A virus is a submicroscopic infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism. Viruses can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea. When infected, a host cell is forced to rapidly produce thousands of identical copies of the original virus. When not inside an infected cell or in the process of infecting a cell, viruses exist in the form of independent particles, or virions, consisting of: (i) the genetic material, i.e. long molecules of DNA or RNA that encode the structure of the proteins by which the virus acts; (ii) a protein coat, the capsid, which surrounds and protects the genetic material; and in some cases (iii) an outside envelope of lipids.
The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are unclear: some may have evolved from plasmids—pieces of DNA that can move between cells—while others may have evolved from bacteria.
Viral infections in animals provoke an immune response that usually eliminates the infecting virus. Immune responses can also be produced by vaccines, which confer an artificially acquired immunity to the specific viral infection.
A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic. The 1918 flu pandemic, which lasted until 1919, was a category 5 influenza pandemic caused by an unusually severe and deadly influenza A virus. The victims were often healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks, which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or otherwise-weakened patients. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people, while more recent research suggests that it may have killed as many as 100 million people, or 5% of the world’s population in 1918.
Many viruses can be synthesised de novo (“from scratch”) and the first synthetic virus was created in 2002. Although somewhat of a misconception, it is not the actual virus that is synthesised, but rather its DNA genome (in case of a DNA virus), or a cDNA copy of its genome (in case of RNA viruses).
For many virus families the naked synthetic DNA or RNA (once enzymatically converted back from the synthetic cDNA) is infectious when introduced into a cell. That is, they contain all the necessary information to produce new viruses. This technology is now being used to investigate novel vaccine strategies. The ability to synthesise viruses has far-reaching consequences, since viruses can no longer be regarded as extinct, as long as the information of their genome sequence is known and permissive cells are available. As of November 2017, the full-length genome sequences of 7454 different viruses, including smallpox, are publicly available in an online database maintained by the National Institutes of Health.
The ability of viruses to cause devastating epidemics in human societies has led to the concern that viruses could be weaponised for biological warfare.
Further concern was raised by the successful recreation of the infamous 1918 influenza virus in a laboratory.
Smallpox virus devastated numerous societies throughout history before its eradication. There are only two centres in the world authorised by the WHO to keep stocks of smallpox virus: the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Russia and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
It may be used as a weapon, as the vaccine for smallpox sometimes had severe side-effects, it is no longer used routinely in any country.
Thus, much of the modern human population has almost no established resistance to smallpox and would be vulnerable to the virus.
[ Wikipedia ]
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 ( COVID-19)
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Image Author: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM
Can viruses be man-made?
Bill Gates warns us about the possibility of “man-made” viruses
Risky Coronavirus Research
According to Hesiod, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus, the king of the gods, took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opened a jar left in her care containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world. Though she hastened to close the container, only one thing was left behind – usually translated as Hope, though it could also have the pessimistic meaning of “deceptive expectation”. From this story has grown the idiom “to open a Pandora’s box”, meaning to do or start something that will cause many unforeseen problems. A modern, more colloquial equivalent is “to open a can of worms”.
Here are only few examples showing patents related to coronavirus research.
Such research can be potentially deadly if it falls in the wrong hands…
November 16, 2006
This web page summarizes information in PubChem about patent US2006257852.
United States Patent Bickerton et al . ( 10 ) Patent No . : US 10 , 130 , 701 B2 ( 45 ) Date of Patent : Nov . 20 , 2018
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to an attenuated coronavirus comprising a variant replicase gene, which causes the virus to have reduced pathogenicity. The present invention also relates to the use of such a coronavirus in a vaccine to prevent and/or treat a disease.
Update Apr 28, 2020 – Newsweek
DR. FAUCI BACKED CONTROVERSIAL WUHAN LAB WITH MILLIONS OF U.S. DOLLARS FOR RISKY CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH
Dr. Anthony Fauci is an adviser to President Donald Trump and something of an American folk hero for his steady, calm leadership during the pandemic crisis. At least one poll shows that Americans trust Fauci more than Trump on the coronavirus pandemic—and few scientists are portrayed on TV by Brad Pitt.
But just last year, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the organization led by Dr. Fauci, funded scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.
In 2019, with the backing of NIAID, the National Institutes of Health committed $3.7 million over six years for research that included some gain-of-function work. The program followed another $3.7 million, 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019, bringing the total to $7.4 million.
Many scientists have criticized gain of function research, which involves manipulating viruses in the lab to explore their potential for infecting humans, because it creates a risk of starting a pandemic from accidental release.
SARS-CoV-2 , the virus now causing a global pandemic, is believed to have originated in bats. U.S. intelligence, after originally asserting that the coronavirus had occurred naturally, conceded last month that the pandemic may have originated in a leak from the Wuhan lab. (At this point most scientists say it’s possible—but not likely—that the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated.)
The work in question was a type of gain-of-function research that involved taking wild viruses and passing them through live animals until they mutate into a form that could pose a pandemic threat. Scientists used it to take a virus that was poorly transmitted among humans and make it into one that was highly transmissible—a hallmark of a pandemic virus. This work was done by infecting a series of ferrets, allowing the virus to mutate until a ferret that hadn’t been deliberately infected contracted the disease.
The work entailed risks that worried even seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted. The problem, they said, is that it increased the likelihood that a pandemic would occur through a laboratory accident.
Nevertheless, in 2014, under pressure from the Obama administration, the National of Institutes of Health instituted a moratorium on the work, suspending 21 studies.
Three years later, though—in December 2017—the NIH ended the moratorium and the second phase of the NIAID project, which included the gain-of-function research, began. The NIH established a framework for determining how the research would go forward: scientists have to get approval from a panel of experts, who would decide whether the risks were justified.
The reviews were indeed conducted—but in secret, for which the NIH has drawn criticism. In early 2019, after a reporter for Science magazine discovered that the NIH had approved two influenza research projects that used gain of function methods, scientists who oppose this kind of research excoriated the NIH in an editorial in the Washington Post.
“We have serious doubts about whether these experiments should be conducted at all,” wrote Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins University and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard. “With deliberations kept behind closed doors, none of us will have the opportunity to understand how the government arrived at these decisions or to judge the rigor and integrity of that process.”
Source: Newsweek, April 28, 2020
BBC News: Coronavirus: Chile to introduce controversial ‘virus-free’ certificates
Chile’s government has said it will go ahead with a controversial plan to issue certificates to people who have recovered from Covid-19.
The documents would be given to people to allow them to return to work, Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said there is “no evidence” that people who contract coronavirus are immune from being infected again. It said certificates could inspire false confidence and help it spread.
“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO said in a briefing note on Friday. *
The body argued that so-called “immunity certificates” could even be harmful, because they could lead people to ignore public health advice and therefore increase the risk of transmitting the disease.
* In the context of this WHO narrative, mandatory Covid-19 vaccination will work better than antibodies of people who recovered from the infection ???
Another WHO narrative: people with no symptoms of Covid-19 infection can still spread infection – therefore they must be vaccinated as well …
but it seems that vaccine will not protect them from a second infection?
Comment: It seems the “magical” vaccine will appear sooner than expected… and it will be mandatory ( although it may not protect anyone from “secondary infection”…)
Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development [ 2010 ]
This report was produced by The Rockefeller Foundation and Global Business Network. May 2010
Below is quote from the above document
[NOTE: This scenario seems to be more like a script that is unfolding now = 10 years later ].
The entire document is available here:
Scenario Narratives LOCK STEP
A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.
[ Reminder: this scenario/script was written in 2010 ]
In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain—originating from wild geese—was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.
The pandemic blanketed the planet—though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better—China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic recovery.
China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure. During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems—from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty—leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power. At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty—and their privacy—to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability. Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth. Across the developing world, however, the story was different—and much more variable. Top-down authority took different forms in different countries, hinging largely on the capacity, caliber, and intentions of their leaders. In countries with strong and thoughtful leaders, citizens’ overall economic status and quality of life increased. In India, for example, air quality drastically improved after 2016, when the government outlawed high emitting vehicles. In Ghana, the introduction of ambitious government programs to improve basic infrastructure and ensure the availability of clean water for all her people led to a sharp decline in water-borne diseases. But more authoritarian leadership worked less well—and in some cases tragically—in countries run by irresponsible elites who used their increased power to pursue their own interests at the expense of their citizens. There were other downsides, as the rise of virulent nationalism created new hazards: spectators at the 2018 World Cup, for example, wore bulletproof vests that sported a patch of their national flag.
Meanwhile, in the developed world, the presence of so many top-down rules and norms greatly inhibited entrepreneurial activity. Scientists and innovators were often told by governments what research lines to pursue and were guided mostly toward projects that would make money (e.g., market-driven product development) or were “sure bets” (e.g., fundamental research), leaving more risky or innovative research areas largely untapped. Well-off countries and monopolistic companies with big research and development budgets still made significant advances, but the IP behind their breakthroughs remained locked behind strict national or corporate protection. Russia and India imposed stringent domestic standards for supervising and certifying encryption-related products and their suppliers—a category that in reality meant all IT innovations. The U.S. and EU struck back with retaliatory national standards, throwing a wrench in the development and diffusion of technology globally. Especially in the developing world, acting in one’s national self-interest often meant seeking practical alliances that fit with those interests—whether it was gaining access to needed resources or banding together in order to achieve economic growth. In South America and Africa, regional and sub-regional alliances became more structured. Kenya doubled its trade with southern and eastern Africa, as new partnerships grew within the continent. China’s investment in Africa expanded as the bargain of new jobs and infrastructure in exchange for access to key minerals or food exports proved agreeable to many governments. Cross-border ties proliferated in the form of official security aid. While the deployment of foreign security teams was welcomed in some of the most dire failed states, one-size-fits-all solutions yielded few positive results. By 2025, people seemed to be growing weary of so much top-down control and letting leaders and authorities make choices for them.
Wherever national interests clashed with individual interests, there was conflict. Sporadic pushback became increasingly organized and coordinated, as disaffected youth and people who had seen their status and opportunities slip away—largely in developing countries—incited civil unrest. In 2026, protestors in Nigeria brought down the government, fed up with the entrenched cronyism and corruption. Even those who liked the greater stability and predictability of this world began to grow uncomfortable and constrained by so many tight rules and by the strictness of national boundaries. The feeling lingered that sooner or later, something would inevitably upset the neat order that the world’s governments had worked so hard to establish.
PS1 Chile lockdown: Anti-government protest broken up by police
Chilean police broke up anti-government protests in Santiago and arrested 14 people on Monday night local time, citing social distancing laws.
PS2 USA – Legal responses to Coronavirus
- H.R.748 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)Public Law No: 116-136 (03/27/2020) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act ( became Public Law on March 27, 2020)
This bill responds to the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak and its impact on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses.
This bill was proposed Jan 24, 2019
- H.R.6666 – COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act ( Proposed)
To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes.
See details: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6666/all-info?r=2&s=1
[ Note: Timing of this Event is mind-boggling… was it scenario or a script?]
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted Event 201, a high-level pandemic exercise on October 18, 2019, in New York, NY. The exercise illustrated areas where public/private partnerships will be necessary during the response to a severe pandemic in order to diminish large-scale economic and societal consequences.
In recent years, the world has seen a growing number of epidemic events, amounting to approximately 200 events annually. These events are increasing, and they are disruptive to health, economies, and society. Managing these events already strains global capacity, even absent a pandemic threat. Experts agree that it is only a matter of time before one of these epidemics becomes global—a pandemic with potentially catastrophic consequences. A severe pandemic, which becomes “Event 201,” would require reliable cooperation among several industries, national governments, and key international institutions.
Event 201 was a 3.5-hour pandemic tabletop exercise that simulated a series of dramatic, scenario-based facilitated discussions, confronting difficult, true-to-life dilemmas associated with response to a hypothetical, but scientifically plausible, pandemic.
15 global business, government, and public health leaders were players in the simulation exercise that highlighted unresolved real-world policy and economic issues that could be solved with sufficient political will, financial investment, and attention now and in the future.
First known case of coronavirus traced back to November 2019 in China
A 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China may have been the first person to have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus spreading across the globe. That case dates back to Nov. 17, 2019, according to the South Morning China Post.
That’s more than a month earlier than doctors noted cases in Wuhan, China, which is in Hubei province, at the end of December 2019.
Event 201 Recommendations
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation jointly propose 7 recommendations.
Governments and the private sector should assign a greater priority to developing methods to combat mis- and disinformation prior to the next pandemic response. Governments will need to partner with traditional and social media companies to research and develop nimble approaches to countering misinformation. This will require developing the ability to flood media with fast, accurate, and consistent information. Public health authorities should work with private employers and trusted community leaders such as faith leaders, to promulgate factual information to employees and citizens. Trusted, influential private-sector employers should create the capacity to readily and reliably augment public messaging, manage rumors and misinformation, and amplify credible information to support emergency public communications. National public health agencies should work in close collaboration with WHO to create the capability to rapidly develop and release consistent health messages. For their part, media companies should commit to ensuring that authoritative messages are prioritized and that false messages are suppressed including tough the use of technology.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Center for Health Security was founded in 1998 by D.A. Henderson as the first nongovernment organization to study the vulnerability of the US civilian population to biological weapons and how to prevent, prepare, and respond to their consequences.
For over 20 years, the Center has aimed to ensure a future in which severe pandemics can no longer threaten our world. It conducts a series of projects, collaborations, and initiatives to push forward progress on global health security, emerging infectious diseases and epidemics, medical and public health preparedness and response, deliberate biological threats, and opportunities and risks in the life sciences.
PS Recent Advances in Gene Editing and Synthesis Technologies and their Implications
Paper submitted by the United States and presented by Gigi Gronvall at the August 2018 Meeting of Experts on Review of developments in the field of science and technology related to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. This paper considers several emerging biotechnology capabilities that may have implications for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), in view of their “dual use” implications for bioweapons development. It includes sections on: Gene editing; Metabolic pathway engineering; Gene drives; and Gene synthesis. The paper briefly describes some of the legitimate applications and benefits of these technologies, identifies challenges to realizing these benefits, and describes the nature and impact of their potential BW applications, to permit a balanced assessment. It then describes a recently developed framework for evaluating risks of misuse and identifying mitigation options. Finally, the paper highlights the need for greater international collaboration and harmonization of approaches to address potential biosecurity threats that might result from applications of biotechnology.
Quote from 2018 article ( view the entire article here: PDF ) :
Despite the many potential benefits of advanced biotechnologies, CRISPR/Cas and other gene editing tools could be intentionally misused for harmful applications, and thus could be an enabler for bioweapons development. For example, gene editing could be used to manipulate biological agents already of concern to the BWC. Historically, some bioweapons programs focused on altering naturally occurring pathogens to make them deadlier, make them spread more rapidly or easily, or to evade diagnosis and treatment – employing older gene editing tools and well-established recombinant DNA protocols. Newer gene editing approaches could be used for these same goals, arguably with fewer technical challenges than older approaches. Nevertheless, ensuring agent stability, achieving large scale agent production, and finding efficacious means of delivery remain the most challenging aspects of bioweapons development, regardless of the technology used to produce the agent, including by genetic manipulation. By itself, therefore, progress in gene editing may have a limited impact on the overall BW risk. The parallel development and convergence of other technologies (such as nanotechnology and automation) with genetic engineering approaches could lower barriers to weaponization by easing production and delivery challenges, and consequently increase the risk of misuse of gene editing.