweapon research unit during World War II, killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians, and a plot to release a plague in the U.S. was foiled only by Japan’s surrender in 1945.
A minor leak of anthrax spores that had been enhanced in a Soviet bioweapons facility, using research seized from Unit 731 after WWII, killed over 60 people in the nearby city of Sverdlovsk in 1979. Known as the “biological Chernobyl,” the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak was covered up by Soviet authorities for almost twenty years.
Think of how much our world has changed over a virus that has about a 1-2% mortality rate. We saw a massive economic slump in 2020, empty grocery stores as people scrambled for food and other necessities, suspicion, fear and even outright hostility between neighbors over government-mandated lockdowns and mask requirements, and an unprecedented crackdown on personal liberties throughout the supposedly free Western world.
What if an enhanced disease with a much higher mortality rate were to escape from any of the dozens of labs around the world that conduct this kind of research? The researchers in Wuhan were potentially already working on such a project. The grants allowed them to combine elements from several MERS-related coronaviruses to create new hybrids. MERS is a respiratory illness similar to COVID, but it has a mortality rate of almost 33%.
Perhaps the scariest part of this situation is that a viral superweapon like we’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows that wipe out 90% of the human population isn’t necessary to cause a societal collapse. In reality, a virus with a 5-10% mortality rate would probably be enough to cripple our globalized, highly interconnected world.
A highly transmissible disease with a 5-10% mortality rate would almost certainly cause major disruptions in the global supply chain, empty grocery stores, depleted gas pumps, food riots, martial law and a devastating blow to the global economy. More people would probably die from the resulting conflicts over resources — not just between countries, but between cities, counties and maybe even individual neighborhoods — than from the virus itself. The convenient, on-demand civilization that we’ve built up is extremely fragile, and it only takes a disruption like a new plague to bring it all down.
These augmented diseases are potentially as dangerous to human civilization as any nuclear arsenal, and they deserve the same amount of caution, and oversight, as our most powerful conventional weapons. Yet we seem to have a scientific community that believes that there is nothing foolish about modifying potentially deadly organisms in close proximity to dense urban areas and international travel hubs.
The hubris of today’s scientific community rivals Oppenheimer’s observation that he had “become death, the destroyer of worlds” after the testing of the first atomic bomb in 1945, and it may end up having far more dire consequences for the human race.
Hayden Daniel is the opinion editor at the Daily Caller.