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Wuhan Lab deserves a Nobel Prize, says China

By Jim Geraghty, National Review

The Chinese Foreign Ministry argues that the Wuhan Institute of Virology deserves to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine; a look at the blatant contradictions in China’s propaganda about vaccine diplomacy; a senator shrugs off his membership in an all-white private beach club; and apparently progressives can’t find anything to enjoy this summer.

Late last week, the Chinese Academy of Sciences nominated the Wuhan Institute of Virology for its Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement Prize, specifically naming Shi Zhengli, a.k.a. “Bat Woman,” and Yuan Zhiming, director of the WIV’s Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory.

Chinese state-run media explained that, “The award is mainly given to individuals or research groups who have made or demonstrated significant achievements in the past five years . . . China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed at Thursday’s press conference that scientists working at the WIV should be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine, rather than being blamed for being the first to discover the gene sequence of the novel coronavirus.”

We must admit, the Institute’s work really has touched all of our lives, hasn’t it? And just think how many medical breakthroughs we’ve seen in the past 18 months from Pfizer and Moderna and Oxford and Johnson & Johnson that never would have occurred if hadn’t been for the earlier work of the Wuhan Institute of Virology? The WIV’s work literally brought the world to a screeching halt. It even made late-night television funny again.

Snark aside, the fact that the Chinese government insists the Wuhan Institute of Virology deserves celebration is another indicator that it intends to change nothing in the aftermath of the pandemic. In her recent brief interview with the New York Times, Shi Zhengli said that “bat viruses in China could be studied in BSL-2 labs because there was no evidence that they directly infected humans.” (Biosafety-level-2 laboratories are designed to work with moderately dangerous viruses such as staph infections, hepatitis, or HIV. Biosafety-level-4 facilities work with the most dangerous viruses, particularly contagious pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg.)

Shi’s argument wants it both ways. Part of the argument in support of the zoonotic theory of SARS-CoV-2’s origins is that new viruses jump from animals to people all the time, and thus that is what most likely happened in this case. (Note that past research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, studying the people who lived closest to the known habitats of horseshoe bats in Yunnan Province, found that just 2.7 percent of people have antibodies indicating past exposure to bat viruses.)

One option is that indeed, it’s extremely unusual for bat viruses to infect human beings — which makes SARS-CoV-2 extremely different from most viruses found in horseshoe bats, suggesting something about the virus may have changed or been altered to make it more contagious among human beings. Or another option is that it isn’t so rare for bat viruses to infect human beings, which would suggest that these viruses shouldn’t be studied in BSL-2 laboratories. Pick one.

Read More at National Review.

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