Chinese virologists linked to Steve Bannon dropped another bogus paper claiming the new coronavirus is an 'unrestricted bioweapon'
A laboratory doctor is preparing to perform nucleic acid tests on a novel coronavirus sample on May 3, 2020 in Chongqing, China. Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
A group of Chinese virologists linked to former Trump strategist Steve Bannon released another paper Thursday claiming the new coronavirus is "an unrestricted bioweapon".
The paper suggests that the genetic sequences that scientists use to determine the natural origins of the virus are forged.
One of the authors, Li-Meng Yan, suggested in September that the virus was "artificially created" and "deliberately" released by the Chinese government.
Experts say Yan's new paper is fake and her "fancy claim" about a global scientific cover-up contains no evidence.
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Four Chinese virologists released a paper Thursday classifying the new coronavirus as an "unrestricted bioweapon" claiming the pandemic was the result of "unrestricted bioweapons".
The newspaper's lead author Li-Meng Yan made a similar claim to Fox News host Tucker Carlson last month. Yan told Carlson that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released the "artificial virus" "on purpose".
Experts were quick to debunk the claim, calling it "bizarre and unfounded".
The idea that China developed and then released a laboratory-made coronavirus echoes a conspiracy theory that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump alluded to in May.
Yan's second report doubles the theory, accusing scientists from around the world of creating fake coronavirus sequences from bats and other animals and uploading them to a genetic database. According to the paper, the aim of these efforts is to disguise the "true origin" of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
According to Emma Hodcroft, a geneticist who studies coronavirus at the Nextstrain group in Switzerland, the authors have little evidence to support these allegations.
"For me, the most eccentric claim is that there is a global conspiracy of scientists to plant 'fake' SARS-like CoV genomes in public databases to lay the groundwork for making and publishing a deadly variant," she told Business Insider.
The crazy origin of SARS-CoV-2
We still don't know how or where the coronavirus pandemic began - and this uncertainty creates fertile territory for unsubstantiated theories.
Most experts believe that the virus originated in bats before it leaps to humans. One study found it shared 96% of its genetic code with coronaviruses taken from Chinese bat populations.
Laboratories around the world, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, have collected samples of existing coronavirus from bats and pangolins prior to the pandemic. By comparing the similarities between these existing sequences with the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2, experts have ruled out the possibility that the virus has been genetically modified.
A larger horseshoe bat, a relative of the Chinese bat species that was the original host of the SARS virus. De Agostini / Getty
But Yan's group suggested in September that Chinese scientists created the virus using existing bat coronavirus as a "backbone" or "template".
A March study published in the journal Nature discredited this theory: The study based on the genetic analysis came to the conclusion that the new coronavirus is not a mess of existing coronaviruses, not a "laboratory construct" or a "specifically manipulated virus".
"The genetic data show irrefutably that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from a previously used virus backbone," the researchers wrote.
After Yan's first newspaper went online, Twitter blocked her account. The company frequently flags tweets with controversial claims about COVID-19.
Accuse scientists of global conspiracy
In their new paper, Yan and her co-authors argue that scientists deposited bogus coronavirus sequences in GenBank, a genetic sequence database operated by the National Institutes of Health. They claimed the effort was "orchestrated by the CCP government" to promote the "natural origin theory" - or the idea that the virus came from animals.
Any scientist who subscribed to the "Natural Origin Theory" has either been misled by scientific fraud or "collaborated with the CCP government."
An illustration of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. CDC
Angie Rasmussen, a virologist from Columbia University, agreed with Hodcroft that Yan's claims were unfounded.
"Most recently, I checked that just accusing an entire global community of scientists who rely on evidence to evaluate data is not itself evidence of this global conspiracy to deliberately trigger and cover up a pandemic," Rasmussen tweeted Thursday .
Hodcroft says most of the samples that Yan's group says are fake were fake before the pandemic started.
"This allegation implies that there have been years of coordination and fake sequence generation," Hodcroft said, adding, "This is an incredible claim and would require a significant burden of proof to secure it, which is missing in the paper."
The virologists work for non-profit organizations that were once headed by Steve Bannon
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly
According to their records, Yan and her co-authors are affiliated with the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, two nonprofits based in New York City. Both groups were led by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon before his arrest in August.
Bannon co-founded groups with exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who previously worked with Bannon to accuse CCP officials of corruption.
Guo's website, G News, has also published several (debunked) stories claiming the coronavirus came from a Chinese laboratory and was deliberately spread by the military.
The rule of law organizations lack a history of publishing scientific or medical research, and neither Yan's new paper (nor the first) has been peer-reviewed by other scholars.
In an interview with Fox 'Carlson on Wednesday, Yan said her second paper was "reviewed by top people in the US government" before it was published. She did not give any further details about who these people were.
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