BIOSAFATY : China and violations.

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The Chinese regime’s path of violations is almost endless. And endless seems to be the special capability to underestimate risks, indicators and threats for our systems, coming from the Chinese regime.China’s regime violations involve a wide spectrum of sectors: human rights violations, physical suppression of the dissent, invasive people surveillance and privacy deprivation, violation of security standards in the cyber field, and indiscriminate use, without exceptions, including social and political interference in the host Countries, often disguised as medical aids, as instruments to achieve political and economical strategic goals of the regime in itself,  aimed to reach Chinese strategic interests. Such kind of violation, unfortunately, seems include also the biosefaty and biosecurity fields, which include all the safety standards which, if applied, are able to provide security, in case of the large-scale release of biological elements studied in the laboratory, capable of damaging the natural environment and human health.

It’s actually well known that the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the current pandemic, is also the city in which the National Bio-safety Laboratory is located, whose construction began in 2004 and ended in 2014.It is interesting to note how many scientific journals have highlighted, since 2013, the potential danger of the research on pathogens developed by China, dangers due to laboratory experiments with dangerous pathogens, including SARS coronavirus, and danger implemented by the lack of transparency and communication both towards the scientific community outside the Chinese borders and towards the Chinese scientific community itself, where freedom of expression and thought, and sharing  information are almost completely absent.

However,information does exist. And the sources that support them as well.

Part of the Italian press rebounded yesterday evening March 24, 2020, an article of the Italian ‘Il Secolo d’Italia’, which recalled a television broadcast of the TGR Leonardo, dated 2015. That report highlighted some Chinese research ongoing at that time, related to a so-called Hybrid virus born in the laboratory, capable of directly affecting human lungs through the SHC014 molecule.

The sources investigated, restricted within the scientific communities, and published by different scientific journals, which it would seems to prove their reliability, reveal how in unsuspected times, starting from 2013, the international scientific community, and in particular the European Society of Virology, aware that working on the laboratory mutation of pathogenic organisms entailed excessive risks, and in particular with regard to the flu virus, asked the European Commission for an urgent scientific briefing in order to highlight the risk of the so-called gain-of-function research, i.e. research and related laboratory experiments with genetic manipulations conducted to increase the pathogen, transmissibility or to alter the pathogenic percentage of potentially pandemic microbes, including those related to influenza. In particular, these experiments classified as gain-of-function research on the influenza virus on which a red alarm was launched since 2013, had the objective, at least the officially declared one, to assess: – immunological aspects of a virus, with the aim to develop more effective vaccines and determining any genetic changes that determine virulence, the host interval and alter the transmissibility of the virus; – aspects related to the adaptation of the virus, to assess the risk of potential pandemic of the strains and assess the potential of the viruses to adapt itself better to mammals, also determining the ability of these viruses to combine with other circulating flu strains; – aspects related to drug resistance of the virus, to evaluate the potential emergence of drug resistance in circulating viruses, evaluate the genetic stability of the mutations that confer drug resistance and evaluate the efficacy of the therapy associated with antiviral therapy. In addition, to determine whether viruses could become resistant to antiviral drugs and identify potentials effective drugs; – aspects relating to the transmissibility of the virus, to evaluate the potential pandemic of circulating strains and to carry out transmission studies to identify mutations and gene combinations that confer greater transmissibility in mammalian models; – pathogenesis of the virus, to assist in risk assessment and identify the mechanisms that would allow to the circulating viruses to become more pathogenic.

Despite these declared purposes in the gain-of-function experiments, the letter highlighted since 18/12/2013 on the one hand the impact of a potential catastrophic pandemics in the case of an intentional or accidental release of pathogenic viruses modified in the laboratory, and on the other hand, the impossibility to completely eliminate the risk itself. It also raised the alarm on specific reserch, aimed to conduct gain-of-function experiments with SARS coronavirus.

It’s important to note that the gain-of-function experiments had sparked a vigorous debate in the previous months also in the United States which, considering the high risks of such experiments, decided in 2014 to stop all federal funds on this experiments and research, with a particular concern for SARS flu virus and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) manipulations. The USA stance was based on the fact that the only real impact of these works was to create a new virus in the laboratory, not natural, with potential uncontrollable catastrophic effects in case of accidental release. Despite the very high risk in terms of biosecurity and biosafety highlighted by this type of experiments, the gain-of-function research continued to be conducted by China not only on the flu virus, but on the coronovarius SARS and MERS, and on a new discovered virus, different from SARS virus although related to it, which was identified as ‘SARS-like coronavirus’, acronym SL-CoV.

Now, it is evident that it would be appropriate to investigate whether there is a correlation, when not an overlap between the COVID-19 and the already known SARS-like coronavirus (SL-CoV). In fact, according with the reports on the first Chinese doctor who in December 2019 shared information with his colleagues highlighting the presence of his patients with a virus similar to SARS, he would speak of the presence in these patients of the ‘SARS virus like coronavirus’. It is therefore questionable whether what has been identified as COVID -19 should instead be defined with what could be its original name, or ‘SL-CoV (SARS like coronavirus) and subsequent modifications in the laboratory’.   Following this supposed line of thinking, COVID-19 would be not  just a virus suddenly appeared, but a virus already known and originally natural, then modified in the laboratory, and accidentally or not accidentally released, and whose origin could therefore be traced back to much earlier of November 2019, that is the time in which the latest reports trace the appearance in China of the coronavirus that today led to the current pandemic.

The scenarios are increasingly open. And to shed light on these hypothesis could be appropriate, without alarmism and on the contrary without easy and simplistic statements, blindly aimed to dismiss a fact as ‘probably natural’ for the sole purpose of not disturbing the strategic interests of those who have for years, and with inadequate security standards, manipulated viruses, up to today’s pandemic, and for the further purpose of maintaining proximity dangerous geopolitical and economic positions with the Chinese regime. This is a position that the Italian establishment seems, more or less consciously, pursuing dangerously today.

If the release, accidental or intentional, of the virus that led to the current pandemic today were confirmed, this would naturally lead to an increase in the Chinese government’s redefinition of its responsibilities.

However, the very serious Chinese responsibilities are already clearly present, although in Italy carefully ignored both by the main mainstream media and by the current Government, with which, moreover, China signed in 2019 a Memorandun of Understanding causing at the time alarm in Washington, and an important diplomatic chill between Italy and the rest of Europe, a factor which, although not clearly explained, could be one of the roots of Europe’s refractoriness to the current Italian emergency needs. It is in fact already unequivocal that China has provided information as dangerously delayed as inaccurate relating to the start of the outbreak, and it has not been able to regulate in an adequate manner according with the collective security the wet markets, from which it would declare the contagion, and whose sanitary conditions are below the limit of safety, nor to guarantee the basic services of the city of Wuhan to adequately prevent the spread of the contagion.

The facts that come to light day after day confirm today also a responsibility of the Chinese regime in the forcing, through gate-of-function research, natural elements through genetic manipulations for supposed scientific purposes, a forcing not just on dangerous pathogens, but also in a context of insufficient legislation relating to biosafety and biosecurity fields, and a forcing which the scientific international community had agreed it should be avoided due to the possible devastating effects on the whole globe and on all its inhabitants, has been instead supported by the Chinese regime. The responsibility of the Chinese government, already negligent, could assume, hour after hour, the frame of a malicious responsibility in the current pandemic.

In fact, China would have to face the enormous global responsibility for an intentional omission of information about a virus that is actually not only well known but on which, according to the information, it would have carried out careful research and genetic experiments. If the current pandemic is only fruit, and the term ‘only’ frankly is not aligned with the current global catastrophe, of delayed information, issue on which seems there are no doubt, and which the latest reports would date back to November 17, 2019 as date of detection of the first Chinese case of contagion, or rather it fits into the scenario of an accidental release of a natural virus then modified, an accident concealed by the Chinese regime, or still rather highlights the scenario of its intentional biological offensive action, in each of these cases the Chinese responsibility towards the whole globe has a global size.

In relation of the news at the beginning of this contribution, according to which China, unlike the United States, since 2015 has conducted genetic manipulation experiments on a coronavirus similar to SARS identified in bats, numerous scientific sources highlight with abundance of particular and accurate descriptions the discovery of a virus in the Chinese provinces and regions of Hong Kong, Guangxi, Hubei, Shandong, Guizhou, Shaanxi and Yunnan in which bats that tested positive for SARS like – coronavirus, and identified as SL-CoV.

In the same context and related discovery, it is possible to find scientific contributions dated 2017, and signed also, but not limited to, by the Chinese researcher Zhengli Shi (Principal Investigator, Wuhan Institute of Virology), in which it is specified to have isolated coronaviruses related to the SARS virus from a species of the genus Paguma, the Paguma larvata, to have identified infections in humans who work in wet markets, the Chinese markets where wildlife is sold and slaughtered without respectof hygiene and sanitation standards and where the Paguma larvata are sold, thus suggesting that these animals could be a source of a human infection. The scientific contributions therefore underline that since 2015 the Chinese  have identified several related SARS coronaviruses that would significantly prove that bats are natural reservoirs of SARS-CoV, and that the results of research would have indicated the high potential of this virus to infect the human cells, without the need of an intermediate host. What are the experiments and types of research carried out by the Chinese researcher Zhengli Shi (Principal Investigator, Wuhan Institute of Virology), it is a point that he explains by himself.

According with the documents resulting from the Workshop held in May 2017 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the ‘Second China-U.S. Workshop on the Challenges of Emerging Infections, Laboratory Safety and Global Health Security ‘ the researcher confirmed that  China, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Institute of Virology in the city of Wuhan, epicenter of the current pandemic called COVID-19, has led and intended continue gain-of-function experiments on the SL-CoV, research considered by both Europe and the United States at risk for the so-called biosafety, and for which the alarm had been launched since 2013, as highlighted above.

In particular, Zhengli Shi said that his experiments were focused on the corona virus, and other emerging infections, predicting that the SL-CoV from the bat could be the next pandemic. He also specified that his research was aimed at studying the pathogenesis of SL-CoV in transgenic mice and that the evidence showed that this virus replicated very well in mice and human tissues. The results of his research, as reported in the documents of the workshop, showed how the virus easily managed to enter human while in animals cells it was less pathogenic. The research conducted by Zhengli Shi also showed, according to his statements,  that some types of SL-CoV had the potential to make the leap of species and transmit from other animals to the human being.

There are no indicators in the source investigated that would suggest an interruption of such gain-of-function research and experiments by China, and therefore it is highly likely that genetic manipulation experiments on such a dangerously pathogenic element have continued beyond 2017.

To avoid misunderstandings, attempts to dissuade Chinese scientists from carry out such potentially dangerous research were also made during the same Workshop. This is also confirmed by the fact that the documents of the same Workshop highlight how the American scientists,hosted in the Workshop, tried to draw attention to the danger of the experiments relating to the virulence of influenza viruses and to the genetic manipulation associated with gain-of-function research. In fact, the scientists present at the Symposium were strongly advised to carefully consider which strategies to adopt to minimize the related risk, before starting this type of experiment and to consider all risk factors before making decisions in these research planning. The US scientists specified how the benefits of scientific research can almost always be achieved through other experimental approaches. They also recalled the need to work for the benefit of the collective security in such a delicate field by requesting: 1) greater transparency in the scientific process, 2) the regulation of information, 3) awareness of the community, 4) the professionalism of organizations, academic, industry, national leadership, international organizations, 4) the implementation of the capacity to prevent risks related to biosafety and biosecurity, 5) the need to establish an accident response protocol.

Recalls and warnings that were not considered by the Chinese government. Until we get to today’s pandemic.

Taking into  account the facts that are emerging, although the overlap between COVID-19 and ‘manipulated SL-CoV’ with all the related consequences remains to be defined by the experts of  scientific sector, it is certain that China, by its own admission, has conducted for years gate-of-function experiments, elsewhere instead blocked or suspended beacuse of their high risks in terme of biosafety and biosecurity.

In addition these experiments were carried out in a context of internal Chinese legislation related to biosafety field absolutely deficient, lacking and not respectful of international standards. The convergence of these factors led to a linear conclusion that China, even if it were ascertained that the current pandemic is not at all related to that kinds of experiments, consciously put the  humanity as a whole at risk.  Very recent sources dated August 2019 in fact, examining the Chinese legislation relating to biosafety, highlight its absolute inadequacy, also in relation to the risk assessment capacity,

The document states: ‘The risk of new developments in biotechnologies is not adequately measured as evinced by the following: a national or industry standard dedicated to biorisk assessment is lacking in China and there is no professional agency in place to guide the establishment and operation of a biorisk assessment system, which indi-cates significant loopholes in China’s biosafety management. The early-warning and forecasting system in China is incomplete,which is demonstrated by the fact that a post-event warning istheprimary form of communication that can be delivered (i.e. itlacks advance forecasting capability), and a uniform risk monitoring and early-warning standard is also absent. Therefore, the current management tools and mechanisms are not sufficiently effective in the management of emergent biosafety issues’.

And this is the scenario of the current pandemic. It is probably that in order to safeguard the politically correct and not touch the Chinese regime, which is particularly sensitive to criticism, it was preferred to underestimate visible indicators, publicly declared?

Now all humanity has to deal with all this. We must deal with the fact that there are those who cannot consider the risk indicators, or even knowing how to read them, prefer to deliberately obscure them because of clashing with their own interests, regardless of whether this determines a collective risk.

Now Italy, led today by those who, at least recklessly, in the past months have chosen to position themselves at the mercy of the geopolitical and strategic interests of the Chinese regime, thus generating a dissociation of our country from European and US positions, could be considered, with an intellectual honest approach, to take a step back. If the planes with supposed medical aid arrive with direct flights from China to Rome, or are managed with air-bridges that bring them from China to Italy through the Autonomous Province of Bolzano thanks to an agreement with the Austrian government, the focus does not change. The aid is needed, and considered all the facts and consideration above, it would be considered a duty from China, and definitely should not even provide to China an economic advantage. And, however, these aid should be verified.

Do these aid meet safety standards? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to join forces, all, Italy, Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, to produce and provide by themeselves materials that are able to meet safety standards, even if this means to spend few euros more? Or do we want to continue to be blind, irresponsible and unconscious? It is necessary that Italy takes a clear and determined position towards the Chinese regime. And we need to take a clear distance from it. It is necessary to verify whether a net demarcation of Italy from Chinese positions, a distance that for example the italian League Party had clearly highlighted as necessary in 2019, could have the effect of bringing European and Italian positions closer together, laying the foundations for a new Europe.

No further funding is needed to encourage e-learning in schools, just to give an example and refer to the statements of the Italian Prime Minister yesterday in Parliament. Not only does research reveal how Italian students are, also thanks to these e-learning methods activated massively in an emergency phase of this crisis, on the verge of a psychological collapse together with their families, but our infrastructures as well are weak and under stress, and today more than ever vulnerable to possible cyber attacks.

Or do we want to underestimate the cyber risk just as we have underestimated the biosafety risk of the Chinese regime? It is this mindset of thinking that such kind of threats can not really have an impact in our reality, a mindset of  ‘unthinkability’, it is this that can make us vulnerable, when we refuse to consider threats as possible, or we prefer to not accurately assess their range of predictability, labeling warnings as alarmism, and in this way do not take any preventive action and effective measures in time in order to disempower the risk.

It is no time for underestimations. It is no time to label positions with a judgmental approach without consider them in their substance, simply because they come from points of view different from own.It is quite time that those who really know how to deal with emergencies, for example the members of the Italian Armed Forces who have been part of missions abroad, contributing crucially and in a coordinated way to stabilize the crises, collecting  long experience and competence in crisis management, can now act here their skills, with intellectual honesty, without be under condition of  previous economic agreements, leaded by pragmatism and service spirit.This is what the military does, and just to avoid misunderstandings this is not a proposal for militarization. It is called crisis management, to be deployed, temporarily and, as it is obvious, within the borders and within the framework granted by our Constitution.

Political representatives in crisis stabilization activities are always actors and an integral part of the system, but just because of their peculiarity both in terms of purpose and experience and skills, they cannot be those who manage the crisis itself. It is time for those who are unable or unable to approach adequately an emergency crisis of such magnitude as the present one, with seriousness and humility, face – at least for now – aside, standing as actor together with the other political actors, but not as protagonists. For the better good of the Country.

Life is offering us the opportunity to evolve, not only as individuals but also as a Country and as system. We need freshness of points of view, the release of old criteria with which the strategic interests of the country have been managed so far, a new, authentic, courageous, and above all, competent and aware actions. That only if undertaken now can really allow us to get up again tomorrow.

Author: Michela Ravarini  ©Copyright reserved   Edit: 27032020, Italy 

Note:up to date at 20200327 URL  to download  the letter of urgent briefing by European Society of Virology to European Commission, dated 20131218 to do not result reachable since yesterday 20200326, date of italian edition ot the present article

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