Take a deep breath as the origins of Covid deepen

China rolls out ‘aerosol’ vaccine just days after a study suggests the virus could have been genetically modified

Take a deep breath and then breathe. Earlier this week, China rolled out an aerosol vaccine in Shanghai to beef up its defense in the battle against rising Covid-19 outbreaks.

The news came just days after a study into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen revealed it could have escaped from a research lab.

Covid-19 first surfaced in Wuhan in 2019 before triggering a lockdown of the Chinese city’s 8.5 million residents. Initially, a “wet market” was blamed for the outbreak.

Since then, nearly 6.6 million people have died from the virus worldwide, the World Health Organization has reported.

A global vaccination program has slowed down the death toll in the past two years amid a surge in scientific exploration and innovation.

“Shanghai announced on Tuesday that it would provide an inhaled version of CanSino Biologics’ injected Covid-19 vaccine as a booster dose for people aged 18 and above. [This makes] it the first [city] in the country to offer [an] inhalable vaccine, which was approved by China’s top drug regulator in early September,” state-controlled China Daily stated.

How it works:

  • The vaccine is administered via a cup containing the aerosol of the vaccine, resembling a “mist.”
  • It is inhaled or sucked through the mouth.
  • Chinese citizens already vaccinated are offered a single dose as a booster shot.
  • The move comes amid rolling lockdowns across the country due to President Xi Jinping’s “zero-Covid” policy. 

Our findings strongly suggest a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV-2.

Study published on bioRxiv

Delve deeper: “CanSino Biologics, the vaccine’s developer, said in a preprint study released in July that when delivered as a booster dose, the inhaled vaccine is capable of stimulating a stronger antibody response in fully vaccinated adults than the injected, inactivated vaccine. No severe adverse reaction has been observed,” China Daily reported.

Between the lines: News of the breakthrough came less than a week after an academic paper published by American and German researchers claimed human “fingerprints” were found in the DNA of Covid-19. The study showed that this would suggest the virus was “synthesized” or genetically modified.

Key findings: “SARS-CoV-2 is an anomaly, more likely a product of synthetic genome assembly than natural evolution. The synthetic fingerprint is anomalous in wild coronaviruses, and common in lab-assembled viruses,” the finding published on bioRxiv, a preprint server, said.

Synthetic origin: “Our findings strongly suggest a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV-2,” the preprint, which has not been peer-reviewed, added.

Split decision: Experts are divided on the findings. Some called the results “troubling” and the “strongest piece of evidence” yet that the virus was man-made. Others have described the paper as “deeply flawed.”

Big picture: There is no suggestion in the study that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab. But the Wuhan “wet market” was near the high-security Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases. Strange.

China Factor comment: Nearly three years since Covid-19 first surfaced, the origin of this microscopic enemy is still shrouded in mystery. Like the aerosol vaccine, it appears as elusive as the particles in the air we breathe.