Sunday, April 21, 2024

Covid-19 more probably had an unnatural origin

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The Covid-19 pandemic in more probability had an unnatural origin than a natural one with a potential source being a lab accident or leak, according to new research that employed a commonly used risk analysis tool to arrive at this conclusion.
Originally designed to distinguish between natural epidemics and deliberate biological attacks, researchers modified the Grunow-Finke Tool (mGFT) by tweaking the criteria to determine the likelihood of the nature of the pandemic’s origin.
The study, findings of which were published in the journal Risk Analysis, said the possibility of a laboratory origin of the Covid pandemic cannot be easily dismissed.
The mGFT tool, previously applied to smaller outbreaks, contains 11 criteria such as intensity and dynamics of the pandemic, including its rapid and unusual geographic spread, an unusual strain of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and peculiarities in clinical symptoms experienced.
The researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia, assigned points from one to three to each criterion based on available evidence collected from literature and case data from the public source ‘Our World in Data’ that gathers information from the WHO, John Hopkins University and official government reports.
Factors such as biological risk of bat virus research at Wuhan Institute of Virology, unusual strain, pandemic intensity and dynamics were assigned points of three, three, and two, respectively, while clinical symptoms was assigned two points.
Each criterion was multiplied by a weighting factor (1-3) to compute a score. A final score of more than 50 per cent favoured unnatural origins, while less favoured natural origins.
The final score that the mGFT algorithm calculated produced a total of 41 out of 60 points. Being more than 50 per cent, the researchers concluded a higher probability of COVID-19 originating unnaturally, with a focus on lab accidents or leaks as potential sources.
Being used in the context of a pandemic for the first time, the researchers said the tool may require further testing and training. Also, higher scores tend to be assigned to criteria such as pandemic intensity and unusual rapid spread, which can lead to overall high scores favouring unnatural origins.
To minimise subjectivity in scoring, the team’s results were reviewed by two other experts.
The researchers said the modified GFT provides a risk analysis framework that can be applied to differentiate between natural and unnatural epidemics and the tool should be included in the toolset for investigating the pandemic’s origins.
“The strengths of this study include a more comprehensive analysis of factors ranging from traditional virology, epidemiology, and medical factors to situational and other intelligence,” the authors wrote in their study.
“The debate about the origins of SARS-COV-2 has been focused largely on medical evidence but not on other intelligence, which is key to identifying unnatural epidemics,” the researchers wrote.

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