One of the vitally important jobs of public health experts is to locate the source of disease impacting public health to contain the spread and guard against future outbreaks. Recall the famous story of physician John Snow who isolated the source of a serious cholera outbreak in London in 1854 to a single contaminated town well, the Broad Street pump, and convinced local authorities to remove the handle, quashing the outbreak and saving lives.
We need to know the source.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a physician, has been relentless in trying to uncover the source of the current Covid-19 pandemic. And his grillings at Senate hearings of White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci have had intense moments. But this week, it came to a head. Here is the YouTube video of the exchange.
The Biden administration is conducting an investigation to determine the source of the Covid outbreak to learn if the virus came from natural sources or from a lab leak, possibly involving an engineered virus.
On Tuesday, Dr. Paul once again questioned Dr. Fauci about “gain of function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which received funding through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that Dr. Fauci heads.
Sen. Paul says “…gain-of-function research was done entirely in the Wuhan Institute, and was funded by the NIH,” citing a Wuhan paper entitled, “Discovery of a Rich Gene Pool of Bat SARS-Related Coronaviruses.” The paper credits the NIH for funding.
The researchers “took two bat coronavirus genes, spiked genes, and combined them with a SARS-related backbone to create new viruses that are not found in nature,” Paul explained. He does not imply that Dr. Fauci funded research related to the specific COVID-19 virus but says that NIH did fund dangerous gain-of-function research.
“Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan?” Paul asked.
Fauci blew up.
“Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you were referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function — let me finish!” he yelled.
Paul interrupted him: “You take an animal virus and you increase this transmissibility to humans, you’re saying that’s not gain-of-function?”
“Yeah that is correct, and Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about,” Fauci said.
Paul then replied, “This is your definition that you guys wrote. It says that scientific research that increases the transmissibility among animals is gain-of-function. They took animal viruses that only occur in animals, and they increase their transmissibility to humans. How can you say that is not gain-of-function?”
“It is not,” Fauci insisted.
Josh Rogin, a columnist for the liberal Washington Post, weighed in with a tweet on Tuesday: “Hey guys,@RandPaul was right and Fauci was wrong. The NIH was funding gain of function research in Wuhan, but NIH pretended it didn’t meet their ‘gain of function’ definition to avoid their own oversight mechanism.”
Getting to the truth really matters if we are going to understand what happened and do everything possible to avoid a repeat. The investigation must continue without contamination by politics and posturing to guide appropriate public policy decisions.