Scientists debunk coronavirus conspiracy, say it ‘threatens to undermine’ global efforts to stop it

Scientists debunk coronavirus conspiracy, say it ‘threatens to undermine’ global efforts to stop it

A doctor looking at a lung CT image of a patient with coronavirus. Over two dozen doctors have posted an open letter disputing the conspiracy theories suggesting the virus was engineered as a bioweapon in a lab near Wuhan. (Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

published by The Lancet, over two dozen scientists, health experts and epidemiologists dispute a conspiracy theory that the virus is a bioweapon made in a lab near Wuhan, the center of the outbreak. “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” they write. “Scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent…and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife as have so many other emerging pathogens.”’ data-reactid=”23″>In an open letter published by The Lancet, over two dozen scientists, health experts and epidemiologists dispute a conspiracy theory that the virus is a bioweapon made in a lab near Wuhan, the center of the outbreak. “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” they write. “Scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent…and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife as have so many other emerging pathogens.”

myths that are circulating about coronavirus, including that it can be killed by cold weather, prevented through saline spray, detected by thermal scanners and spread through pets.” data-reactid=”24″>The effort coincides with a social media campaign that the World Health Organization launched this week to provide — as Mike Ryan, PhD, head of WHO’s health emergency program put it — a “vaccine against misinformation.” In colorful graphics posted to Twitter, WHO breaks down a multitude of myths that are circulating about coronavirus, including that it can be killed by cold weather, prevented through saline spray, detected by thermal scanners and spread through pets.

Lancet letter write that redirecting efforts back to fighting the epidemic is part of the goal. But protecting the health workers who already are — especially in the wake of the death of Chinese doctor who spoke out about it — is, too. “These rumors are now specifically targeting scientists and health professionals who have been working extremely hard to fight this outbreak…” they write. “Some of these scientists have already received threats of violence to their families and themselves. These rumors and conspiracy theories threaten to undermine the very global collaborations that are vital to combat this disease that has already spread across continents, and for that reason have been condemned by many.”’ data-reactid=”28″>The 27 scientists who penned the Lancet letter write that redirecting efforts back to fighting the epidemic is part of the goal. But protecting the health workers who already are — especially in the wake of the death of Chinese doctor who spoke out about it — is, too. “These rumors are now specifically targeting scientists and health professionals who have been working extremely hard to fight this outbreak…” they write. “Some of these scientists have already received threats of violence to their families and themselves. These rumors and conspiracy theories threaten to undermine the very global collaborations that are vital to combat this disease that has already spread across continents, and for that reason have been condemned by many.”

exit the lab, scientists must go through a chemical shower (which disinfects the suit), then enter a room to remove the suit and, finally, a third room where they immediately shower.’ data-reactid=”30″>The lab itself is classified as BSL-4 — or biolevel security 4 — one of just 50 worldwide. BSL-4 status is reserved for the work with the most dangerous pathogens and operates with the highest security possible. Individuals working there are required to wear hazmat suits and use ventilated workspaces that are fully enclosed. In order to exit the lab, scientists must go through a chemical shower (which disinfects the suit), then enter a room to remove the suit and, finally, a third room where they immediately shower.

paper in Nature exploring the lab, which mentions “scientists outside China” being concerned about “pathogens escaping.” But an editor’s note added in January is meant to allay these concerns. “Many stories have promoted an unverified theory that the Wuhan lab discussed in this article played a role in the coronavirus outbreak that began in December 2019,” the note reads. “Nature knows of no evidence that this is true; scientists believe the most likely source of the coronavirus to be an animal market.”’ data-reactid=”32″>Concerns about the lab stem from a 2017 paper in Nature exploring the lab, which mentions “scientists outside China” being concerned about “pathogens escaping.” But an editor’s note added in January is meant to allay these concerns. “Many stories have promoted an unverified theory that the Wuhan lab discussed in this article played a role in the coronavirus outbreak that began in December 2019,” the note reads. “Nature knows of no evidence that this is true; scientists believe the most likely source of the coronavirus to be an animal market.”

Yet Cotton’s statements continued. “We don’t know where it originated but we do know that we have to get to the bottom of that,” the legislator told Fox. “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory… We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty…we need to at least ask the question.”

animal and seafood market in Wuhan that is believed to be the origin of the outbreak. The now-shuttered market sold a wide variety of both live and dead animals, including foxes, pigs, chickens, and rats. In a statement to Business Insider, the Wildlife Conservation Society said that the market likely made for a perfect storm. “Poorly regulated, live-animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population,” WCS said.’ data-reactid=”40″>The market referenced by both the doctors and Cotton is an animal and seafood market in Wuhan that is believed to be the origin of the outbreak. The now-shuttered market sold a wide variety of both live and dead animals, including foxes, pigs, chickens, and rats. In a statement to Business Insider, the Wildlife Conservation Society said that the market likely made for a perfect storm. “Poorly regulated, live-animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population,” WCS said.