Evidence suggests that fast-spreading omicron COVID variant came from a lab

In an exclusive report, Sharyl Attkisson presents evidence that is causing scientists to suspect that the omicron variant of COVID, currently causing cases to spike all over the world, and China to lock down major cities, is not the product of normal viral evolution, but instead came from a lab.

[S]ome scientists examining the virus have concluded "vast" genetic mutations that likely occurred in a lab setting are what makes Omicron spread so quickly.

Omicron was first detected in Botswana, South Africa, reported to have been brought by a foreign delegation from a country officials will not identify, making it more difficult for outside observers to track its origin.

To many scientists, the genetic differences that made Omicron so quickly transmissible caused it to immediately stand out as unlikely to be a result of a natural evolution. Some note the "rapid accumulation of mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant that enabled its outbreak."

"There was a large number of mutations in this variant — many more than we would expect from the normal evolution of this virus," said virologist Andrew Pekosz, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Importantly, many mutations occurred in the spike protein — the protein the virus uses to bind to and enter cells — which is the target of the vaccine."

"It did not follow the trajectory of the outbreak," says a researcher studying the virus for the US government who did not wish to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the topic. "One of the hypotheses is that there's been a cryptic, a completely separate outbreak going on," or a "cryptic transmission" independent of mice. "Perhaps someone immune-compromised was infected, and active replication of the virus was maintained for a very long time.

But there is another disturbing theory —  one considered more likely by some scientists working on the issue: that Omicron was bred in a lab and escaped.

It is possible "that serial passaging in mice was done in a laboratory somewhere, and add[ed] an accidental or on purpose release on the back end," says a scientist with knowledge of the matter. "The short version is that the least likely scenario is that this was a natural human transmission chain that created the lineage and we just failed to detect it. The number and makeup of the changes would have required a vast number of infections to support."

How and why this might have occurred are unclear.  There is much more on this question and on the other suspicious characteristics of omicron at the link to Sharyl's article.  But it is noted that labs all over the world are working on COVID, so the possibility of an accidental leak is higher than if one lab — especially a sophisticated first-world lab — were the only one conducting research.

I had initially assumed that omicron followed the normal pattern of viral evolution, becoming more contagious and less lethal.  But the possibility of a lab leak opens the door to all kinds of sinister possibilities, especially since the long-term consequences of the various forms of COVID are still unknown.

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