As the COVID-19 origins debate increasingly comes to resemble an eighteenth century battle-field, more and more scientists now believe that the pandemic virus was the result of a catastrophic lab escape.
For several weeks now people have been sending me links to a variety of articles which offer strong support to the theory that COVID-19, which was first recognised in the Chinese city of Wuhan, originated as a result of a pathogen escaping from a virus lab, rather than through a “natural process”, one which did not involve scientific researchers. Normally one might write “a process that did not involve human hands”, but in this instance such a description would be misleading, for the leading version of the “natural process hypothesis” involves a new viral variant evolving as a result of different species being placed in close proximity at the Wuhan Seafood Market, and it is clear that this too would have involved the participation of human hands. So let me stress that in this particular blog about COVID-19 origins the distinction is between the lab leak hypothesis, and the natural spillover hypothesis.
I have heard from one of our correspondents that there is now a pirated version of The River being offered on-line, and readers are hereby warned to avoid it. Apparently this version is badly formatted, with lots of errors, and my informant tells me “I wouldn’t download it if I were you. Might have spyware or something on it…”
I own the copyright to The River, and hopefully there will be a proper ebook version available in the future.
I recently learned from Blaine Elswood’s daughter, Elise, that he had died of prostate cancer in Costa Rica in August 2020. I am sorry to hear this, for I consider Elswood, as he always preferred to be known, to be one of the heroes of the early investigation into the OPV theory of AIDS origin. (Another unsung hero was Louis Pascal who, like Elswood, was a highly unusual man.)
I only knew Elswood through our mutual interest in the origins of the pandemic, and never met him. Apart from the various emails that we exchanged down the years, the following eulogy therefore relies on large amounts of information from his family and friends.
Elswood was born in September 1948 into a Mormon family living in Salt Lake City; he had two sisters and a brother, and was the youngest sibling. He was still young when his father moved in with another woman, leaving the four children to be raised by their mother, Edith. Apparently Elswood never quite fitted in with “his very Mormon family”, and was teased for being “sensitive”. None the less, he was a strict adherent to Latter Day Saint doctrines, and during the late 1960s spent two years as a Mormon missionary in Ireland.
In these difficult and ill-starred days it is always good to have something genuine to celebrate, and the announcement earlier this week that wild poliovirus has been eradicated from Africa is definitely an event worthy of celebration. On the face of it, this leaves just Pakistan and Afghanistan to go before the global eradication of polio can be announced. However, it is not quite that simple, because the fact that wild polioviruses have been eradicated from Africa does not mean that all polioviruses have been expunged from the continent.
S. Lochlann Jain is a Canadian Professor of Anthropology based at Stanford in California, and a Professor of Social Medicine at King’s College, London. In 2013 she published a nicely-titled book called “Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us” [Berkeley: University of California Press], based on her own experiences with breast cancer. The book was well-received and won several awards.
In 2017 Lochlann approached me for an interview: she was interested in writing a book about the Royal Society [RS] meeting in 2000 on the “Origins of HIV and the AIDS epidemic”. She explained that she had read Brian Martin’s writings on the subject such as “The Politics of a Scientific Meeting”, but was interested in another aspect, namely “why it was so seemingly easy to dismiss the detailed well-conceived challenge you made to science/virology” at the London meeting. That December Lochlann came to visit me at my home, and we spent 24 hours in quite extensive conversation. She also interviewed certain other contributors to the meeting, notably Hilary Koprowski’s former deputy, the vaccinologist Stanley Plotkin, the co-organiser of the meeting, virologist Robin Weiss, and another virologist, Preston Marx.
Welcome to the new AIDS Origins site: May 18th, 2020
First of all, let me offer my sincere thanks to the Webmaster for yet again reorganising this site. This has taken a great deal of work, all of which has been done in his own time, and without any financial recompense. The reorganisation has necessitated the site being down for a short time, and we apologise to those readers who may have been inconvenienced. The benefits of the new system include a new, clear design, a simplified and far more accessible layout of articles, a better search mechanism within the site, and a direct link to the full-length (91 minute) YouTube version of the documentary film “The Origins of AIDS”, which was originally released in 2003.
There is much to be gained from learning how new diseases emerge. This applies to the origins of the AIDS pandemic, which has now killed over 50 million people globally. I (and to my knowledge many scientists) believe that a full and convincing explanation of how AIDS began has still not been provided by the scientific community, despite claims to the contrary by many prominent figures. The COVID-19 pandemic is even more worrying in its potential impact on global health, and so there is even more need for a prompt and open-minded investigation into its origin.
Just this evening I received a heads-up from an American professor about an on-line article announcing a new piece of work by Michael Worobey, a key member of the “bushmeat school”. This is a group of scientists who believe that the “AIDS virus”, pandemic HIV-1, transferred to humans a hundred or so years ago, when a human was infected with the nearest ancestral virus to HIV-1 (the simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, of the common chimpanzee) in south-eastern Cameroon.
A man recently wrote in to this web-site to ask me an interesting question: why was it that I was still writing about the origins of AIDS? He reasoned that for most people (at least in the West) AIDS is now a treatable disease; most of the people who were involved with the CHAT oral polio vaccine in the 1950s are now dead, and in any case it is unlikely that my theory of origin will ever be definitively proved as true. Under these circumstances, why keep going? Was it just in order to apportion blame?
It is with great regret that I have learnt through one of the subscribers to this site of the death of the American journalist Tom Curtis on January 22nd, 2017. Below is the notice that appeared on his Facebook page.
“To all friends of Tom Curtis.
Tom passed away peacefully at noon today after a many-years-long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He will be sorely missed by the many who knew him and worked with him over the past 70+ years. There will be a gathering at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 502 Church Rear Street, Galveston, TX on January 29 at 10:30 a.m. According to my sources, everyone who knew or admired Tom would be welcome to attend.” Continue reading “Tom Curtis”