There are a lot of ongoing debates on the origin of the Covid-19. Unconfirmed assumptions, questions, natural disasters, and hell, many perceptions came up while fighting the battle against the coronavirus pandemic on the other side. The perception currently doing the round is that the virus originated from a BSL-4 lab in Wuhan, China. But what are the facts?
A few almost said it's the hand of God on earth punishing the humans for their sins and as a process of moving humans to get onto the right path. And Covid is all here to make us realize the reality and respect our roots again. Oh god, is this true?
On the other hand, science! The exciting space. While scientists pursue research on decoding the origin of the pandemic, whom do we blame - the God or the Science?
Fast-forward to 2021
Nearly after a year and a half, President Biden asks the U.S. intelligence to intensify the research to discover the virus's origin.
While a few say it's been spread from animals to humans and others say that it resulted from a leak from the Wuhan laboratory. Now whom do we blame?
A team of researchers went to China to investigate animal origin theory. This 12-day visit to Wuhan, backed by the World Health Organization mission, was pressed with political pressure from several angles. Well, the investigation left many questions unanswered.
In contrast to this, the prominent figures, including WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that it is too soon to rule out the lab leak theory since the lab leak started to gain traction in recent months.
The Mysterious Theories Behind the Global Virus's Origin
The novel coronavirus, scientifically known as SARS-CoV-2, spread worldwide at a very, very fast pace. Before it spread to humans, its closest relative, SARS-CoV RaTG13, was found in bats in caves in the Chinese province of Yunnan, more than 1,000 miles away from Wuhan.
It is still unclear how it had spread to humans as the given distance is too far and lacks interaction between humans and animals. It must have spread to any other intermediate animals before evolving into SARS-CoV-2.
Of all the mysteries and several turns and twists, we had to hear a lot of assumptions or whatever from many scientists. "The virus is just like a virus we would expect to see in wild bat populations, similar viruses have jumped from nonhuman animals to animals in the past, so I see no reason to speculate about this any further," Andrew Rambaut, a microbiologist at the University of Edinburgh, told Today's WorldView last year.
Peter Ben Embarek, the Danish WHO food safety expert leading the international team, said that it was "most likely" the virus spread through an intermediate animal but that more research was needed to find that animal. He added that the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 were found in the Huanan Seafood Market (a market that sold a variety of different animals). So the coronavirus was also spreading outside the market in Wuhan that suggests it was not the original source of the outbreak.
But in this case, if the animal-to-human virus transmission is valid, then there should definitely be any cases in the wild, bats or pangolins, that harbor found virus cases, first found in Wuhan. Anyways, there are no reports on such animal virus cases before the human cases were reported.
Natural origin usually happens all-time in wild viruses like they reproduce rapidly, mutate frequently acquiring bits of DNA, and change the behavior while shifting from one host to another. But probably, right now, it's time to get onto the Lab Leak theory.
Well, the Pew poll results that were conducted last year stated that almost 3 out of 10 Americans believed the virus could have been made in a lab.
Really? Did the virus accidentally escape from a lab?
The Wuhan Lab Leak Theory
The theory of a possible leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology leading to the SARS-CoV-2 virus got a lot of traction. Many speculations on the virus accidentally escaped from a research laboratory and leaked because of a biosecurity issue, or maybe was engineering to be able to infect humans in the same lab.
The hypotheses on "lab leak" are prevalent now. It should either be a researcher getting infected and then spreading the virus outside. Or, while working on a typical research "gain of function" experiments (where scientists try to make viruses and evolve), scientists can understand them better. Must have had an accidental infection from the lab transmitted either through infected equipment or via working at the labs are not unheard of.
The outgoing Trump administration released a State Department memo that asked for in-depth scrutiny of the research work at the WIV. However, the Chinese officials and scientists said that the lab was not ongoing any close relatives of SARS-CoV-2. After the WHO team considering the possibility of visiting the WIV to conduct an investigation or talk to the staff members, Ben Embarek said that they found it "unlikely" and they would not recommend pursuing the theory further. In March, WHO director-general, Tedros, however, advised that the lab leak theory requires further investigation and suggested that Beijing had not granted the researchers enough access.
These are all surprising. Now that the idea of the lab leak continues to gain attention from prominent scientists, science journalists, and the entire world, of course, it raises concerns and questions on the WHO's investigation.
While the debate on the origin of the pandemic continues to grow, the truth is still yet to be known. Meanwhile, historical biosecurity incidents have been happening since long back, called lab acquired infections or LAI.
LAIs are caused by various pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Most likely, they seem to spread via mucous membranes in body openings, respiration, consumption of food or waterborne pathogens, or being infected by a vector that is already carrying the pathogen. There are also possibilities of the virus transmission through contaminated equipment, especially syringes, etc. There are also the "gain of function" researches that are highly risky. They produce microorganisms in a secure environment and give them a functional advantage such as higher transmissibility or infectivity. This research is performed to analyze and understand how existing microbes could mutate to detect the deadliness of the virus. There are BSL-1 to BSL-4 levels that help in conducting specific research based on the pathogens and biocontainment precautions. Amid this chaos, BSL-3 is used to study SARS-CoV-2 to determine its nature.
The Investigation Team Needs a Go-To Technology: How about Blockchain?
While all this is happening, it is really tough to carry the health information, research evidence related to coronavirus on one store. Resource extraction, organization, and storage play a significant role in the entire process. There will be countless reports, studies, or surveys while pursuing research. Upon the orders of U.S. President Joe Biden, the U.S. intelligence officials are doubling their efforts to get the facts right. So, now there are several challenges for the officials to keep up with the domestic and geopolitical concerns related to the pandemic outbreak. They have to ensure that China will go transparent about the outbreak.
"The United States will also 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," Biden said. The White House supports WHO investigation and "would require China finally stepping up and allowing access needed to determine the origins, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
So, the WHO and the United States intelligence team probably require more robust technology to afford extreme transparency, evidence-based international investigation, and access to all relevant data and evidence. Also, to make the data floating with ease across the systems, maybe Blockchain would be the best one to go with.
International perspectives, comprehensive data, critical evidence, powerful reports, big numbers - this fundamental research needs an ample space that holds data in a proper, accurate way. Being an inch closer to the study will require strong, independent, open, decentralized, transparent, and traceable technology, like the blockchain. It avoids storms and helps sail smoothly.
To avoid this repetitive "false, false, false allegations, unnecessary theories, time-consuming investigation process that conflicts with the interest of nations, or the misinformation," officials should also be cautious about the blockchain technology that brings up the truth at the earliest stages. This could also avoid the social media insane posts over the lab-leak hypothesis; one should use the technology. Let us pray that the information about this "lab-leak" flows with ease and intense breakers. Due to its decentralized nature, blockchain technology could solve half of the problems during the investigation process and save tremendous operational costs. It carries information that survives for a more extended period, providing access to respective authorities and people on the network. This will eventually avoid wars. You know, misinformation could leave us in battle? People need to be given accurate and faithful information and not misleading or inaccurate.