Raccoon Dog: More Than Just Latest Deflection From COVID-19 Lab Leak Theory?
Just as most of you (and Department of Energy and FBI analysts) thought COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab, a report appears in The Atlantic on March 16th.
The report says newly discovered genetic data from caged raccoon dogs (a mammal related to the fox) is the “strongest evidence yet” for the natural origin of the pandemic. The dogs’ genetic data came from a Chinese “wet market,” where these poor box creatures were sold for food, among many others.
An international team of researchers — Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute, Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney, and Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona — “stumbled upon” the new raw data, briefly published on the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID ), a worldwide viral genome database.
Incidentally, Andersen and Holmes were co-authors of an influential article in Nature Medicine dated March 17, 2020, which concluded that the novel coronavirus was not plausibly the product of a laboratory but had a “natural” origin. Republican staffers on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic recently released a revealing e-mail exchange showing that Andersen initially had private doubts about the natural origins of the coronavirus.
According to the New York Times report, the three researchers offered to “collaborate” with their Chinese colleagues, but then the raw data mysteriously “disappeared” from GISAID. Noting that the raccoon dogs could have shed the virus towards the end of 2019, The Atlantic’s Katherine Wu says: “Experts tell me that one of the strongest supports so far is that the pandemic started when SARS-CoV-2 came from animals people jumped into the country, and not in an accident among scientists experimenting with viruses.”
Some in Congress and the media might see this latest development as tipping the scales back to the previously prevailing explanation of “natural” origins proposed by Dr. Anthony Fauci and others.
Well, not so fast.
Andersen and his colleagues have never published anything in a peer-reviewed journal, and the data on which they would base their published findings quickly appeared and then just as quickly disappeared from the GISAID database, ostensibly for a future Chinese one Publication to be used on the subject.
Such publication would, of course, require the approval of the Chinese Communist Party government.
The notion of COVID-19 infection from raccoon dogs is indeed intriguing, but recent revelations offer no conclusions about the origin of the coronavirus.
That is the verdict of leading science reporters and scientists themselves. The World Health Organization, for example, does not consider anything revealed so far as “conclusive evidence of the intermediate host or origins of the virus.” The data only provide “further evidence of the presence of susceptible animals in the market that may have been a source of human infection.”
On March 17, Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO expert on COVID-19, said: “Unfortunately, this doesn’t give us an answer as to how the pandemic started, but it does give us more clues.” Likewise, as the New York Times noted: ” The new evidence will certainly give a jolt to the debate about the origins of the pandemic, even if it doesn’t resolve the question of how it started.”
Some unavoidable problems
Before believing the raccoon dog/zoonotic origin of COVID-19, American authorities — particularly congressional investigators — may wish to investigate other issues further.
- The raw data came from the Chinese Center for Disease Control, and as mentioned earlier, that data quickly disappeared. As WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed: “These data do not provide a definitive answer as to how the pandemic began, but each and every piece of data is important in bringing us closer to that answer. This data could have – and should have – been shared three years ago.”
- It remains to be seen what Andersen and his colleagues will publish. A scientifically sound argument would be impossible in one way or another if third parties did not have access to the original data on which such a publication would be based. Science requires access to hard evidence, not believing that hard evidence once existed but is no longer accessible.
- Even assuming that communist China would release information about an initial mammalian infection in a Chinese wet market, on what basis could western analysts accept it as trustworthy? Given the entire history of stubborn non-cooperation over the past three years, there is no such basis.
Richard Dearlove, former head of Britain’s famed MI6 intelligence agency, also believes COVID-19 is a man-made virus that escaped from a Chinese lab. And depending on the good faith of the communist regime or the scientists employed by it, he considers trust in China’s own assessments to be more than naïve.
As Dearlove told The Telegraph last year:
This is the world’s largest disruptive event since World War II. It’s huge. We sit and take what the Chinese are saying at face value, and what I advocate is absolutely clear debate and proper discussion, not outright suppression.
When it comes out of a lab it raises all sorts of questions about virology research, and the mere fact that this has happened and disrupted the world economy, what does that say to an aggressive, malicious regime that might want to mess with a virus?
Since the debate on the origins of COVID-19 began, there have been two dominant theories: a) that it emerged in the raw nature and jumped from an animal to a human; or b) that it is the unique product of genetic engineering that somehow escaped from a Chinese laboratory, probably the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Without access to China’s raw (unfiltered or unredacted) data and intelligence, American intelligence is still divided on the issue. According to analysts from the Department of Energy and the FBI, as well as analysts from the State Department, there is evidence of a leak in the laboratory.
Proponents of the natural origin thesis have attempted to locate the animal host previously infected with COVID-19 the first human cases.
If the raccoon dog is the beast, they have much more work ahead of them — if the Chinese communists break with their past behavior, share all their immaculate data and information, and emerge as depoliticized advocates of science and international harmony.
In the meantime, the newly created House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic could invite Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute to update them in an open session on how China is working with him and his colleagues on this raccoon dog research.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal