By AFP Staff
New information released in the past year lends credence to a-long-held belief that the deadly 2014 Ebola outbreak in Western Africa could have started in a U.S.-run viral research lab located in Sierra Leone. The two top researchers at the facility have strenuously denied this claim, but it’s worth noting that these two men have also been at the forefront of denying the theory that Covid-19 leaked from a U.S.-funded laboratory in Wuhan, China.
In 2014, the Ebola virus tore through communities in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, killing thousands. At the time, there were grave concerns that Ebola would spread outside of Africa and become a global pandemic. Thankfully that didn’t occur, but cases did pop up in seven more countries, including Italy, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the United States, 11 people contracted Ebola, two of whom died.
The mainstream media story has always been that, in December 2013, a two-year-old African boy had been playing with bats in the jungle in Guinea and was infected with the Ebola virus. According to the reports, before the boy died, he spread it to his mother, who then spread it among the local community before it was off, infecting hundreds of thousands of people in multiple countries.
New information, however, adds to a report published last year on the science website “Independent Science News” by two independent researchers that the origin story of that Ebola outbreak is most likely not true.
According to that lengthy article by Sam Husseini and Dr. Jonathan Latham, it’s possible that the Ebola virus leaked from a U.S.-run laboratory where scientists had been studying deadly, highly infectious viruses, including, we have come to learn, a particularly deadly strain of Ebola.
In the years following the Ebola outbreak, scientists at the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium lab in Kenema, Sierra Leone had been emphatic that the virus could not have leaked from their lab because they were not studying the particular Zaire strain of the Ebola virus that was behind the outbreak in Africa in 2014. This strain of Ebola is especially dangerous to humans, and, if left untreated, has an 80% fatality rate.
In their article from 2022, Husseini and Latham insist that the Kenema laboratory “merits close inspection as a potential source of the Zaire Ebola strain,” because, among other reasons, genomic evidence indicates that the virus that initially spread across Guinea in 2014 was genetically identical to viruses isolated from bats on the other side of Africa except for one mutation, showing that there were limited mutations before humans were infected.
“Zoonotic outbreaks, including most past Ebola outbreaks, typically feature multiple jumps to humans from an animal source,” they wrote. “Single jumps, however, are consistent with lab origins and are often considered a red flag for that possibility.”
Moreover, this particular pathogen only occurs in bats in the Congo that are located about 2,500 miles from Guinea, and no bats infected with the Zaire strain were ever found around the area where the boy was allegedly infected. Since Ebola is not highly transmissible, objective scientists remain stumped as to how it spread unnoticed all the way across Africa before infecting a very young boy, who his father said was not even old enough to have gone off into the jungle to play with bats by himself anyway.
ENTER LAB LEAK THEORY
On a popular online talk show called “Decoding the Gurus,” Dr. Kristian Andersen, the vice president of the Kenema lab, recently conceded that scientists there have in fact been working on the Zaire Ebola virus for many years.
Andersen told the host:
The problem is that people see these coincidences. One of the new ones is the Ebola lab leak, which also is being blamed on us, because we had been studying Ebola in Kenema in Sierra Leone, and, lo and behold, Ebola emerged just a few miles from there in 2014—obviously across the border in Guinea, but it’s maybe a hundred miles or so away. And people then put that together and say, “Oh, that Ebola must have been a lab leak, too. And it was [Kenema labs founder and president] Robert Garry and Kristian Andersen again.”
And the reason why these names keep coming up, and the reason why we get grant money to study infectious diseases is because we study infectious diseases, and have done so for many, many decades. … It’s not because there’s some kind of major conspiracy theory here, where all of us have been sort of fiddling with the field well prior to the pandemic, right?
It just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even understand how you can make that connection.
At the time of the outbreak, in an article titled “5 falsehoods about Ebola,” published on Oct. 15, 2014, “Politifact” sought to downplay rumors that the Ebola outbreak had originated in some lab in Sierra Leone.
One of the experts “Politifact” interviewed for the article was Garry, who told the news and commentary website, “We were there working 10 years, and then Ebola came here. … The conspiracy theories—really just kind of … wow. Our teammates are dying, and you’re talking this trash about us.”
At the time, “Politifact” rated the lab leak claim as “Pants on Fire” false, but it is worth emphasizing that “Politifact” neglected to mention in its report that, at the time, Garry was the president and founder of the Sierra Leone viral research lab that featured prominently in the so-called conspiracy theories it sought to debunk.
Since Andersen’s admission in the podcast, Husseini has updated his research to note that the two infectious disease researchers implicated in the potential 2014 Ebola lab leak have also been working to debunk theories that Covid-19 leaked from a viral research lab in northern China.
“Andersen, the vice president of labs in West Africa, admits to working on Ebola prior to the 2014 outbreak, contradicting Garry, his colleague,” wrote Husseini in his own online newsletter on March 23, adding, “[They] were also the two lead authors of ‘Proximal Origins’ in Nature Medicine in the spring of 2020 which drove much of the media coverage claiming Covid-19 could not have a lab origin.”