Sunday, 1 March 2020

Coronavirus origins and spread:The role of Wuhan Institute of Virology

Below are articles from official and unofficial sources. I have added  information from the United States' equivalent of the Wuhan Institute of Virology for comparison.

Coronavirus origins and spread:

The role of Wuhan Institute of Virology

NY Times book predicted COVID-19 39 years ago STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2020 - 12:00am

There is no question that we do get a lot of news from the social media networks like Facebook and too often even if an important piece of news appears in my Facebook page, not many Netizens give some news items any importance. For instance, a few days ago, my good friend Prof. Gabby Lopez who is a good Facebook friend of mine showed in his Facebook page a cover of a book entitled “The Eyes of Darkness,” which is a thriller novel by American writer Dean Koontz that was released 1981. Now this was a New York Times thriller written 39 years ago.

Upon further check we learned that the book focuses its story on a mother who sets out on a quest to find out if her son truly did die one year ago, or if he was still alive. Like what I said this novel is a thriller, however on page 333 it said that a Chinese defected carrying a diskette record of China’s most important and dangerous biological weapon in a decade. The author wrote, “They call the stuff Wuhan-400 because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the City of Wuhan and it was the 400th visible strain of man-made microgranism created at the research center.

Wait-a-minute… it is talking about the City of Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus now officially known as COVID-19 that has affected the globe for the past month. But again the author David Koontz wrote this piece 39 years ago. Let me continue. The author wrote that Wuhan-400 is a perfect weapon. It afflicts only human beings.” What is even more remarkable is what the author wrote “In around the year 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments.”

Truly this book which the Social media networks are only getting to know at this time is truly remarkable as it was written 39-years ago when at that time the City of Wuhan isn’t the city that has grown today. What makes this book a prophesy is the fact that it mentions the Year 2020 when a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread the globe. For sure no one could have predicted anything that would be happening to the world 39-years ago.

Mind you when the novel coronavirus was uncovered by late December 2019 and began spreading its deadly poison, a few Netizens wrote that this virus could have come from a research lab in China that was testing a virus for biological warfare. I suspect that this information came from someone who must have read the book “The Eyes of Darkness” sometime ago. So I started looking if whether a few people must have written about this book. So I searched my Google for this.

What I got was a front-page Taiwan News dated Feb.13, 2020 and let me reprint this for our readers;

As the Wuhan virus claims new victims around the world, Twitter users have pointed out that in the 1981 novel, “The Eyes of the Darkness,” there is a disease called “Wuhan-400.” The American author, Dean Koontz’s suspense thrillers have often appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list.

In chapter 39 of his book, Koontz writes about a virus developed in military labs near the city of Wuhan by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a biological weapon, reported Liberty Times. The scientist leading the Wuhan-400 research is called Li Chen, who defects to the US with information about China’s most dangerous chemical weapons. Wuhan-400 affects people rather than animals and cannot survive outside the human body or in environments colder than 30 degrees Celsius. The similarities between the made-up virus and the Wuhan virus has got Twitter users struggling to comprehend the improbable coincidence. One big difference: Wuhan-400 has a 100 percent kill-rate, while the Wuhan virus does not.

Some people were skeptical about Koontz’s prediction 39 years ago, however, pointing out that earlier editions of the book refer to the virus as Gorki-400, a production of the Soviet Union. In response, several netizens have posted pictures of the book’s newer editions to explain the name of the virus was indeed altered, possibly due to the end of the Cold War in 1991, reported SET News.”

I’m only writing this piece simply because not everyone is on Facebook and even some Netizens have not known about the existence of this book. But the fact remains that David Koontz wrote this piece 39-years ago and wrote that it would happen to the globe in the year 2020 seems like a prophesy come true. Today the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that 72,000 people have been affected by the COVID-19 and nearly 1,900 people have already died including Dr. Li Wen Liang who discovered the virus and died Feb.7th.

*      *      *



Founded in 1956, Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), was initially named as Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory. It was among the earliest national institutions established after the founding of the New China. In 1961, it became the South China Institute of Microbiology of CAS, and was redesignated as Wuhan Microbiology Institute CAS in 1962. In 1970, under the administration of the Hubei Commission of Science & Technology, it was renamed as Microbiology Institute of Hubei Province. In June 1978, it was returned to the administration of CAS, and adopted its current designation.

Through continuous reorganization and sustained efforts of our researchers, WIV has remained strong in such research fields as microbiology and virology throughout its history. Characterized by persistence and diligence, the scientists in WIV have made great achievements in the studies of virology, applied microbiology and biotechnology by addressing national strategic demands and cutting-edge scientific questions. The achievements marked the S&T strengths of WIV in agricultural and environmental microbiology. In particular, being at the forefront of basic and applied researches on insect viruses, WIV has made great achievements in isolation of insect viruses and production of viral insecticides. For example, WIV developed Helicoverpa armigeranucleopolyhedrovirus (HearNPV) as the first viral insecticide registered in China, which has been widely utilized. WIV has also developed microbiological mosquitocide, contributing much to the control of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. The commercialized standards and application of Bacillus thuringiensis won the 2nd Award for National Science and Technology Progress. Furthermore, WIV developed the first biosensor (Biochemical Oxygen Demand biosensor for the detection of environmental pollution) in China.

Since 2002, by joining the CAS Knowledge Innovation Program, WIV has extended its research areas from agriculture and environment-related fields to medicine-related fields in order to meet the national strategic demand of public health, national security, and sustainable agriculture development. From then on, WIV has undergone major reorganization by means of retaining researches into major disciplines, recruiting and training innovative talents in new disciplines and developing appropriate research platforms. Pathogenic study of emerging infectious diseases has become one of the major research fields. Great achievements have been made in animal origin studies of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov) and avian influenza viruses.

About WIV

The predecessor of Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences was the Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, prepared to be built in 1956, jointly established by the famous virologist academician Gao Shangyin and the famous microbiologist academician Chen Huagui and a batch of older generation scientists, formally announced to be established in 1958, mainly engaged in agricultural virus and environmental microbe research. At the beginning of 1961, Wuhan branch institute and the Guangzhou branch institute merged to set up the Zhongnan Branch of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan Microbiology Research Laboratory was hence renamed as Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In October 1962, it was again renamed to Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 1966, the local branch institute of Chinese Academy of Sciences was cancelled. In 1970, Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences was placed under the leadership of Hubei Province, changed its name to Hubei Provincial Institute of Microbiology. In 1978 on the eve of holding the National Science and Technology Conference, it returned to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, known as Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Wuhan Institute of Virology has made a series of important progresses in terms of insect virus, animal virus, molecular virus, virus classification preservation, environmental microbes, fermentation microorganisms and microbial sensors. A number of research achievements have earned national level, Chinese Academy of Sciences and provincial & ministerial level awards for scientific and technological advancement.
In 1998, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a pilot project for knowledge innovation. Wuhan Institute of Virology had been centering on the institute reform, setting its strategy in the virus, microbe application research and biological high-tech innovation, and developing a comprehensive supporting reform implementation plans. In 1999, it successfully passed the classification and positioning of Chinese Academy of Sciences, was included in the high-tech research and development base-type research institute. In 2002, it was formally approved into the institute knowledge innovation project pilot sequence, the work of the entire institute had entered into a new stage.
In 2003, SARS virus broke out in our country, the state and the Chinese Academy of Sciences promoted the prevention and control of newly emerging diseases to a new strategic height, Wuhan Institute of Virology adjusted the discipline layout in a timely manner, on the one hand it was to have the advantage integration for the traditional preponderant disciplines such as insect virology, aquatic animal virology, biological control, analysis of biotechnology etc.; on the other hand, through the training and the introduction of talents, it was to lay out a series of medical virus-related discipline groups, engaged in the researches of HIV, influenza virus, hepatitis virus, tumor virus and zoonotic virus and virus replication and antiviral drugs etc. In 2004, the Chinese and French governments signed a cooperation agreement on fighting and preventing new diseases, stressing the active cooperation between China and France in the construction of high-level biosafety laboratories and the system construction of biosafety laws and regulations etc. In order to implement the spirit of Sino-French agreement, in 2005, Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook the task of building a national biosafety laboratory of Wuhan, Chinese Academy of Sciences. With nearly 10 years of unremitting efforts, the laboratory completed the physical facilities in January 2015. In August 2016, it obtained the recognition and authentication certificate for the critical protection equipment installation and commissioning. After the completion of the laboratory, it is expected to carry out the scientific research on the prevention and control of new infectious diseases and biosafety in order to meet the needs of early warning, detection, research and biosecurity prevention system for newborn and strong infectious diseases in China. It is expected to become the prevention & control research and development center for China’s newly born diseases, virus seed storage centers and WHO reference laboratory, which shall play a basic, technical support role in China’s major newborn infectious diseases prevention and control, effectively improving our defense and resilience towards biological wars and terrorist attacks,  maintaining the national biosecurity.
The strategic positioning of Wuhan Institute of Virology is to face the national population health, sustainable development of agriculture and national security, look on the international frontier for the research field of virology, focusing on the researches on newly emerging,  outburst infectious diseases and biosecurity, major viral infectious diseases etiology and innovative drug for agriculture, environmental microbes and ecological protection, virus bionic and emerging biotechnology, virus identification, system classification and bioinformatics and other aspects, in the construction of high-level biosafety research and technology system, biological nano-devices, green agricultural technology Integration and application and other scientific frontiers, it is to make the original innovation contribution, enhance our emergency responsiveness to new and sudden infectious diseases, built the Wuhan Institute of Virology into a comprehensive virology research institution with international advanced level.
Wuhan Institute of Virology is equipped with a general office, scientific research planning office, organization & personnel department, finance department, graduate student office , with five functional management departments, logistics support center, network information center, public technical service center (including analysis and testing center, experimental animal center, BSL -3 laboratory, isotope room, etc.), Virologica Sinica  (English version), Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, State Key Laboratory of Virology and other support departments.
In the scientific research layout, there are 37 discipline groups, belonging to the molecular virology research center, analysis of microbiology and nano biology research center, microbial virus seed resources and application center, virus pathology research center, new infectious disease research center which are 5 research centers. It is to build the national high-level biosafety laboratories, China’s virus preservation center, the State Key Laboratory of Virology, the national emergency laboratory for outburst public health event, the national level international cooperation research center and other five national R & D base. It possesses the key laboratory of Chinese Academy of Sciences for newly emerging and fulminating infectious disease pathogen and biosecurity, key Laboratory of agricultural and environmental microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hubei provincial virus and disease engineering technology research center, Hubei provincial small and medium enterprises common technology biopesticide R & D promotion center, Wuhan new infectious disease key laboratories which are five provincial and ministerial level R & D bases. It has initially shaped a characteristic platform with level IV biosafety laboratory as the core, biosafety level III laboratory (BSL / ABSL-3) (Qty.: 2) and biosafety level II laboratory (BSL-2 / ABSL-2) (Qty.: 17) as the cluster, it can carry out more than 10 kinds of class I and class II pathogenic experiment activities, in the research of new infectious disease prevention & control and biological prevention field, it is to provide strong support and important guarantee.

Did a 1981 Dean Koontz thriller predict the coronavirus outbreak? Readers share extracts from novel which chillingly refers to deadly viral infection named after Wuhan
  • Koontz novel The Eyes Of Darkness describes a killer virus named 'Wuhan-400'
  • The fictional virus was developed as a bioweapon in Wuhan research lab
  • Coronavirus first emerged from the same Chinese city in December 2019
  • However there are several big differences between the novel and real life 
Daily Mail on line, 28 February 2020
Dean Koontz wrote The Eyes Of Darkness in 1981, describing the 'Wuhan-400' virus
Koontz wrote The Eyes Of Darkness in 1981, describing the 'Wuhan-400' virus
Fans of author Dean Koontz are insisting that a novel he wrote in 1981 predicted the coronavirus outbreak.
Koontz's thriller The Eyes Of Darkness describes a killer virus named 'Wuhan-400' after the Chinese city it originated in — the same city where COVID-19 was first reported.
Says one character in the novel: 'They call the stuff 'Wuhan-400' because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan.'
'A Dean Koontz novel written in 1981 predicted the outbreak of the coronavirus!' wrote Twitter user Nick Hinton, who first posted a screenshot of the passage from the novel earlier this month.
Koontz did not immediately respond to an inquiry from about the purported prediction in his novel.
Twitter user Nick Hinton kicked off a frenzy on Twitter by posting the above passage
Although coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, there is not yet scientific consensus about how and where it jumped to humans.
Says one character in the novel: 'They call the stuff 'Wuhan-400' because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan'
Says one character in the novel: 'They call the stuff 'Wuhan-400' because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan'
Initial theories suggested that it jumped to humans from exotic animals in a Wuhan 'wet market.' Others have suggested, so far without proof, that the pathogen may have escaped from the Wuhan Virology Lab, China's only biosafety-level four facility. 
Other than the city of origin, however, there is little similarity between the fictional Wuhan-400 and the real coronavirus.
In The Eyes Of Darkness, Wuhan-400 is a bioweapon virus that has a fatality rate of 100 percent within 12 hours.
The characters explain that the Chinese intended to use it 'to wipe out a city or a country' without the need for 'expensive decontamination'.
'Wuhan-400 is a perfect weapon. It afflicts only human beings. No other living creature can carry it. And like syphilis, Wuhan-400 can't survive outside a living human body for longer than a minute, which means it can't permanently contaminate objects or entire places the way anthrax and other virulent microorganisms can,' one character says.
Differences between Wuhan-400 and coronavirus
Despite the surface similarity, there are big differences between Koontz's fictional virus and the real coronavirus: 
 Fictional Wuhan-400
Origin: Wuhan, China
Incubation period: Four hours
Symptoms: 'Literally eats away brain tissue like battery acid dissolving cheesecloth'
Mortality rate: 100%
Origin: Wuhan, China 
Incubation period: Several days to two weeks
Symptoms: Fever, Cough, Shortness of breath
Mortality rate: Estimated 2-3%
Coronavirus however has an estimated mortality rate of just 2 to 3 percent. It can survive on surfaces for much longer than a minute, possibly hours or days, though scientists are working now to determine such properties with more precision.
In the Koontz novel, the Wuhan-400 attacks the brain.
As one character describes it: 'The virus migrates to the brain stem, and there it begins secreting a toxin that literally eats away brain tissue like battery acid dissolving cheesecloth. It destroys the part of the brain that controls all of the body's automatic functions.' 
Coronavirus, on the other hand, primarily affects the respiratory system, in severe cases resulting in pneumonia. The primary symptoms are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
The book also describes a virus that has an incubation period of just four hours, whereas coronavirus incubates for several days to two weeks. 
Finally, to the disappointment of conspiracy theorists, it turns out that in the first edition of The Eyes Of Darkness, the virus was originally called 'Gorki-400', after the Russian city where Koontz originally wrote the bioweapons lab.
After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Koontz apparently changed later editions to make China the villain.  
The Eyes of Darkness: A gripping suspense thriller that predicted a global danger...
by Dean Koontz | 5 May 2016
4.5 out of 5 stars 145
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Wuhan Institute of Virology


Wuhan Institute of Virology logo.png




  • Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory
  • South China Institute of Microbiology
  • Wuhan Microbiology Institute
  • Microbiology Institute of Hubei Province




Chen Huagui, Gao Shangyin




Secretary of Party Committee

Xiao Gengfu[1]

Deputy Director-General

Gong Peng, Guan Wuxiang, Xiao Gengfu

Parent organization


The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV; Chinese: 中国科学院武汉病毒研究所; pinyin: Zhōngguó Kēxuéyuàn Wǔhàn Bìngdú Yánjiūsuǒ) is a research institute administered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on virology, and is located in Jiangxia District, Wuhan, Hubei, China. In 2015, the Institute opened the first biosafety level 4 (BSL–4) laboratory to be built in mainland China.

The Institute was founded in 1956 as the Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). In 1961, it became the South China Institute of Microbiology, and in 1962 was renamed to Wuhan Microbiology Institute. In 1970, it became the Microbiology Institute of Hubei Province when the Hubei Commission of Science and Technology took over the administration. In June 1978, it was returned to the CAS and renamed Wuhan Institute of Virology.[2]
In 2015, the National Bio-safety Laboratory was completed at a cost of 300 million yuan ($44 million) at the Institute in collaboration with French engineers from Lyon, and was the first biosafety level 4 (BSL–4) laboratory to be built in mainland China.[3][4] The laboratory took over a decade to complete from its conception in 2003, and scientists such as U.S. molecular biologist Richard H. Ebright expressed concern of previous escapes of the SARS virus at Chinese laboratories in Beijing, and the pace and scale of China's plans for expansion into BSL–4 laboratories.[3] The Laboratory has strong ties to the Galveston National Laboratory in the University of Texas.[5] In 2020, Ebright called the Institute a "world-class research institution that does world-class research in virology and immunology".[5]
2019–20 coronavirus outbreak
In February 2020, the New York Times reported that a team led by Shi Zhengli at the Institute were the first to identify, analyze and name the genetic sequence of the Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), and upload it to public databases for scientists around the world to understand,[6][7] and publishing papers in Nature.[8] In February 2020, the Institute applied for a patent in China for the use of remdesivir, an experimental drug owned by Gilead Sciences, which the Institute found inhibited the virus invitro;[9] in a move which also raised concerns regarding international intellectual property rights.[10] In a statement, the Institute said it would not exercise its new Chinese patent rights "if relevant foreign companies intend to contribute to the prevention and control of China’s epidemic".[11]
The Institute was rumored as a source for the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak as a result of allegations of bioweapon research,[12][13] which was debunked as a conspiracy theory by The Washington Post in a piece titled: "Experts debunk fringe theory linking China’s coronavirus to weapons research".[5][12] The Post cited U.S. experts who explained why the Institute was not suitable for bioweapon research, that most countries had abandoned bioweapons as fruitless, and that there was no evidence that the virus was genetically engineered.[5][12] In February 2020, The Financial Times reported from virus expert and global lead coronavirus investigator, Trevor Bradford, who said that "The evidence we have is that the mutations [in the virus] are completely consistent with natural evolution".[14]
During January and February 2020, the Institute was subject to further conspiracy theories, and concerns that it was the source of the outbreak through accidental leakage,[15] which it publicly refuted.[16] Members of the Institute's research teams were also subject to various conspiracy theories,[17][18] including Shi, who made various public statements defending the Institute.[19] While Ebright refuted several of conspiracy theories regarding the WIV, he told BBC China that this did not represent the possibility of the virus being "completely ruled out" from entering the population due to a laboratory accident.[15]
Research centers
The Institute contains the following research centers:[20]
  • Center for Emerging Infectious Disease
  • Chinese Virus Resources and Bioinformatics Center
  • Center of Applied and Environmental Microbiology
  • Department of Analytical Biochemistry and Biotechnology
  • Department of Molecular Virology
See also
1.      ^ "现任领导".
2.      ^ "History". Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
3.      ^ Jump up to: a b David Cyranoski (2017-02-22). "Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world's most dangerous pathogens". Nature. 592 (7642): 399–400. Bibcode:2017Natur.542..399C. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.21487. PMID 28230144.
4.      ^ "China Inaugurates the First Biocontainment Level 4 Laboratory in Wuhan". Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 3 February 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
5.      ^ Jump up to: a b c d Adam Taylor (29 January 2020). "Experts debunk fringe theory linking China's coronavirus to weapons research". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
6.      ^ Chris Buckley; Steven Lee Myers (1 February 2020). "As New Coronavirus Spread, China's Old Habits Delayed Fight". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
7.      ^ Jon Cohen (1 February 2020). "Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak's origins". Science. Retrieved 4 February 2020. The viral sequences, most researchers say, also knock down the idea the pathogen came from a virology institute in Wuhan.
11.  ^ Denise Grady (6 February 2020). "China Begins Testing an Antiviral Drug in Coronavirus Patients". New York Times. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
12.  ^ Jump up to: a b c Josh Taylor (31 January 2020). "Bat soup, dodgy cures and 'diseasology': the spread of coronavirus misinformation". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
13.  ^ Kate Gibson (3 February 2020). "Twitter bans Zero Hedge after it posts coronavirus conspiracy theory". CBS News. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
14.  ^ Clive Cookson (14 February 2020). "Coronavirus was not genetically engineered in a Wuhan lab, says expert". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
16.  ^ Yang Rui; Feng Yuding; Zhao Jinchao; Matthew Walsh (7 February 2020). "Wuhan Virology Lab Deputy Director Again Slams Coronavirus Conspiracies". Caixin. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
17.  ^ Broderick, Ryan (31 January 2020). "A Pro-Trump Blog Doxed A Chinese Scientist It Falsely Accused Of Creating The Coronavirus As A Bioweapon". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
18.  ^ Derek Hawkins (1 February 2020). "Twitter bans Zero Hedge account after it doxxed a Chinese researcher over coronavirus". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
20.  ^ "Administration". Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.

Posts on social media and even a scientific paper have suggested the coronavirus that causes COVID-19—seen here in orange, emerging from a cell—originated in a virology lab in Wuhan, China.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Scientists ‘strongly condemn’ rumors and conspiracy theories about origin of coronavirus outbreak



Jon Cohen

Jon Cohen is a staff writer for Science.




Scienced Mag, Feb. 19, 2020


A group of 27 prominent public health scientists from outside China is pushing back against a steady stream of stories and even a scientific paper suggesting a laboratory in Wuhan, China, may be the origin of the outbreak of COVID-19. “The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins,” the scientists, from nine countries, write in a statement published online by The Lancet yesterday.

The letter does not criticize any specific assertions about the origin of the outbreak, but many posts on social media have singled out the Wuhan Institute of Virology for intense scrutiny because it has a laboratory at the highest security level—biosafety level 4—and its researchers study coronaviruses from bats, including the one that is closest to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Speculations have included the possibility that the virus was bioengineered in the lab or that a lab worker was infected while handling a bat and then transmitted the disease to others outside the lab. Researchers from the institute have insisted there is no link between the outbreak and their laboratory.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” says The Lancet statement, which praises the work of Chinese health professionals as “remarkable” and encourages others to sign on as well.

or Tom Cotton (R–AR) added fuel to controversial assertions on Fox News earlier this month when he noted that the lab was “a few miles away” from a seafood market that had a large cluster of some of the first cases detected. “We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says,” Cotton said, noting that the Chinese government initially turned down the U.S. government’s offer to send scientists to the country to help clarify questions about the outbreak.

The authors of The Lancet statement note that scientists from several countries who have studied SARS-CoV-2 “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” just like many other viruses that have recently emerged in humans. “Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus,” the statement says.

Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance and a cosignatory of the statement, has collaborated with researchers at the Wuhan institute who study bat coronaviruses. “We’re in the midst of the social media misinformation age, and these rumors and conspiracy theories have real consequences, including threats of violence that have occurred to our colleagues in China,” Daszak, a disease ecologist, told ScienceInsider. “We have a choice whether to stand up and support colleagues who are being attacked and threatened daily by conspiracy theorists or to just turn a blind eye. I’m really proud that people from nine countries are able to rapidly come to their defense and show solidarity with people who are, after all, dealing with horrific conditions in an outbreak.”

Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab
By Steven W. Mosher

New York Post, Bottom of Form

February 22, 2020 |

At an emergency meeting in Beijing held last Friday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke about the need to contain the coronavirus and set up a system to prevent similar epidemics in the future.

A national system to control biosecurity risks must be put in place “to protect the people’s health,” Xi said, because lab safety is a “national security” issue.

Xi didn’t actually admit that the coronavirus now devastating large swaths of China had escaped from one of the country’s bioresearch labs. But the very next day, evidence emerged suggesting that this is exactly what happened, as the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology released a new directive titled: “Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.”

Read that again. It sure sounds like China has a problem keeping dangerous pathogens in test tubes where they belong, doesn’t it? And just how many “microbiology labs” are there in China that handle “advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus”?

It turns out that in all of China, there is only one. And this one is located in the Chinese city of Wuhan that just happens to be … the epicenter of the epidemic.

That’s right. China’s only Level 4 microbiology lab that is equipped to handle deadly coronaviruses, called the National Biosafety Laboratory, is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Enlarge ImageA member of a medical staff checks the body temperature of a patient who has displayed mild symptoms of the coronavirus.A member of a medical staff checks the temperature of a patient who has displayed mild symptoms of the coronavirus.AFP via Getty Images

What’s more, the People’s Liberation Army’s top expert in biological warfare, a Maj. Gen. Chen Wei, was dispatched to Wuhan at the end of January to help with the effort to contain the outbreak.

According to the PLA Daily, Chen has been researching coronaviruses since the SARS outbreak of 2003, as well as Ebola and anthrax. This would not be her first trip to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, either, since it is one of only two bioweapons research labs in all of China.

Does that suggest to you that the novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, may have escaped from that very lab, and that Chen’s job is to try to put the genie back in the bottle, as it were? It does to me.

Add to this China’s history of similar incidents. Even the deadly SARS virus has escaped — twice — from the Beijing lab where it was (and probably is) being used in experiments. Both “man-made” epidemics were quickly contained, but neither would have happened at all if proper safety precautions had been taken.

And then there is this little-known fact: Some Chinese researchers are in the habit of selling their laboratory animals to street vendors after they have finished experimenting on them.

You heard me right.

Instead of properly disposing of infected animals by cremation, as the law requires, they sell them on the side to make a little extra cash. Or, in some cases, a lot of extra cash. One Beijing researcher, now in jail, made a million dollars selling his monkeys and rats on the live animal market, where they eventually wound up in someone’s stomach.

Enlarge ImageMembers of a police sanitation team spray disinfectant as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus.Members of a police sanitation team spray disinfectant as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus.AFP via Getty Images

Also fueling suspicions about SARS-CoV-2’s origins is the series of increasingly lame excuses offered by the Chinese authorities as people began to sicken and die.

They first blamed a seafood market not far from the Institute of Virology, even though the first documented cases of Covid-19 (the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2) involved people who had never set foot there. Then they pointed to snakes, bats and even a cute little scaly anteater called a pangolin as the source of the virus.

I don’t buy any of this. It turns out that snakes don’t carry coronaviruses and that bats aren’t sold at a seafood market. Neither, for that matter, are pangolins, an endangered species valued for their scales as much as for their meat.

The evidence points to SARS-CoV-2 research being carried out at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The virus may have been carried out of the lab by an infected worker or crossed over into humans when they unknowingly dined on a lab animal. Whatever the vector, Beijing authorities are now clearly scrambling to correct the serious problems with the way their labs handle deadly pathogens.

China has unleashed a plague on its own people. It’s too early to say how many in China and other countries will ultimately die for the failures of their country’s state-run microbiology labs, but the human cost will be high.

But not to worry. Xi has assured us that he is controlling biosecurity risks “to protect the people’s health.” PLA bioweapons experts are in charge.

I doubt the Chinese people will find that very reassuring. Neither should we.

Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s ‘Dream’ Is the New Threat to World Order.”

Why a Chinese virology lab is unable to quell the coronavirus conspiracy theories around it

Quartz, February 20, 2020

Jane Li


China tech reporter

A Chinese state-owned virology lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus epidemic, is finding it extremely hard to quell conspiracy theories proliferating around the institution—a sign of the sharply decreased level of public trust in the government since the outbreak of the virus.

At the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a subsidiary of the state-owned research institute the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), scientists carry out virus research at a lab with the highest level of biological containment available on the mainland. Its construction was approved in 2003, during China’s last deadly coronavirus outbreak, SARS, and completed five years ago, according to Nature journal.  The lab came under spotlight in late January, after Chinese scientists said the virus could have a connection to bats via an intermediary, such as some form of game sold at a seafood market in Wuhan. As the lab has researchers who study bat-related viruses, it became a target of online suspicion that coalesced into theories that the virus could have escaped from the lab, or be a bio-weapon gone wrong.

An unvetted research paper published on Jan. 31 by a group of Indian scientists, in which they claimed similarities between the nCOV-2019 virus and the HIV virus, appearing to hint at human engineering, also stirred further controversy surrounding the institute. The paper was later withdrawn by the researchers, who said they “intend to revise it in response to comments received from the research community.”

Theories suggesting the new virus was purpose-built or the work of scientists have been emphatically rejected by scientists globally, including 27 prominent public health scientists from outside China who issued a statement on Wednesday published by medical journal The Lancet. “Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent…and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” it said.

Some journals, such as Nature, have appended notes to older stories about the Wuhan lab calling the conspiracy theories about the lab “unverified.”

The journal Nature added a note to a 2017 story on the lab to alert readers to &quot;unverified theories&quot; about the lab in relation to the new coronavirus.<img src="" alt="The journal Nature added a note to a 2017 story on the lab to alert readers to &quot;unverified theories&quot; about the lab in relation to the new coronavirus." />

The journal Nature added a note to a 2017 story on the lab to alert readers to “unverified theories” about the lab in relation to the new coronavirus.

However, the rumors have kept spreading widely online, to the extent that Shi Zhengli, a lead researcher on bat-related viruses in the lab, posted on her WeChat account on Feb. 2 that the virus was “a punishment from the nature for humans’ uncivilized life habits,” and said she “guaranteed with her life” it was totally unrelated to the lab. But just as Shi’s assurance seemed to have calmed some down, a notice from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology last Saturday (Feb. 15) started a fresh wave of suspicion towards the lab.

The ministry said in the notice that China should enhance its management of viruses and bioagents at all labs and research institutes, without any explanation as to why this is being proposed right now, leaving some to speculate whether this could be a subtle official acknowledgement of a role played by the lab. The following day, US senator Tom Cotton appeared on Fox News to say that the virus was not far from the wildlife market where many people were infected in December.

There are a number of reasons why these theories keep finding many takers—not just among China hawks but among so many in China. One is, there’s still so much that isn’t known about the virus and its origins.

“At this stage, no expert can be absolutely certain about the cause of the outbreak. This uncertainty makes it easier for some people to think all explanations have equal merit, no matter how fringe that is for experts with more extensive knowledge in the matter,” explained assistant professor Masato Kajimoto, who researches misinformation ecosystems in Asia at the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school.

After Shi’s statement, the lab too has stepped out more than once to try quell the theories. The institute first rejected speculation that the first patient to be infected  with the virus was a graduate student who studied at the lab, saying on Sunday (Feb. 16) the student is in good health. Yesterday (Feb. 19), it issued a strong worded statement (link in Chinese), saying the rumors about it have “hurt the feelings of its frontline researchers hugely”  and “severely interfered” with its task to study viruses. “We have nothing to hide,” the letter read.

Nonetheless, internet users don’t appear to be convinced by the assurances from the lab. “What is the truth? The collapse of trustworthiness of media and government is not only sad for the two parties, but also for us citizens,” said a user on Weibo commenting on the rumors. “Some might think the so-called rumors are just a prophecy ahead of our times,” said another.

Some “rumors” from the early days of the epidemic after all turned out not to be far from reality. Li Wenliang, a doctor, had told others about a cluster of cases of viral pneumonia before the outbreak had been made public, but was summoned by Wuhan police for “spreading rumors.” He later became infected himself, and his death turned him into a vivid symbol of the costs of the government’s opacity—prompting an outpouring of anger and grief, and rare public demands for freedom of speech and transparency from the government.

“With the government’s bungled handling of the epidemic in Wuhan, and the pain and uncertainty the epidemic and the efforts to cope with it have produced, public trust has clearly decreased,” said Professor Dali Yang, a political scientist at University of Chicago via email. “The death of Dr. Li was a milestone in shared grief in China.”

What now can be done to contain theories of a rogue lab? Probably not a whole lot, says Kajimoto.

“When the authorities and experts have the history of not being transparent, whatever they say could sound as if they are trying to hide something,” said the assistant professor. “In this case, publicly denying the link between the lab and coronavirus could even be construed as ‘evidence’ by people who believe in this conspiracy because denial is the ‘sign’ that the truth is hidden.”

Tripti Lahiri contributed to this post.

Wuhan Virology Lab Deputy Director Again Slams Coronavirus Conspiracies


Feb 07, 2020 07:57 PM




Coronavirus was not genetically engineered in a Wuhan lab, says expert

Scientist shoots down social media claims that have been circulating widely                                      

Financial Times, February 14 2020

Trevor Bedford, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has rubbished rumours circulating on social media that the virus was created at a government institute

A scientist at the forefront of an international effort to track the deadly coronavirus outbreak has shot down claims about the disease’s origins, including that it escaped from a Wuhan laboratory after being genetically engineered.Trevor Bedford, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, rubbished stories circulating on social media that Covid-19 was created at Wuhan Institute of Virology or elsewhere in China, rumours that prompted the World Health Organization to warn of an “infodemic” of false news on the outbreak.“There is no evidence whatsoever of genetic engineering that we can find,” he said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle. “The evidence we have is that the mutations [in the virus] are completely consistent with natural evolution.” One source of rumours was a paper posted by scientists in India claiming that short insertions in the viral genome had an “uncanny similarity” to HIV. Although the paper was quickly withdrawn, its allegations live on in social media. The research was “wrong on many levels,” said Dr Bedford, whose lab studies the evolution of viruses. The genes it shares with HIV are extremely short sequences naturally shared by other organisms and “repeated again and again throughout the tree of life.”

                                                            He also disputed claims that Covid-19 might have infected humans from snakes or even fish. The most likely scenario, based on genetic analysis, was that the virus was transmitted by a bat to another mammal between 20-70 years ago. This intermediary animal — not yet identified — passed it on to its first human host in the city of Wuhan in late November or early December 2019. Dr Bedford is a leader of the worldwide Nextstrain collaboration that began to analyse Covid-19 genomes when they were released in January by Fudan University and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control. By now scientists around the world have published the genetic sequence of virus taken from about 100 patients. They show mutations taking place at a slow pace as the infection passes from person to person. Typically the virus in one patient today is different in around five of the 30,000 biochemical letters of its genetic code, but these are random changes rather than any sign that it is becoming more virulent or infectious, Dr Bedford said.

                                                            By comparing virus taken from different patients and knowing its mutation rate, he and his colleagues can also estimate the total number of cases so far. He said the result was similar to that produced by more conventional epidemiology. “We get upwards of 200,000 total infections, which fits with the estimates already published by Neil Ferguson and colleagues at Imperial College London,” Dr Bedford said. But he was reluctant to forecast the future course of the epidemic.The death toll from the virus was on Friday approaching 1,500 with more than 64,000 case identified, according to Chinese state media. But medical experts and frontline health workers in China have warned that Beijing is under-reporting the severity of the outbreak.


South China Morning Post, 20 February 2020

Virology in the 21st Century

L. W. Enquist

and for the Editors of the Journal of Virology

L. W. Enquist

DOI: 10.1128/JVI.00151-09


The editors of the Journal of Virology are in a privileged position to observe our field grow and develop. While the rational prediction of things to come is based on extrapolation of what we know now, we cannot anticipate the surprises that result from the serendipity of research. The discoveries emanating from virology in the past 50 years have been simply astounding, and few of them could have been predicted or even imagined based on prior knowledge. It is no accident that virologists have played major roles in the biological revolutions of the last century. Viral gene products engage all the key nodes of biology, ranging from the atomic to the organismal, and thus serve as ideal tools to dissect the most intricate life processes. Our joys and challenges are to identify and understand these biological nodes and extrapolate from this information how viruses replicate, disseminate, and sometimes cause disease. We can say with certainty that virology in the 21st century will continue to prosper. We discuss several general forces driving the future of our discipline: technology development, public health, information processing, and, of course, personal curiosity. Perhaps more importantly, to ensure maximal scientific return we must continue to give imagination and serendipity a chance.


Viruses and viral diseases have been at the centers of science, agriculture, and medicine for millennia, and some of our greatest challenges and triumphs have involved virology. Smallpox is a prime example: humankind's greatest killer, which literally changed the course of history during the European conquest of the New World, is also the only disease ever eradicated from the globe. This remarkable achievement began with Edward Jenner's scientific demonstration in 1796 that inoculation with cowpox lesions provided protection against the far-more-virulent variola major virus. A concerted worldwide vaccination effort against smallpox led by the World Health Organization resulted in the eradication of the disease by 1979. The smallpox vaccination breakthrough was only the first in a series of important investigations and discoveries inspired by the study of viruses. Tables 1 and 2 list many of these advances and highlight the contributions of virology and virologists to our understanding of basic cellular functions and disease mechanisms.

View this table:


Eras in virology

View this table:


Landmarks in the study of virusesa

Much of the initial attention of virologists was focused on viruses as disease-causing agents, and great progress continues to be made in this area. Many acute viral infections are prevented or controlled in much of the world through vaccination and other public health measures. As a result, viral scourges such as measles, poliomyelitis, rabies, and yellow fever are now rare in the developed world. Numerous effective antiviral drugs are also in widespread use. We now recognize that a substantial fraction of the world cancer burden is caused by viral infections, most commonly hepatitis B virus and human papillomavirus infections, and both can be prevented by vaccination. All of these advances flowed from basic studies of viral replication, transmission, and pathogenesis. However, substantial challenges remain. New viruses periodically emerge and cause great personal and societal tragedy. AIDS, caused by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), remains the defining epidemic of our time, the true cost of which cannot be calculated. Although the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic was brief, dengue and West Nile viruses continue to smolder, and Chikungunya virus, monkeypox virus, and Ebola and other hemorrhagic fever viruses crouch in the darkness. H5N1 avian influenza virus continues to sporadically infect humans in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. The emergence of a new influenza pandemic or a viral bioterrorism attack could have catastrophic consequences on public health, commerce, and civic discourse.

Viruses also cause serious diseases in plants and livestock. The 2001 epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom devastated its beef industry. Plum pox virus, which has decimated stone fruit trees in Europe since the early 1900s, has now spread to the United States and Canada. Viruses have been implicated in a disease that is ravaging our honeybees, threatening natural pollination cycles and thus much of agriculture.

Beyond their medical and agricultural importance, viruses are great teachers, and their lessons are not restricted to viral diseases. Viral replication is strictly dependent on cell structure, metabolism, and biochemical machinery. As a consequence, viral gene products interact with crucial regulatory nodes that control cell function, a situation that facilitates the identification and characterization of these nodes and the networks they control. Indeed, the roster of important discoveries uncovered by studies of viral replication and transformation is long: the existence of mRNA and mRNA processing, including splicing, capping, and polyadenylation; transcriptional control elements and transcription factors; gene silencing mechanisms; cellular oncogenes and tumor suppressor proteins; and signal transduction pathways and tyrosine kinases, to name just a few. The structural biology revolution, the initially outlandish idea that life processes can be understood at the chemical and eventually at the atomic level, was championed by the crystallization of tobacco mosaic virus by Wendell Stanley in the 1930s. This line of inquiry has produced high-resolution images of the structures of viral proteins and virus particles themselves, the largest biological structures known at the atomic level. Molecular biology emerged from studies of bacterial viruses. Studies of “unconventional viruses” resulted in the discovery of viroids and prions and the concept of protein-folding diseases.

Viral genomes encode gene products that modulate host defenses, including the immune response, an elaborate system that evolved in large part to protect us against invading microorganisms like viruses. Ideally, pathogens are cleared by immune defenses with minimum damage to the host. However, in the process, the immune defenses themselves can also cause damage (immunopathology). Indeed, much of viral clinical disease is immunopathological in nature, as shown in infections ranging from the common cold to AIDS. Studies of the interactions between viruses and cells have revealed many aspects of immunity, including the elucidation of histocompatibility antigen function, intrinsic cell defense mechanisms such as apoptosis, interferons, and RNA interference, and sophisticated viral countermeasures to evade or antagonize host immune responses. In fact, this discipline has been coined “anti-immunology” by some to highlight the close evolutionary relationship between the vertebrate immune system and microbial pathogens.

Many technologies employed to study cellular genes were first developed and perfected by using smaller and more easily manipulated viral genomes, including restriction enzyme mapping, molecular cloning, and genome sequencing. Indeed, the field of genetic engineering and the biotechnology industry were incubated in virology laboratories. Viruses and viral gene products have also emerged as valuable tools to study many aspects of biology and, potentially, to treat disease. These tools include reverse transcriptase for the synthesis of cDNA, viral vectors for gene delivery and protein production, transgenic animal technology, vaccination, and oncolytic therapy, which attempts to harness the capacity of some viruses to specifically infect and kill cancer cells. Studies to determine whether this approach has efficacy in the treatment of human cancers are under way.

Critical knowledge may also come from unexpected sources. Simple, highly expressed plant viruses have been developed into model systems to identify host factors involved in viral replication, translation, and other processes fundamental to all viruses. Plant viruses are also excellent tools for biotechnology and nanotechnology. For the latter, virions provide natural reaction chambers for the precise synthesis of nanoparticles, as well as digital memory components when complexed with metals.

As briefly outlined in this section, virology played a major role in 20th-century biology. The numerous Nobel prizes awarded to virologists are one measure of the impact of virology (Table 2). In this essay, we highlight some of the areas where virology will continue to address substantial challenges and provide new and important insights.


Until recently, the only microbiota that we could identify in a complex community (e.g., gut flora or seawater) were those we could cultivate. Research in the 21st century will allow the identification of new families of organisms (including viruses) by high-speed sequencing of RNA and DNA. For example, the technology of “deep sequencing” of mixed populations found in respiratory secretions and gastrointestinal contents is revealing novel virus families, both pathogenic and nonpathogenic. Indeed, new polyomaviruses, marine viruses, and bacteriophages have been identified by using sequence-based techniques coupled with genomic and metagenomic analyses. Strikingly, some of the viral proteins revealed by these studies show little genetic similarity to known viruses, suggesting the existence of a universe of novel viruses awaiting study.

As technical advances drive the discovery of viral pathogens, we will obtain a greater understanding of the pathogenesis of “orphan” infectious diseases, a wider appreciation of zoonotic cycles, and an increased understanding of how viral infections directly or indirectly cause or modulate chronic diseases (e.g., autoimmune syndromes, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and neurological illnesses). This new information will highlight the role of viruses in emerging infectious diseases, the interface between viral gene products and host defense mechanisms (cell autonomous defenses as well as innate and acquired immunity), and the forces that drive patterns of acute and persistent infections in plants and animals. We may find viruses that occupy niches equivalent to those of commensal bacteria. Genomic approaches are currently guiding these new discoveries. When deep sequencing of nucleic acids in a complex sample is merged with other powerful technologies, including mass spectrometry, proteomics, optical imaging, and high-throughput screening using small molecules and short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), we can be sure that the discovery pipeline for novel viruses and their antagonists will be full indeed.

In a similar vein, high-throughput sequencing and gene-mapping techniques, the availability of the genome sequences of humans and other organisms, and proteomics and metabolomics will provide us with the ability to study host determinants of viral virulence in ways previously unimagined. The complete sequencing of mammalian genomes and the development of RNA interference technology make it practical to systematically test the role of every cellular gene in a virus infection. The use of such screens in studies of HIV, hepatitis C virus, and West Nile virus replication has identified hundreds of cellular genes required for infection. Similarly, whole-genome association studies and other sorts of genetic analyses will identify additional genes required for infection, pathogenesis, and transmission in various hosts. The identification of host genes and pathways that confer susceptibility or resistance to infection in the context of the whole organism will lead to novel antiviral therapies and improved viral prevention strategies.

Exciting discoveries notwithstanding, the identification of new viruses brings a serious challenge. Are these viruses true pathogens or could they actually have symbiotic relationships with their host organisms? For example, perhaps infection by these agents stimulates local and systemic immune responses that protect against or suppress responses that contribute to pathogenesis by more-virulent microbes. Dissecting these complicated microbial relationships will undoubtedly yield unanticipated insights about viruses and their hosts. This work will require careful epidemiological and clinical studies aided in part by advances in technology.

A systems approach to virology.Instead of studying one gene or gene product at a time, examining large groups of genes or gene products allows the identification of fundamental biological networks. By networks, we mean complex and interconnected intracellular processes that control, for example, gene expression, organelle biogenesis, and metabolism, as well as networks of intercellular communication at the tissue, organ, and whole-organism level. The fundamental premise is that information flows through these networks and disease arises when these networks are perturbed, causing changes in network architecture and the dynamics of information flow. Future studies of viral pathogenesis may be seen in terms of specific viral signatures of network imbalance that do not affect just one pathway but alter the fundamental homeostatic balance of a cell, organism, or population. Interactions of viral gene products with these networks will likely differ in different cell types and tissues. Technological advances in cell and organ culture will allow the in vitro study of viral infections under conditions that more precisely mimic the in vivo environment. This effort will extend our understanding of the interplay of microbial communities and host cells within an entire organism. Once such an understanding is achieved, we may be able to better identify cellular genes associated with disease risk and therefore predict which human or animal hosts should be vaccinated or prophylaxed.

The technical advances in systems biology will open doors to “systems microbiology.” Viruses will be increasingly viewed not in isolation with their cellular or organismal hosts but in the real world of a microbial ecosystem where a single host is infected with a plethora of microbes, including many viruses. An understanding of the interactions between a host and several viral or other microbial agents that simultaneously or sequentially infect it is likely to be informative in many ways. For example, some viral infections are associated with atherosclerosis and obesity. However, it is not clear whether the associated viral infections are causal, serve as essential cofactors, or are completely irrelevant. Components of the host inflammatory response to an initial infection, namely cytokines, chemokines, and cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems, can regulate the outcome of infection by a second agent, not only by acting on the infected cell but also by influencing uninfected cells of the same organism. Such interactions can be synergistic or antagonistic. The degree of susceptibility and the resultant response of a virus-infected cell to a secondary infection can be modulated by many cellular factors, such as receptors, antiviral proteins, microRNAs, and protein-trafficking machinery. A systems microbiology approach will also allow us to understand immunopathological disease to a greater extent and thereby be in a position to minimize the untoward effects of an overexuberant immune response.

We see a robust future for the field of “interactomics,” which we define as the process by which viral gene products interact with cellular gene products to affect different phenotypes. This field has flourished in studies of the oncogenic activity of DNA tumor viruses, but similar interactions surely underlie much of the cellular response to viral infection. Research on virus-host interactions and network dynamics will produce new insights into why some viruses can occasionally enter into new host species to cause new and unexpected diseases. In fact, the study of how zoonotic viruses become human pathogens has already become a major focus of 21st century virology.

One of the tenets of systems biology is that networks process information; the output can vary depending on the action at key nodes of the network. Therefore, an important use of systems biology is not simply to collect reams of data but rather to perturb the networks and predict the changed outcomes. Viral infections provide the opportunity to take a system from state A (uninfected) to state B (infected) with synchrony and technical control. This approach to generate and test hypotheses will be a powerful tool to understand homeostatic control and viral pathogenesis. Just as studies of viral gene products and their interactions with specific cellular components have yielded many fundamental insights into individual cellular functions, virology has much to contribute to our understanding of more-complex interacting systems.

New and old: coupling new technology with established procedures.With the advent of such exciting new experimental approaches, will the methods of traditional virology continue to be necessary? Will the plaque assay go the way of the Model T? Can we turn off our incubators and freeze down our cell lines? We think not. Experiments using cell culture, classical biochemistry, animal models, clinical trials, and population-based analyses will continue to be essential components of contemporary and future virology research. The new technologies will not displace their predecessors but join and complement them. For example, the characterization of new viruses discovered through deep sequencing will require cultured cells to investigate viral replication biology and host organisms to investigate viral pathogenesis and disease outcomes. The causal association of viruses with specific disease phenotypes will require experimental infections and intervention trials. Thus, the virology toolbox will be enhanced by technological innovations rather than replaced by them.


Support and advocacy for virology research.Our nation's economic stability is tightly interwoven with its scientific progress. The highest purpose of science is the search for a greater understanding of the world around us. In virology, this purpose translates into advances in our understanding of basic biology and improvements in the health of the flora and fauna that inhabit our plant. We cannot shy away from the need to educate the public and our national leaders about the important contributions our field can make. Engaging our lay colleagues and political leaders at all levels about our research and its impact will be essential to secure sufficient funding to support our efforts.

One example is the halt in the last decade of the 20th century to the enormous progress being made in using RNA interference to protect crops against infection by highly destructive viruses. The withdrawal of genetic modification of crops based on unsubstantiated fears has left few alternatives to deal with potentially devastating losses of crops to viral disease. With the prospect of worldwide food shortages caused by climate change, decreased investment in genetic technology has serious implications for human health. These and similar concerns provide a rich opportunity for the scientific community to advance ideas in the public domain about new technological developments and evidence-based risk assessments.

Emerging infections.We will continue to observe new or previously unrecognized infections in humans, animals, and plants. In humans, such infections will more often be zoonotic (i.e., the transmission of a virus from wild or domesticated animals to humans with attendant disease). As we discover new viruses and relate new and well-known viruses to specific diseases, we can anticipate public pressure to rapidly develop antivirals and vaccines. Depending on the sense of urgency, the tendency will be to shift resources to the “threat” of the day. For example, at the start of the 21st century, we witnessed several examples of emerging infections followed by exaggerated (but not necessarily unwarranted) public reactions. The global concern and almost immediate response of scientists and health officials to the SARS and West Nile virus epidemics are cases in point. Soon after these events, we saw the spread of Chikungunya virus to several countries where it was hitherto unknown. What will tomorrow bring? How will we deal with these new infections? Improved surveillance, more-rapid reagent sharing and information transfer, more-effective quarantine procedures, and various public health measures will undoubtedly contribute to controlling emerging diseases, but increasing attention and resources are likely to be devoted to maintaining, as well as expanding, the roster of antivirals and vaccines.

One view is that we should accelerate the development of new antiviral strategies to protect the public from these emerging infections. To be effective, antiviral drugs must be safe and potent and must be administered soon after infection. These requirements constitute substantial impediments to drug discovery, which has limited the number of antivirals in clinical use for acute infections relative to antibiotics. Nonetheless, numerous highly effective antiviral drugs are in widespread use, particularly those against HIV. Advances in genetics, biochemistry, structural biology, and computational biology provide a strong platform for the future development of additional antiviral drugs. Although we must certainly prepare for future threats, antiviral-drug development should not ignore viruses that currently account for a substantial burden of disease.

The need for vaccines.Vaccines are among the most cost-effective means of preventing infectious disease morbidity and mortality. However, recent progress in vaccine development has been uneven. We saw the introduction of effective human papillomavirus and rotavirus vaccines yet witnessed many unsuccessful attempts to develop an HIV vaccine. Why is it that many of our most successful vaccines were introduced 20 to 50 years ago (e.g., vaccines for hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, and rubella viruses)? In addition to HIV, many globally important viruses (e.g., dengue virus, hepatitis C virus, human cytomegalovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus) still lack vaccines. There are several challenges to the development of these vaccines. Critical knowledge gaps must be filled before a “product” can be developed, and funding decisions must be tailored to these needs. First, we must understand the basic biology of viral evolution and quasispecies. Second, we need to define what constitutes a protective immune response. Third, we have to acknowledge the economics of vaccine development and the risk to the private sector, recognizing that the necessity of immunizing a healthy naïve population to prevent a disease will be unacceptable if there are significant vaccine-associated adverse events.

The challenges for the development of new generations of vaccines are substantial at the levels of basic biology and efficacy. But even greater challenges arise in introducing vaccines to the public. Many believe that children are already “overvaccinated” in infancy. In addition, there is a growing public perception that vaccines actually cause disease (e.g., autism, attention deficit disorder, or multiple sclerosis) despite substantial evidence to the contrary. Few people are well versed in the analysis of large epidemiologic studies designed to identify low-frequency associations. Moreover, disproving cause and effect in the face of well-established unscientific beliefs is a difficult task. Successful vaccine efforts will require both sound science and forceful public advocacy.

Natural and unnatural events.Concern exists that highly pathogenic viruses, either in their wild-type state or after genetic manipulation, will be used to perpetrate acts of terrorism. Presently, the means for wide dissemination of these infectious agents are not available. Arguably the most dangerous virus, variola major virus (which causes smallpox), is not accessible to those wishing to inflict harm, but there are worries that covert stocks of variola major virus may remain undeclared. There is also much discussion about whether it is possible to develop “designer viruses” containing virulence factors from more than a single source. At the present time, it is not possible to predict the outcome of such genetic engineering approaches. However, viruses have evolved so precisely that even subtle genetic changes usually result in attenuation. Therefore, the risks of viral bioterrorism are thought to be low, but even low-probability, high-impact events can be devastating. There is no question that virologists and the scientific community in general should be vigilant to the misuse of scientific information as the field advances.

Indeed, nature is likely to be a much more dangerous terrorist, acting through zoonoses. Just as the AIDS pandemic was initiated by the transmission of HIV from nonhuman primates to humans and SARS-coronavirus was transmitted to humans from bats and civet cats, other viruses are likely to make similar leaps. Influenza virus does so on a regular basis, with many virologists predicting that it is only a matter of time before the next highly virulent and transmissible strain catches humans without preexisting immunity, resulting in a new pandemic. In 2003, a shipment of rodents from West Africa to the United States caused an outbreak of monkeypox virus in the Midwestern United States, which occurred because some of the rodents were subclinically infected with monkeypox virus. This virus, in turn, infected North American prairie dogs (not previously known to be hosts), which then transmitted the infection to about 100 people. Fortunately, nobody died during this miniepidemic, but the incident demonstrates that pathogenic viruses can move rapidly and unexpectedly into new populations and that Mother Nature is the consummate “bioterrorist.”

Balancing risks of dangerous-pathogen research.Heightened concerns about potential viral pandemics and bioterrorism have resulted in the construction of high-containment research facilities and increased scrutiny about the safety of research on pathogens designated by the CDC or USDA as potential biological weapons (i.e., “select agents”). This designation mandates strict regulatory oversight of research that is aimed primarily at reducing the risks of misuse of these pathogens. However, select-agent designations also dramatically increase costs and slow the pace of research, discouraging some scientists from pursuing these studies. For instance, if HIV and SARS-coronavirus had been designated select agents, then responses to these outbreaks might have been much slower, perhaps with catastrophic consequences. Thus, attempts to reduce the risks of performing or misusing infectious-disease research should be balanced by consideration of the risks of hindering the research required to protect society against important pathogens. Furthermore, select agents are often endemic in some areas of the world where they infect humans by natural exposure and could be obtained by unauthorized individuals without regulatory oversight. Accordingly, future regulatory decisions about the designation and control of “select agents” should be based as much as possible on scientific factors and realistic risk assessments.

High-level containment does provide appropriate protection for the most dangerous pathogens, with the resurrection of the H1N1 influenza virus that caused the 1918 pandemic a case in point. This virus was reconstructed in biosafety level 4 containment facilities by using viral RNA sequences obtained from human autopsy specimens. The rationale for, and the advisability of, reconstruction were questioned by some, but results gathered in subsequent studies substantially enhanced our understanding of influenza pathogenesis and left us better prepared to anticipate and combat the next influenza pandemic.

Political issues impacting virology: climate change as an example.Among many issues on the political agenda, climate change captures considerable attention. Climate science seems an unlikely subject for virologists, but it may be prudent to think seriously about this topic. Many regard changes in weather patterns and sea level as the primary effects of global warming. However, the influence of climate on the ecology of microbial systems may be as large as, or even larger than, these meteorological effects. Microbial pathogens unexpectedly gain access to new hosts when natural cycles of host-pathogen relationships are interrupted or altered. Insect and rodent vectors, weather, floods, and social interactions are affected by climate and contribute to the highly interactive cycles of host-pathogen engagement. Despite more than 100 years of studying microbes, we have minimal knowledge of the natural microbial world and how microbial communities evolve. Only recently have we become aware that the oceans are teeming with bacteriophages that modulate the aquatic bacterial population, thereby affecting the ocean's chemistry, ecology, and overall well-being.

The effect of climate on microbial communities is not understood. Indeed, the molecular and cellular biology of microbial communities is only now being examined in a rigorous way. For example, new methods of sequencing demonstrate a remarkable diversity of microorganisms in every ecosystem examined. These findings emphasize the need to predict how climate affects biological systems. If the temperature rose 1°C on average, major biological communities would change dramatically as competition for resources removed the less fit and opened new niches for competitors. We need more research on the molecular and cellular biology of populations to understand and model the evolution of interacting communities in nature. Laboratory biology must be better integrated with field biology: e.g., the techniques of deep sequencing, proteomics, and metabolomics should be brought to the field. For entrepreneurs, it is certain that innovative and lucrative technologies will emerge.


How can virologists take advantage of all of these new opportunities for scholarship and application? To address this question, we must consider what constitutes optimum training for virologists in the 21st century. Tomorrow's advances will require a combination of small, tightly focused groups and large, multidisciplinary teams. Traditional teams of basic scientists working with clinicians will be augmented by mathematicians, physicists, and population biologists, among others. Integrating new technology advances with classical epidemiology and clinical approaches will not be a simple pedagogical exercise. Training the next generation of scientists to be capable of undertaking this research will require more-diverse course offerings, enhanced training opportunities, especially involving interdisciplinary collaboration and computational approaches, and instruction in teamwork. To facilitate professional advancement, we will need to develop new strategies to recognize and reward individual contributions to group scientific efforts as team science becomes more and more prevalent.

Systems biology approaches, large-scale genetic screens, and the metagenomics of host and viral genes from related viruses present unique challenges for training. These approaches will produce enormous amounts of information that will challenge our capacity to integrate it into useful conceptual frameworks. Imaging technology will reveal the dynamics of biological interactions at every level yet produce huge sets of data that strain current systems for information storage and retrieval. Methods to search, screen, recover, and use this information will provide new avenues for discovery and require a new generation of virologists with special expertise in computational methods and information technology.


The power of a single mind to identify a problem and solve it is one of the greatest joys of humanity. No executive, laboratory head, business manager, or marketing director can dictate discovery. The very meaning of the word is that we did not know what we would find when we started looking. The process of discovery follows paths that often seem simple or elegant in retrospect but almost always reflect individual intellect, personal curiosity, and luck, which cannot be defined or packaged. Although the world of science is changing in many ways, the role of the individual scientist in discovery cannot be underestimated. Another look at Table 2 emphasizes the importance of serendipity as an essential force in discovery. Someone has to see something no one else did. Many of the investigators who will make discoveries in the 21st century will do so because they want to understand how something works, not because something is trendy.

One of the motivating forces for virology research is the concept of the “model system.” Even with the current unprecedented rate of discovery, we are unlikely to know everything about every organism. A model system is a convenient organism that can be analyzed in great depth so that the knowledge obtained can be applied to other organisms that may not be amenable to study. What will constitute model systems for the 21st century? Model systems are often chosen to serve particular problems. For example, very few virologists study viruses of algae. Who knows, if we start driving cars fueled by genetically altered algae, it might be good to know more about algal viruses.

Continuing research should not only focus on conventional viruses but also enhance our understanding of new classes of subviral infectious agents such as prions. Prions are infectious misfolded host-derived proteins that can spread disease or phenotypic traits without carrying their own nucleic acid genome. A variety of prions have been identified in species ranging from fungi to mammals, but much remains to be discovered about the diversity, structure, and impact of these enigmatic agents in biology. Practical diagnostic tests and treatments must be developed for mammalian prion diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. An additional concern is the theoretical possibility that a number of common protein-misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and other amyloidoses might be transmissible under some circumstances, due to the prion-like behavior of misfolded proteins. The extent to which such possibilities are biologically relevant will be an important area for future investigation.


These are exciting times for biology. The general trends likely to drive virology research in the next decade include systems biology of virus-host interactions, viral ecology and the virosphere, evolution of viruses, and improved vaccines and therapeutics. Many of these advances will be accelerated by technologic innovations in high-throughput sequencing, the complete synthesis of viral genomes, small-molecule and shRNA screens, and the imaging of cells and whole organisms, in concert with traditional methods used by virologists. The knowledge, techniques, new ideas, and urgency to learn more are stronger than ever. The importance of studying the basic biology of viruses, even those that today may not seem relevant to human, animal, and plant disease, cannot be overstated. As an example, studies of avian Rous sarcoma virus led to the discovery of cellular oncogenes and guided the initial studies of HIV. Nonpathogenic viruses have been widely utilized as gene transfer and vaccine vectors. Even replication-defective endogenous viruses have been informative, as they have provided a glimpse into virus-host battles fought by our distant ancestors. History has proven again and again that understanding the basic biology of viruses leads to new and often unexpected insights. We anticipate that studies of viruses will continue to yield surprising glimpses into the inner workings of their host cells. In fact, recent research on simian virus 40 (SV40) entry led to the discovery of an entirely new organelle, the caveosome.

We anticipate a rich future for viral pathogenesis research. Just as studies of viral infections of single cells have led to astonishing insights into basic biological processes, we think studies of viral infections of host organisms will continue to teach us much about physiology in health and disease. The application of new technologies will allow us to approach with increasing sophistication complex questions about how viruses invade, disseminate, target specific tissues, elicit host defenses, and cause disease. These questions cannot be addressed solely using cell culture but in addition require animal models, clinical trials, and population-based studies. In this context, we will likely explore the concept that viruses or viral components can be harnessed to protect us from other microbial or inflammatory diseases. In fact, individual “anti-host defense” proteins derived from viral genomes are currently being tested in clinical trials as novel classes of drugs to treat diseases associated with systemic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and heart disease.

If we could point to one sea change in virology that will affect us all, it would be that we now function in a cross-disciplinary environment. Just look at the author list or acknowledgments in the latest papers and note the number of disciplines that are represented. It is likely that you will see not only authors with expertise in cell biology, immunology, and chemistry but also authors who are experts in ecology, computer and information science, mathematics, and physics, among others. Interdisciplinary research in virology is essential for future progress. However, “Biology” with a capital “B” is at the root of all this excitement. Those in other disciplines who do not master the biology of viruses are likely to provide technical expertise, but they will not share with virologists the joys of understanding fundamental biology, making discoveries, and improving the health and well-being of our planet.


  • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. Phone: (609) 258-2664. Fax: (609) 258-1035. E-mail:
  • † Karen L. Beemon, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; Byron W. Caughey, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Hamilton, MT; Terence S. Dermody, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN; Michael S. Diamond, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; Daniel C. DiMaio, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT; Robert W. Doms, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; Donald E. Ganem, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA; Harry B. Greenberg, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA; Beatrice H. Hahn, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL; Michael J. Imperiale, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI; Richard A. Koup, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MD; Douglas S. Lyles, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC; Grant McFadden, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Jay A. Nelson, Oregon Health and Science University, Beaverton, OR; Peter M. Palese, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY; Stanley Perlman, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA; Nancy Raab-Traub, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; Susan R. Ross, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Rozanne M. Sandri-Goldin, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA; Bert L. Semler, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA; Ganes C. Sen, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH; Anne Simon, University of Maryland, College Park, MD; and Ronald Swanstrom, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Published ahead of print on 18 March 2009.

Viruses pose important global public health challenges. Concern is heightened by population growth and environmental changes, which might facilitate the transmission of animal viruses into humans. This trend may be accelerated by global warming. This figure shows the three-dimensional organization of Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) revealed by cryoelectron tomography. RVFV (Bunyaviridae, Phlebovirus) is an emerging human and veterinary pathogen responsible for recurring epidemics throughout Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. RVFV has the potential to cause hemorrhagic fever in humans. Tomographic reconstruction of RVFV vaccine strain MP-12 revealed a capsid containing 122 capsomeres arranged in an icosahedral lattice with T=12 quasisymmetry. The virus particle is enwrapped with a map of the earth looking down at the African continent, and the mosquito represents the vector for RVFV. Frozen-hydrated RVFV MP-12 particles are shown in the foreground. (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, November 2008, vol. 82, no. 21. [See related article on p. 10341.])

Viruses come in all shapes and sizes. Unbiased sequencing efforts have revealed an astonishing diversity of viruses. Shown here is an image of negatively stained nucleocapsids of a polydnavirus from the ichneumonid parasitoid Glypta fumiferanae. Mature virions consist of several nucleocapsids surrounded by two envelopes; the latter cannot be distinguished here because of the detergent treatment used to expose the nucleocapsids. Each nucleocapsid is believed to package more than one and possible many double-stranded circular DNA molecules, but it remains unclear whether each nucleocapsid, or virion, contains the full spectrum of more than 100 genome segments. (Micrograph by Don Stolz.) (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, January 2008, vol. 82, no. 2. [See related article in June 2007, vol. 81, no. 12, p. 6491.])

Whole viral genome sequences have revolutionized our ability to identify and characterize viral genes and have revealed evolutionary relationships between viruses. Nudiviruses are proposed to be a new genus of viruses isolated from different orders of insects, e.g., Orthoptera, Coleoptera, and Lepidoptera. The complete genome of a nudivirus infecting the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus suggests a common ancestor of nudiviruses and baculoviruses. Despite their differing morphology, these viruses share similar genes involved in virus structure, the infection process, and gene transcription. (The genome map was drawn using Genevision software; the contribution of G. Rossen, C. Bauser, and T. Bopp to the artwork is acknowledged.) (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, December 2007, vol. 81, no. 23. [See related article in May 2007, vol. 81, no. 10, p. 5395.])

Numerous technical advances, including the ability to label and visualize viral genes and gene products, combined with sophisticated imaging techniques, have yielded unprecedented insights into the details of viral replication, including the impact of coinfection with more than one virus. Studies of interactions between viruses in coinfected hosts are likely to uncover important new strategies for viral commensalism and parasitism. Live covisualization of competing adeno-associated virus (AAV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) DNA replication. Replicating AAV DNA containing lac operator sequences was visualized by binding of a red fluorescent protein fused to lac repressor protein (red), while the replication of HSV-1 DNA containing tetracycline operator sequences was visualized by binding of enhanced yellow fluorescent protein fused to the tetracycline repressor DNA binding domain (green). AAV and HSV-1 DNA replication occurred in spatially separate nuclear compartments, which were often found in juxtaposition. Blue, Hoechst stain; scale in micrometers. (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, May 2007, vol. 81, no. 9. [See related article on p. 4732.])

Viral-sequence information has revolutionized viral epidemiology, allowing the spread of an epidemic to be tracked and its evolution through space and time to be monitored. The transmission history of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) can be elucidated from complete genome sequence analysis of the virus, enabling epidemiological tracing of the virus between infected premises. The United Kingdom map shows the locations of premises infected during the 2001 FMDV outbreak. The structure is a representation of FMDV British field strain (serotype O), showing the alpha-carbon backbone (accession IFOD), courtesy of Nick Knowles, Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright, United Kingdom. (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, January 2007, vol. 81, no. 1. [See related article in November 2006, vol. 80, no. 22, p. 11274.])
Viruses inhabit all ecological niches. The isolation and characterization of viruses from unconventional habitats are providing new views of virus diversity, evolution, and function. Wherever life is found, so are viruses. The hot and acidic waters of hot springs, such as those in Yellowstone National Park, are no exception. Species of the archaeal organism Sulfolobus thrive at high temperatures and low pH and are host to a number of virus strains, including the double-stranded DNA virus Sulfolobus turreted icosahedral virus (STIV). The characterization of STIV particles and virus-encoded proteins is leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of this group of viruses. (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, August 2006, vol. 80, no. 16. [See related article in August 2006, vol. 80, no. 15, p. 7625.])

Since the discovery of the first virus, tobacco mosaic virus, more than 100 years ago, the study of plant viruses has provided fundamental insights into numerous aspects of biology, including biochemistry, structural biology, genetics, and, as illustrated here, evolutionary biology. Shown here is a schematic diagram of the distribution of virus diversity in a single plant host, with different colors of branches and leaves illustrating the diversity of haplotypes isolated from different locations on a single, chronically infected host tree. The results demonstrate that several distinct subpopulations of Plum pox virus differentiate and evolve independently in different locations of a single tree. Closely related colors represent closely related haplotypes. (Photo provided by Michel Yvon, Chiraz Jridi, and Stéphane Blanc.) (This figure first appeared on the cover of the Journal of Virology, June 2006, vol. 80, no. 12. [See related article in March 2006, vol. 80, no. 5, p. 2349.])
US Virology Centers
United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
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United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

USAMRIID logo.svg







Medical R&D Command


Medical research and development

Part of



"Biodefense Solutions to Protect Our Nation"



Colonel E. Darrin Cox
The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID; pronounced: you-SAM-rid) is the U.S Army's main institution and facility for defensive research into countermeasures against biological warfare. It is located on Fort Detrick, Maryland and is a subordinate lab of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), headquartered on the same installation.
USAMRIID is the only U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) laboratory equipped to study highly hazardous viruses at Biosafety Level 4 within positive pressure personnel suits.
USAMRIID employs both military and civilian scientists as well as highly specialized support personnel, totaling around 800 people. In the 1950s and '60s, USAMRIID and its predecessor unit pioneered unique, state-of-the-art biocontainment facilities which it continues to maintain and upgrade. Investigators at its facilities frequently collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and major biomedical and academic centers worldwide.
USAMRIID was the first bio-facility of its type to research the Ames strain of anthrax, determined through genetic analysis to be the bacterium used in the 2001 anthrax attacks.[1][2]

USAMRIID's 1983 mission statement mandated that the Institute:
Develops strategies, products, information, procedures and training for medical defense against biological warfare agents and naturally occurring infectious agents of military importance that require special containment.
USAMRIID's current mission statement is:
To protect the Warfighter from biological threats and to be prepared to investigate disease outbreaks or threats to public health.
National and international legal status[edit]
By U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) directive, as well as additional U.S. Army guidance, USAMRIID performs its "biological agent medical defense" research in support of the needs of the three military services. This mission, and all work done at USAMRIID, must remain within the spirit and letter of both President Richard Nixon's 1969 and 1970 Executive Orders renouncing the use of biological and toxin weapons, and the U.N. Biological Weapons Convention of 1972.
USAMRIID traces its institutional lineage to the early 1950s, when Lt. Col. Abram S. Benenson was appointed as medical liaison officer to the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories (BWL) at Camp (later Fort) Detrick to oversee biomedical defensive problems. Soon thereafter, a joint agreement was signed and studies on medical defense against biological weapons were conducted cooperatively by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and the Army Medical Department. These early days saw the beginnings of the medical volunteer program known as "Project Whitecoat" (1954–1973). USAMRIID's precursor — the Army Medical Unit (AMU) — began operations in 1956 under the command of Col. William D. Tigertt. (One of the AMU's first responsibilities was to oversee all aspects of Project CD-22, the exposure of volunteers to aerosols containing a highly pathogenic strain of Coxiella burnetii, the causal agent of Q fever.)
In 1961, Col. Dan Crozier assumed command of the AMU. Modern principles of biosafety and biocontainment were pioneered at Fort Detrick throughout the 1960s by a number of scientists led by Arnold G. Wedum. Crozier oversaw the planning and construction of the present USAMRIID laboratory and office building (Building 1425) and its advanced biocontainment suites, which is formally known as "The Crozier Building". Ground breaking came in 1967 (personnel moved in during 1971 and '72). In 1969, the BWL were formally disestablished and the Institute underwent a formal name change from the AMU to the "U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases". The Institute's mission did not really change and it received additional funding and personnel authorizations to hire biomedical and laboratory scientists who were losing their jobs as a result of the termination of the United States' offensive BW studies.
By the late 1970s, in addition to the work on Coxiella burnetii and other rickettsiae, research priorities had expanded to include the development of vaccines and therapeutics against Argentine, Korean and Bolivian hemorrhagic fevers, Lassa fever and other exotic diseases that could pose potential BW threats. In 1978, the Institute assisted with humanitarian efforts in Egypt when a severe outbreak of Rift Valley fever (RVF) occurred there for the first time. The epidemic caused thousands of human cases and the deaths of large numbers of livestock. Diagnostics, along with much of the Institute's stock of RVF vaccine, were sent to help control the outbreak. At this time the Institute acquired both fixed and transportable BSL-4 containment plastic human isolators for the hospital care and safe transport of patients suffering from highly contagious and potentially lethal exotic infections. In 1978, it established an Aeromedical Isolation Team (AIT) — a military rapid response team of doctors, nurses and medics, with worldwide airlift capability, designed to safely evacuate and manage contagious patients under BSL-4 conditions. A formal agreement was signed with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at this time stipulating that USAMRIID would house and treat highly contagious infections in laboratory personnel should any occur. (After deploying on only four "real world" missions in 32 years, the AIT was ultimately decommissioned in 2010.)
The 1980s saw the establishment of a new program to improve the existing anthrax vaccine, and to develop new information on the pathophysiology of weaponized anthrax disease. This came in response to the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak of 1979. Professional medical opinion differed at this period as to exactly what constituted a potential BW agent. A case in point was the establishment in 1980 of a new program focusing on Legionnaire's disease at the urging of some medical authorities. Almost a year later, a panel of experts decided that this organism did not have potential as a BW agent and the program was discontinued. Of greater longevity were the new research programs initiated at this time to study the trichothecene fungal toxins, marine toxins and other small molecular weight toxins of microbial origin.
The early 1980s also saw the development at USAMRIID of new diagnostic methods for several pathogenic organisms such as ELISA technology and the extensive use of monoclonal antibodies. The same year saw introduction of a new course, "Medical Defense Against Biological Agents", designed to familiarize military physicians, nurses and other medical personnel with the special problems potentially posed by medical management BW cases. This course, with some changes in format, continued into the 21st century as the "Medical Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties Course" (MCBC), still conducted jointly by USAMRIID and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD).
In 1985, the General Maxwell R. Thurman, then Army Deputy Chief of Staff, reviewed the threat posed to U.S. servicemembers by biological weapons. Thurman was particularly concerned about the application of genetic engineering technology to alter conventional microorganisms and his review resulted in a five-year plan of expansion for research into medical defensive measures at USAMRIID. The 1985 in-house budget of 34 M USD was to expand to 45 M the next year and was eventually scheduled to reach 93.2 M by 1989. (The need for a physical detection system to identify an aerosol of infectious agent became apparent at this time. Lack of such a reliable system still represents one of the major technical difficulties in the field.) Within two years, however, it became apparent that this program of expansion would not materialize. A new proposed toxin laboratory was never built. The Army had experienced several budget cuts and these impacted the funding of the Institute.
By 1988, USAMRIID began to come under close scrutiny by several Congressional committees. The Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, chaired by Senator Carl Levin, issued a report quite critical in the DoD's management of biological safety issues in the CBW programs. Senator John Glenn, Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs asked the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate the validity of DoD's Biological Defense Research Program. The GAO issued a critical report concluding that the Army spent funds on R&D efforts that did not address validated BW threats and may have duplicated the research efforts of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.
While investigating an outbreak of simian hemorrhagic fever (SHF) in 1989, USAMRIID electron microscopist Nancy Jaax discovered filoviruses similar in appearance to Ebola in tissue samples taken from a crab-eating macaque imported from the Philippines to the Hazleton Laboratories in Reston, Virginia. USAMRIID's role in this "Ebola Reston outbreak" became the focus of Richard Preston's bestselling 1995 book The Hot Zone.
During the period of Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990–91) USAMRIID provided the DoD with expert advice and products (vaccines and drugs) to ensure an effective medical response if a medical defense were required. USAMRIID scientists trained and equipped six special laboratory teams for rapid identification of potential BW agents, which fortunately never appeared. Following the conflict, USAMRIID physicians and engineers were key members of a United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) Inspection Team that evaluated the BW capabilities in Iraq during the 1990s.
In late 2001, USAMRIID became the FBI's reference lab for forensic evidence related to the bioterror incident known as "Amerithrax" in which anthrax-laden letters were sent through the US Postal Service, killing 5 people and sickening 17 others. The response by USAMRIID as it interacted with the FBI, HHS, DOJ, CIA and the White House are detailed in Richard Preston's 2002 book The Demon in the Freezer.[3]
An inspection by USAMRMC, conducted seven months after the Amerithrax incidents, found that Suite B-3 in Building 1425 at the Institute not only was contaminated with anthrax in three locations but the bacteria had escaped from secure areas in the building to those that were unprotected. The report stated that, "safety procedures at the facility and in individual laboratories were lax and inadequately documented; that safety supervision sometimes was carried out by junior personnel with inadequate training or survey instruments; and that exposures of dangerous bacteria at the lab, including anthrax, had not been adequately reported."[4]
In August 2008, a USAMRIID scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, was identified as the lone Amerithrax culprit by the FBI. Ivins had allegedly expressed homicidal thoughts and exhibited mental instability before and after the attacks occurred. He had maintained his security clearance at the Institute, and retained access to dangerous substances, until mid-July 2008, at the end of which month he committed suicide.[5] Also in August 2008, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren ordered the creation of a team of medical and military experts to review security measures at the Institute. The team is headed by a two-star general, and will include representatives from USAMRMC, the Army's Surgeon General, and Army operations.[6] U.S. Representatives John D. Dingell and Bart Stupak have stated that they will lead investigations into security at the Institute as part of a review of all the nation's biodefense labs.[7]
Safety policies changed at USAMRIID following an incident in March 2010. A young microbiologist became trapped in the -30 freezer portion of 'Little Alaska.' Due do the corroded nature of the freezer door, the woman was trapped in the life-threatening conditions for over 40 minutes. Thankfully by chance she was recovered and the incident was labelled only a near miss. USAMRIID instituted a mandatory '2 man freezer policy' and worked to keep both the quality of the door and the security in that surrounding area up to a higher standard.[8]
Groundbreaking occurred in August 2009 for a new, state-of-the-art, 835,000 square feet (78,000 m2) facility at Ft Detrick for USAMRIID. The building, being constructed by Manhattan Torcon Joint Venture under the supervision of the US Army Corps of Engineers, is projected for completion and partial occupation by 2015 or '16 and full occupation by 2017. This delay to the project delivery is in part due to a fire within the BSL4 laboratory area[9]
List of USAMRIID commanders[edit]
COL Dan Crozier, MD
Brig. Gen. Kenneth R. Dirks
COL Joseph F. Metzger
COL Richard F. Barquist, MD
COL David L. Huxsoll, DVM, PhD
COL Charles L. Bailey, PhD
COL Ronald G. Williams
COL Ernest T. Takafuji, MD, MPH
COL David R. Franz, DVM
COL Gerald W. Parker, DVM, PhD, MS
COL Edward M. Eitzen, Jr, MD, MPH
COL Erik A. Henchal, PhD
COL George W. Korch, PhD
COL John P. Skvorak, DVM, PhD
COL Bernard L. DeKoning, MD, FAAFP
COL Erin P. Edgar, MD
COL Thomas S. Bundt, MA, MHA, MBA, PhD
COL Gary A. Wheeler
COL E. Darrin Cox
Notes and references[edit]

1.      ^ "USAMRIID". Retrieved 21 August 2018.

2.      ^ "America Steps-Up Biodefenses - OhmyNews International". Retrieved 21 August 2018.

3.      ^ Preston, Richard (2002), The Demon in the Freezer, New York: Random House.

4.      ^ Seper, Jerry, "Lab Deemed Early As Contaminated 'Rat's Nest'", Washington Times, August 8, 2008, p. 1.

5.      ^ Hernandez, Nelson, and Philip Rucker, "Anthrax Case Raises Doubt On Security", August 8, 2008, p. 1.

6.      ^ Associated Press, "Army Team To Probe Security At Detrick", August 9, 2008.

9.      ^ Staff, Sylvia Carignan News-Post. "Fort Detrick's $10 million fire". Retrieved 21 August 2018.

Fort Detrick: From Biowarfare To Biodefense


August 1, 20083:58 PM ET

Tom Bowman 2010

Enlarge this image

A metal fence surrounds the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md. Earlier this week, a former scientist for the institute, Bruce Ivins, died in an apparent suicide. Ivins helped investigate the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A metal fence surrounds the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md. Earlier this week, a former scientist for the institute, Bruce Ivins, died in an apparent suicide. Ivins helped investigate the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images


The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases was established by the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army on Jan. 27, 1969, to develop medical defenses against biological warfare threats. It is located at Fort Detrick, Md.

The institute's scientists develop vaccines, drugs, diagnostics and information to protect U.S. service members from biological warfare threats and endemic diseases. It is the only laboratory within the Defense Department to study highly hazardous viruses requiring maximum containment.

The institute has helped to contain deadly diseases, such as Lassa fever, SARS and human monkeypox, since the 1970s.

Source: U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases

Q&A: Behind The Anthrax Investigations

Who was Bruce Ivins, and why was he a target in the FBI's investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks? Here, a look at the questions surrounding the case.

Timeline: Anthrax Attacks

Read a chronology of who was infected in the anthrax attacks and the FBI's pursuit of the culprit.

Fort Detrick, Md., was created in the middle of World War II and became the center for America's biological warfare efforts. But that role shifted in 1969, the government says, to focus solely on defense against the threat of biological weapons.

Then called Detrick Air Field, the science and research facility housed four biological agent production plants.

Anthrax was considered the most important agent. Simulants were tested, and one bomb was readied for production in 1944. One million bombs were ordered, though the order was canceled when the war ended in 1945.

During the 1950s, the biological weapons program was among the most classified within the Pentagon. There was an emphasis on biological agents for use against enemy forces as well as plants and animals.

The Army says no biological weapons were used during the Korean War, though such allegations were made by the Chinese and the Koreans.

Growing Protests

One plan at Fort Detrick in the late 1950s was to use the yellow fever virus against an enemy by releasing infected mosquitoes by airplane or helicopter. Detrick's labs were capable of producing a half-million mosquitoes per month, with plans for up to 130 million per month.

And finally, there is a very interesting Australian TV documentary, well worth viewing: Coronavirus: How the deadly epidemic sparked a global emergency

Four Corners (Australia tv)

Published on Feb 24, 2020

It’s likened to a scene from an apocalypse. Wuhan — a city more populous than London or New York — placed in ‘lockdown’ following the outbreak of the new and deadly coronavirus.





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