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New Virus Breakout Raises Question

Found at: gopher.erb.pw:70/roman/phlog2022/780.txt

New Virus Breakout Raises Question of Bioterrorism

Source: https://bit.ly/3C42qXT
 SFTSV and Hantavirus are endemic in Shandong and Henan provinces
in recent years and the article has been updated to reflect this.
Recently, the discovery of "Langya virus" in Shandong and Henan
provinces of China has quickly attracted the attention of medical
experts around the world. The virus is a type of zoonotic henipavirus
and 35 people have been identified to be infected with this Langya
virus since 2019 in these two provinces in China.
Notably, this virus is related to the Mojiang virus-found in the
infamous Mojian Caves where the bat-borne coronavirus most similar
to the SARS-CoV-2 was discovered.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has become very interested in
henipaviruses as of late, taking great pains to obtain and reconstruct
the Nipah virus, which is not even a threat in China.
What does this all mean, and what is going on inside of China's
military labs?
What Is the 'Langya Virus'? What Are Its Symptoms?
Langya virus is part of the henipavirus family. Other henipaviruses
include the Nipah virus, which has received extensive attention and
is known for its high mortality rate, and the Hendra virus and
Mojiang virus.
Henipavirus is a genus of negative-stranded RNA viruses with
a lipid membrane on their surface. This membrane is easily damaged
in a dry environment, so henipaviruses are not primarily transmitted
through the respiratory tract, but through direct contact with
infected people or animals or contact with their feces.
According to an article published on August 4, 2022 in The New
England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the Langya virus has caused
at least 35 infections in Henan and Shandong, China, and the report
did not mention any related death case. Among all the patients,
26 people were infected with the Langya virus only, and nine others
were infected with other pathogens at the same time.
All 26 patients with the Langya virus infection have experienced
fever. Their probability of suffering from anorexia, coughing,
weakness, muscle pain and leukopenia are as large as 50 percent.
In addition, liver function impairment, thrombocytopenia, and
headaches are also common symptoms of the Langya viral infection.
This report also mentioned that live Lanya virus was isolated from
a patient's sample and full genome sequence was characterized.
The phylogenetic analysis based on the L gene homology indicated
that the Langya virus was the closest to Mojiang virus, but not
Nipah or Hendra virus, the two more commonly known henipaviruses.
Mojiang Virus: Henipavirus From a Mysterious Mine in Yunnan, China
The  Mojiang virus was found in an infamous abandoned mine in
Mojiang County, Yunnan province, China.
This mine in Yunnan first attracted attention in 2012, when six
miners working inside it contracted severe pneumonia of unknown
origin, and three of them died.
Furthermore, researchers discovered the Mojiang virus from rats in
the mine.
In 2013, virologist Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology
discovered the coronavirus RaTG13 from bats in the Mojiang mine-the
closest known relative to the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, with
a 96 percent similarity between the two, and the Mojiang mine gained
quite a bit of fame as a result.
This mine resembles a "cave of viruses," harboring these two
dangerous viruses in different hosts: coronaviruses in bats, and
Mojiang virus in rodents. There are still many questions remain
unanswered about this mysterious cave: what happened to the other
three miners who had unknown pneumonia but did not die? Did they
have any other coinfections with other viruses? After Mojiang virus
was identified, did those miners' samples get retested for any
potential zoonotic infection from Mojiang virus? What is unique
in this cave that makes it like a hub of emerging pathogens?
However, for scientists and journalists, the mine in Yunnan has
become a "black hole of no information." Due to so-called political
sensitivity, the Chinese communist regime has prevented any scientist
or journalist from going there to investigate. For instance, a group
of reporters from the Associated Press were followed by several
plainclothes police vehicles while trying to enter the mine for
investigation, and they were blocked from entering it. Another group
of researchers who managed to take samples from the mine had them
all confiscated.
In addition to the discovery of the coronavirus and Mojiang virus,
the Chinese military and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)
seem to be very interested in another henipavirus-the Nipah virus.
Is WIV working on Nipah virus as a biological weapon candidate?
Recently, a renowned scientist pointed out that WIV might still be
conducting genetic research on the Nipah virus.
Dr. Steven Quay, CEO of Atossa Therapeutics, Inc. (a clinical-stage
pharmaceutical company), is a highly experienced physician and
scientist who has published more than 300 articles and holds over 80
patents. Dr. Quay is particularly concerned about the origin of the
SARS-CoV-2 virus and has published articles suggesting that all
indirect evidence so far suggests that this new coronavirus is very
likely to have come from a laboratory.
On August 3, 2022, Dr. Quay testified before the U.S. Senate that
his analysis of the original genetic sequencing raw data published
by the WIV for the SARS-CoV-2 virus contained contaminated
sequences. If the laboratory's genetic sequencing equipment was not
cleaned sufficiently between sequencing runs, trace amounts of its
components would be left on the equipment from previous runs,
and the next sample might then become contaminated by the previous
sample.
Dr. Quay had discovered that the original raw data of the SARS-CoV-2
virus study contained part of the genome  sequences of the Nipah
virus, and somegene sequences were relatively complete. In addition,
it also contains part of the vector sequences that are used for
synthetic biology.  Therefore, Dr. Quay suspected that WIV might
be working on the restructuring or engineering of an infectious clone
of Nipah virus strain, which is a highly lethal and very dangerous
virus.
This was not just a speculation as WIV's strong interest in Nipah
virus was found in another very unusual incident: In 2019, a very
accomplished microbial virologist at the Canadian National
Microbiology Laboratory, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, secretly sent samples
of the Ebola virus and Nipah virus to WIV after stealing them from
her workplace. After her crime was exposed, the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police (RCMP) conducted an investigation, and Dr. Qiu
was fired from her job.
The Nipah virus, which was obtained at great cost by the Wuhan
Institute of Virology, is a very dangerous virus that has caused
multiple outbreaks mainly in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and
it can kill up to 90 percent of the infected population in certain
outbreaks.
Bats are very active in tropical and subtropical regions, and the
main natural host of the Nipah virus are fruit bats. Bats can also
transmit the virus to other large animals, such as horses and pigs.
China does not currently face the threat of the Nipah virus, and
there is no urgent need to develop a vaccine for it. So why is WIV
so interested in the Nipah virus? This is an alarming question.
The CDC has placed the Nipah virus on the list of "Bioterrorism
Agents" and classified it as a Category C pathogen-a virus with the
potential to be engineered into a biological weapon.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the website of WIV even listed
a "military management division."  This suggested that WIV is not
just merely a collaborator for the People's Liberation Army. Military
operation was part of the whole WIV operation even before Xi
Jinping launched nation-wide Military-Civil fusion transformation
for many institutes.
Although China joined the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)
in 1984, it is suspected that it might not have stopped its research
on biological and chemical weapons.
A Military Field-Testing of Dangerous Pathogens?
Indeed, the discovery of the Langya virus also showed elements
of military involvement.
The key authors to that report are Drs. Li-Qun Fang and Wei Liu,
whose institutional affiliation was shown to be "Beijing Institute
of Microbiology and Epidemiology (BIME)".  However, BIME is
actually the same entity as "Institute of Microbiology and
Epidemiology, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, under People's
Liberation Army."  In addition, in the supplementary materials
of this report, it was clearly indicated that the PLA's 990 Military
Hospital in Henan province was involved in this study. And the report
indicated that 34 out of the 35 patients were local farmers. Why were
the farmers' samples analyzed in a military hospital as part
of a sentinel surveillance program?
Moreover, although the report indicated that those 35 patients
infected with Langya virus were identified during "sentinel febrile
illness surveillance." It is very unusual to report the discovery and
isolation of a live henipavirus with significant delay of two years. 
The discovery of henipavirus should be very alarming news in the
public health aspect, and should have been reported in 2019.
Meanwhile, among the 35 patients, six patients were found to be
co-infected with severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus
(SFTSV) , and two patients were found to be co-infected with
Hantavirus.
The SFTSV and Hantavirus are highly infectious viruses that could
lead to severe viral hemorrhage and their outbreaks in China are
relatively rare events. So, in this so-called "sentinel febrile
illness surveillance", this group of military scientists identified
three dangerious pathogens at one time, and several of them
were co-infected with two rare pathogens?  How likely would this
happen in a natural situation?  And in regular sentinel febrile
illness surveillance, these viruses would not be included in the
regular screening under normal circumstances.
In addition, all three viruses, Langya, SFTSV, and Hantaviruses
infect rodents.  SFTSV is a novel phlebovirus in the Bunyaviridae
family, and certain tick species have been demonstrated as
a competent vector of SFTSV by experimental transmission study
and field study. Langya virus and Hantavirus can infect humans if
people encounter rodent droppings or feces.  So, in order for the
patients to be co-infected with SFTSV and Langya, the rodents need
to be infected by the ticks first to get SFTSV, and also their
droppings and feces need to be touched by those farmers. How
"lucky" that these scientists were to find all these co-infection
cases from a field case-study perspective.
Although SFTSV and Hantavirus infections have become endemic
in Shandong or Henan province in recent years, it is still very
unusual to see patients co-infected with these dangerous pathogens,
and no patient died even though SFTSV and Hantavirus have high
mortality rates. Realistically speaking, this study appears to be
a targeted surveillance project to look for certain pathogens'
zoonotic infections to humans, transmitted by rodents, with
screening of different species of rodents. 
Would it be possible that this study was a test of these dangerous
pathogens and see which one was more prone to cause human
infection? With the involvement of a military hospital and scientists
from PLA, would it be possible that this was a field release of
multiple dangerous pathogens followed by field screening of rodents
and potential human infections caused by infected rodents? We have
no resources to address these questions, so let these questions serve
as an alarm for national security experts, beyond being a reasonable
speculation. 
Such Virus Research Endangers the Health of Mankind and Needs to
Be Called Off
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a growing concern
about the risks associated with research into viruses.
As aforementioned, the scientists and journalists attempting to enter
the Mojiang mine to investigate are now being blocked on the grounds
of "political sensitivity." However, if this series of events directly
endangers the health of all humans, then this should not be
considered a mere political issue.
At this stage, various viruses, bacteria, and other public health crises
are already posing a great threat to people. On this basis, some
organizations are still conducting daring research, such as modifying
human genes and/or viral genes, and using various synthetic biology
means to assemble new viruses and bacteria.
These dangerous studies have been glorified as a way to better
understand pathogens and develop vaccines and drugs.
However, during the process, people may have created more dangerous
pathogens that further threaten the health of the human race. An
outbreak of a dangerous pathogen, whether from natural zoonotic
infection, or laboratory leak incident, or a release of biological
weapon, can become a major global disaster, as the COVID-19
pandemic has demonstrated.
Therefore, we need to be more stringent in monitoring, controlling,
or prohibiting such dangerous research. In the process of promoting
the development of biotechnology, we must first guard the most basic
medical ethics and the ethics of researchers.


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