Sunday, March 03, 2024

CDC Tracking BA.2.87.1, New Omicron Subvariant With Potential to Evade Immunity

Experts detected a strain of SARS-CoV-2 with more than 30 changes in its spike protein compared with Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced. The newer Omicron subvariant, known as BA.2.87.1, has infected at least 9 people in South Africa since September 2023. No cases have been reported in the US or outside South Africa, the CDC noted in its update.

The large number of changes in spike proteins raises the possibility that the new strain could escape the immunity people have acquired from vaccines or infection. Still, the relatively few cases suggest the variant is not highly transmissible right now.

Although the CDC is carefully monitoring the new strain, the agency expects that current vaccines and treatments will continue to be effective.


Scientist claims ‘smoking gun’ evidence COVID-19 intentionally created by researchers in Chinese lab

COVID-19 may have been created in a Chinese lab, a British professor told the UN Wednesday, with another expert claiming that evidence of the likelihood has reached “the level of a smoking gun.”

Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, was quoted saying in a new Wall Street Journal article that the virus that killed millions around the world may actually have been manmade in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

He cited evidence found in a 2018 document from the lab that talked of making such a virus.

“[The document] elevates the evidence provided by the genome sequence from the level of noteworthy to the level of a smoking gun,” Ebright said in the piece by former New York Times editor Nicholas Wade.

The papers from the lab cited by Ebright contained drafts and notes regarding a grant proposal called Project DEFUSE, which sought to test engineering bat coronaviruses in a way that would make them more easily transmissible to humans.

The proposal was ultimately rejected and denied funding by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but Wade suggested that their work could have been carried out by researchers in Wuhan who had secured Chinese government funding.

“Viruses made according to the DEFUSE protocol could have been available by the time Covid-19 broke out, sometime between August and November 2019,” wrote Wade, a former science editor of the New York Times.

“This would account for the otherwise unexplained timing of the pandemic along with its place of origin.”

Along with the research notes, Wade claimed the specific genetic structure of the coronavirus that allowed it to infect humans served as another strong indication of “the virus’s laboratory birth.”

“Whereas most viruses require repeated tries to switch from an animal host to people, SARS-CoV-2 infected humans out of the box, as if it had been preadapted while growing in the humanized mice called for in the DEFUSE protocol,” Wade wrote.

While scientists continue to debate whether the coronavirus pandemic was a natural occurrence or manmade, Ebright believed there was credibility that the work proposed by the now-controversial EcoHealth Alliance led to the development COVID-19.

Following the release of the 2018 documents — which were published by US Right to Know through a Freedom of Information Act request — Ebright said there was clearer evidence that the virus was manufactured in a lab, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The 2018 documents contained drafts and notes regarding Project DEFUSE and how to synthesize bat coronaviruses to make them more transmissible.

The researchers proposed introducing “appropriate human-specific cleavage sites” to the spike proteins of SARS-related viruses in the lab, the same method several biologists have said could have been used to synthesize the coronavirus that led to the pandemic.

According to the documents, the researchers had planned to conduct a portion of the research at the Wuhan lab where they noted that safety conditions were not up to US standards, to the point where they claimed American scientists would “likely freak out.”

While COVID-19’s origins remain a mystery, Dr. Filippa Lentzos, an associate professor of science and international security at King’s College London, said the world needed to acknowledge that the possibility exists that the virus was synthesized.

Speaking before the UN in New York on Wednesday, Lentzos presented the work of the Independent Task Force on Research with Pandemic Risks, which calls on scientists the world over to follow stricter regulations lest another worldwide breakout occur, the Telegraph reports.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that the pandemic could have started from some research-related incident,” Lentzos said.

“Are we going to find that out? In my view, I think it’s very unlikely that we will. We need to do better in the future,” she added. “We are going to see more ambiguous events.”


Angry nurses rally at Gold Coast University Hospital, demand jobs back

A vindictive bureaucracy at work. They don't like admitting that they were wrong

Dozens of placard-waving nurses and other healthcare workers took part in the rally outside Gold Coast University Hospital on Saturday.

It followed fury this week after The Courier-Mail revealed leaked Queensland Health emails telling a veteran nurse that “we are unable to re-employ any staff who were officially terminated” for refusing the jab.

Queensland Health boss Michael Walsh said the edict was incorrect and wrote to all hospital and health services in the state on Friday telling them there was no directive not to reinstate sacked workers.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman this week repeatedly denied there were any barriers to hundreds of workers who refused to comply with the vaccination mandate from returning to work.

But nurses protesting on the Gold Coast said they were still struggling to get their jobs back.

They included 23-year veteran intensive care nurse Michelle Williams, who said she tried to reapply at the major hospital she was sacked from in 2021 but was told there were no vacancies - only to see a job ad for a position.

“It’s frustrating, it’s really frustrating,” she said. “Patients are suffering and they’ve got very junior staff looking after them. “There’s so many of us with so much experience and our experience is just going to waste.”

Ms Williams said Ms Fentiman needed to “stop lying to us”.

“We want to come back to work, we’ve done nothing wrong except not follow this one (vaccine) direction,” she said. “We’re not criminals. We’re people who love our jobs, we love looking after patients and we just want to help people. “We just want to come back to work and do what we love doing, and that’s helping people get better.”

Ella Leach, secretary of the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland, said Ms Fentiman had not responded to an invitation to attend or at least endorse the rally.

Ms Leach said the minister had been sent the names and experience of 350 sacked health care workers who wanted to return and “Shannon should be reaching out to them directly” instead of making them reapply.

“There’s just zero excuse … we want her to take some actual action,” she said.

“These people were born to be nurses and health professionals - they want to work. It doesn’t make them happy hearing that the system’s crumbling, it makes them desperately angry and upset. “All they want to do is work.”

Ms Leach was herself sacked from Queensland Children’s Hospital for refusing the vaccine - in January this year, four months after the mandate was lifted, and despite being seven months’ pregnant. She launched unfair dismissal action against Queensland Health.

Ms Leach said many sacked healthcare workers who had reapplied for jobs with Queensland Health were still being rejected because of their “disciplinary action history” in refusing the vaccine.

“These people have decades of experience and they are desperately needed,” she said.

Ms Leach said 6000 nurses were predicted to retire in 2024 but Queensland Health was hiring nurses from interstate or overseas, with incentives of up to $70,000.




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