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Biden orders probe into virus origins

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Biden orders probe into virus origins:


Context:

U.S. President Joe Biden has asked American intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to analyse the origins of COVID-19, to determine whether it emerged from human-animal contact or via a laboratory accident.

  • The United States also said that it will keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.

Implications of this move:

This announcement significantly adds to the growing pressure on China to be more open about the origins of the SARS-COV-2 virus, an outbreak of which was seen first in early 2020 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which houses the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Why is the lab in Wuhan a focus on interest?

The institute collects genetic material from wildlife for experimentation.

  • The lab has done extensive work on bat-borne viruses since the 2002 SARS-CoV-1 international outbreak, which began in China.
  • The search for its origins led years later to discovery of SARS-like viruses in a southwest China bat cave.

How the virus might have leaked from this lab?

  1. Researchers experiment with live viruses in animals to gauge human susceptibility. To reduce the risk of pathogens escaping accidentally, the facility is supposed to enforce rigorous safety protocols, such as protective garb and super air filtration. But even the strictest measures cannot eliminate such risks. So, there is a reason to believe that the virus might have originated in the lab.
  2. Additionally, the lab is not far from the Huanan Seafood Market, which early in the health crisis was cited as the most likely place where animal-to-human transmission of the virus may have taken place. The market was also the site of the first known COVID-19 superspreader event.

Above all, the Chinese government’s refusal to allow the lab-leak scenario to be fully investigated adds fuel to these theories.

What do Scientists who favor the natural origins hypothesis say?

Some of the most lethal new diseases of the past century have been traced to human interactions with wildlife and domestic animals, including the first SARS epidemic (bats), MERS-CoV (camels), Ebola (bats or non-human primates) and Nipah virus (bats).

While an animal source has not been identified so far, swabs of stalls in the wildlife section of the wildlife market in Wuhan after the outbreak tested positive, suggesting an infected animal or human handler.

 

Insta Curious:

Do you know the differences between Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi, and Protozoa?

Read here

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is mRNA?
  2. What are zoonotic diseases?
  3. Overview of SARS, MERS, Ebola and Nipah.
  4. Diseases caused by various pathogens.
  5. What is SARS-CoV-2 virus?
  6. What is RT PCR test?
  7. Differences between antigens and antibodies.

Mains Link:

It is still not known whether Covid 19 virus emerged from human-animal contact or via a laboratory accident. Discuss how international community is considering the matter.

Sources: the Hindu.