MIT scientist discusses importance of finding source of COVID pandemic – CBS Boston


CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – When we all went into lockdown in March 2020, an MIT scientist began studying exactly how the coronavirus pandemic started and decided that a lab accident in Wuhan, China had to be considered as a plausible explanation.

Over the past 18 months, Alina Chan has grown into a huge following on Twitter where she has tweeted her theories and research – and has been attacked by one side and branded a hero by another. Now she’s written a new book on what she says was a “grueling journey”.

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“It all started because I wanted to ask the question: could it come from nature or from a laboratory? Somehow just bringing up the lab hypothesis offended a whole bunch of people, powerful people, but behind the scenes, in private, I received a lot of support from others. scientists, ”said Alina Chan, researcher at MIT Broad Institute.

In fact, after being dismissed as a conspiracy theory at the start of the pandemic, these questions about the possibility of a lab leak even began to creep into popular culture. Jon Stewart joked on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:” “How did that happen? I don’t know, maybe a pangolin kissed a turtle, ”he said.

But Alina Chan warns it’s not about laughing. A postdoctoral researcher in gene therapy at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (but not a virologist), she co-authored the new book “Viral” and argues that researching the origin of COVID-19 is vital to preventing future pandemics. “

Viral By Alina Chan and Matt Ridley (WBZ-TV)

“If we don’t say anything, it will happen again and again,” Chan said.

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The book argues for both possibilities: the natural transfer of the virus from bats to mammals, then to humans, or from some sort of laboratory accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that spread to the community. She adds that it is not a question of attributing blame.

“We offer the strongest possible argument for each origin,” she explained. “And we leave it to the reader to decide, so we don’t know the answer.”

Some have accused Chan of pushing the theory of the lab’s origin when there is no evidence to support this claim. “There is no evidence of a natural origin or a laboratory origin, so all the existing evidence is circumstantial. Even for the natural origin, it’s completely circumstantial,” Chan explained.

So no, there’s no hard evidence yet, but as another leading infectious disease expert, Dr. David Relman of Stanford University, told CBS News – it’s all on the table: “The laboratory leak hypotheses are absolutely legitimate,” said Dr Relman. . “They are plausible. “

Despite personal and professional online attacks questioning her credentials, Chan insists she won’t be put off: “I actually have a very solid background in handling viruses and engineering them. I have many years of experience in bioengineering, genetic engineering.

And she doesn’t regret having started asking questions. “I don’t regret pushing so hard because the scientific community really needs to step up and regain public trust.”

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Chan said the book is catching up with people on what has happened so far – there has been a lot of confusion, but she points out that no security changes have been made to the wildlife trade. or laboratory safety. So after millions of people have died and their lives have been turned upside down, we are in exactly the same place we were two years ago before anyone realized what the coronavirus was.


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