Dr. Lucey’s fifth question addressed a detailed report in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, which identified an early case of human corona virus on November 17 in Hubei Province. The province is the size of the state of Washington and Wuhan is the capital. In March Dr. Lucey wrote a blog post about the report describing the rapid spread of the virus in Hubei based on information the government says the report says. Now Dr. Lucey urged the World Health Organization investigators to determine where each of these early Hubei cases was reported, whether they actually occurred, and whether other “documented or suspected” human infections may have occurred earlier.
The sixth and seventh questions relate to whether the deadly pathogen jumped onto humans from a laboratory. Although some intelligence analysts and scientists have maintained this scenario, no direct evidence is known that the coronavirus escaped from one of Wuhan’s laboratories.
Given the downgrading of the wet market in the study, it is still important to “answer questions about a possible laboratory source of the virus, whether in Wuhan or elsewhere,” wrote Dr. Lucey in his blog post.
For this purpose, he requests the W.H.O. The researchers are looking for signs of “functional gain research” – the targeted improvement of pathogens to make them more dangerous. The technology is very controversial. Critics question its merits and warn that this could lead to catastrophic laboratory leaks. Proponents see this as a legitimate way to find out how viruses and other infectious organisms can develop, to infect and kill people, and to develop new protective and precautionary measures.
Debate about his wisdom erupted in 2011 after researchers announced they would make the highly lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu easily airborne between ferrets, at least in the laboratory.
In his blog Dr. Lucey, which feature gain studies have been done on corona viruses in Wuhan, elsewhere in China, or in collaboration with foreign laboratories.
“If this is done scientifically well, this investigation should dispel persistent concerns about the origin of this virus,” he wrote. “It could also help set an improved standard for the study and control of terrible viruses and other pathogens in the coming decades.”