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The most politically compromised hypothesis

A historical antecedent of a laboratory leak?

Since probably no one has ever heard of it, let’s discuss a probable historical antecedent of a laboratory leak. The 1977 Russian flu was a flu pandemic first reported by the Soviet Union in 1977 that lasted until 1979. The flu epidemic in northern China began in May 1977, slightly before the outbreak in the Soviet Union.

An historical antecedent of a laboratory leak?
A Soviet citizen during disinfection

It mainly affected the population under the age of 25 or 26. About 700,000 people have died worldwide. A strain of the H1N1 flu virus caused the Russian flu. This strain resembled a flu strain circulating around the world between 1946 and 1957. This means it didn’t stay around (and mutate) in an animal reservoir. Genetic analysis of the strain led researchers to think that the virus was released due to a laboratory accident. No nation has ever been investigated for what happened and the culprits remained unpunished.

A quite impossible comeback

The event was most likely not natural, since the genetic sequence of the virus was almost identical to the sequences of decades-old strains. Although there are several hypotheses that could explain its origin, the possibility that the 1977 pandemic was the result of a laboratory accident has recently gained popularity in discussions of the biosafety risks of gain-of-function (GOF) research such as argument to explain why this research should not be performed.

50 years ago, same hypothesis

Even in this case three possible origins were examined:

  • A laboratory accident;
  • A leak during vaccine tests;
  • Deliberate release as a biological weapon.

The strain was indeed too close to decades old strains to be likely a natural occurrence. The relevance of the 1977 event must raise awareness to the modern debate on GOF studies.

At the time, as today, the WHO and scientists in China and Soviet Union denied the laboratory leak theory.

An historical antecedent of a laboratory leak?
H1N1 virus

Out of 100,000 inhabitants, 5 people died of “Russian flu”. Most of the infected people were under the age of 26 or 25. An estimated 700,000 people have died from the Russian flu pandemic worldwide. Since late 1977, the H1N1 strain has started circulating with the H3N2 strain in humans as seasonal influenza becoming endemic.

Does this probable historical antecedent of a laboratory leak remind you anything? The event was not much different from what we are seeing today with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic:

and many, too many, innocent deaths. But this time it may not go that way. So we are clamoring for a real international investigation to verify what happened in Wuhan.

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