The Colorado State Open Thread covers topics that I hope are of interest to people all around our state of Colorado, and hopefully it appeals to those who are just interested in happenings in Colorado.
Today’s column is fixated on bats. Not the wild varieties, eating thousands or millions of bugs, and then disappearing when the bugs do. No, today is on bats that stay here year around. In labs. Being studied for disease carrying capabilities.
The large article that caught my eye on this was in the Denver Post today — www.denverpost.com/… Since I expect there are people who don’t have a subscription and since this is behind a paywall, here are a couple of other links that you can visit —
The CSU Collegian collegian.com/…,
CSU itself — source.colostate.edu/… and their FAQ page — batresearch.colostate.edu
The Fort Collins Coloradoan — www.coloradoan.com/…
From the Denver Post:
The space is intended to mimic natural bat habitats, becoming one of few places in the world equipped to breed bat colonies, enabling scientists to have a baseline of knowledge about the animals’ age, health and other information needed to collect accurate data.
“It’s absolutely critical work,” said Tom Monath, a virologist and chief science officer at the pharmaceutical company Crozet and former vector-borne infectious disease director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But as scientists buzz about future pioneering bat research — including vaccine development, drug testing and how to guard against future pandemic threats — plans for the lab have generated controversy in a way that wouldn’t have been seen before the pandemic. Conservative pundits and politicos in Colorado have seized on the bat research facility, with some spreading misinformation and trying to draw parallels to the virology lab in Wuhan, China, at the center of the debate over COVID-19’s origins.
This is a long article in the Post and since the AP also contributed to the reporting, I’m going to include a few more paragraphs to give you a sense for some of the opposition.
Last month, the Libertarian Party of Colorado decried the facility as a “bioweapons lab” in a tweet. (The party’s Twitter account has since been suspended from the social media service. Communications director Jordan Marinovich said Twitter told the state party that the account broke rules against violent speech, but didn’t provide evidence of any violation.)
Greg Ebel, a CSU virologist and project leader for the bat research facility, said he has seen misinformation about the facility circulating, but dismissed the claims.
“This isn’t a bat COVID lab,” Ebel said. “It’s not a bioweapons lab. We’re not working with Ebola or Nipah virus or any of these things. I’m not interested in losing my job or going to jail or interested in doing research that’s going to carry home pathogens to my wife or my child. Those kinds of things are beyond ridiculous.”
Sherronna Bishop, former campaign manager for Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, said in January during her web show “America’s Mom” that since the pandemic, nothing concerns people more than hearing that a research lab is going into their backyard.
“Fort Collins is not exactly moving down a conservative path in any way, shape or form, and to go from their transgender ideology to now their bat institution… are people just feeling the disconnect between the elected officials and themselves?” Bishop said during the show.
Former Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl dedicated a May episode of her “Unleashed with Heidi Ganahl” podcast — titled “Has Colorado Gone Bat (Expletive) Crazy?” — to air her concerns about the facility, centered on what she said were plans to perform “gain-of-function” research there.
Gain-of-function is a type of research in which an organism gains a new function, such as grass being modified to be more tolerant to drought, CSU officials said. In virology, it can involve making a virus more transmissible for research purposes in an effort to better prepare a public health response.
From Colorado State University:
The National Institutes of Health has awarded $6.7 million to Colorado State University for a new facility to study bats.
Sometimes animals carry pathogens that cause diseases that harm humans, also known as zoonotic diseases. Bats can harbor coronaviruses, so proper care and study of bats and pathogens is critical to protect global public health. CSU is a world leader in research on zoonotic infections. The University’s scientists have been studying bats and other vectors that transmit dengue fever, Zika and West Nile viruses for more than 30 years.
“The new center will be a one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to maintaining bat colonies for research,” said Greg Ebel, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and director of the Center for Vector-borne Infectious Diseases at CSU. “This award will dramatically increase our ability to study the role of bats in disease transmission and help us become even stronger in researching emerging zoonotic pathogens,” he added.
An addition from the Coloradoan:
How will the bats to begin the new colonies be obtained?
The bat populations needed for this facility will number in the dozens to hundreds, not the thousands, Rudolph said. The bats will be acquired by the U.S. government from other parts of the world, “quarantined well outside the United States and deemed safe and not sick before they come to us,” he said. The U.S. government will arrange for their transport to Fort Collins following strict safety protocols that are also in place for animals that are regularly transported to CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for treatment.
Here are some more skeptical articles that know that the Covid19 virus started in a research lab like this in Wuhan, China, and that a leak of that nature could very well occur in Fort Collins.
Natural News — www.naturalnews.com/…
US Right To Know — usrtk.org/…
Children’s Health Defense.org — childrenshealthdefense.org/…
From Natural News:
The CSU has officially denied that any gain-of-function research will be conducted in the new bat laboratory. However, researchers associated with the facility have previously been involved in such dangerous studies, including some who conducted those studies in Wuhan, China.
Local residents, including a grassroots group called the COVID Bat Research Moratorium of Colorado (CBRMC), as well as other bioweapons experts, also worry about the risks associated with working on deadly viruses and the possibility of a laboratory leak similar to the one speculated to have happened at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which could have led to the release of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Christine Bowman, the leader of CBRMC, has been advocating against the new facility. She and her group have launched initiatives, such as a yard sign campaign, to raise awareness among the local community. However, they claim to have faced resistance from state and local officials and CSU, who have been unresponsive.
Bowman emphasized the need for answers regarding the modification of COVID-19 to enable human-to-human transmission before she can accept the idea of raising diseased bats for research in her neighborhood. The potential connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and a lab leak in Wuhan has led to doubts about the safety of continuing such research.
The biosafety level at which the new facility will operate is unclear. Bowman also raised her concern about the potential increase of biosafety levels without public approval or notification. She questioned who decides the criteria for determining "concern" regarding research.
She also stated that the chronic wasting disease had leaked from CSU's labs in the past, resulting in the deaths of many deer in the population. While she didn't have specific data to support this claim, she mentioned that it has been widely cited and not refuted by anyone at CSU.
Apparently she, with no science training whatsoever (from one of the other articles) should get to decide what the biosafety level of concern is, and not scientists with decades of work in this exact area, because reasons.
From US Right to Know:
This post describes documents of Colorado State University (CSU) Professors Rebekah Kading and Tony Schountz, which U.S. Right to Know obtained from a public records request. Kading and Schountz are virologists who study bat-associated pathogens in hot-spots across the world. They collaborate with EcoHealth Alliance, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. military’s research and development arm.
The documents offer a glimpse into the military-academic complex of scientists who study how to prevent spillovers of potential pandemic pathogens from bats. The documents raise questions about contagion risks, for example, of shipping of bats and rats infected with dangerous pathogens. They also contain other noteworthy items, including:
- In February 2017, DoD coordinators of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Cooperative Biological Engagement Program announced a new global bat alliance “to build and leverage country and regional capabilities to generate an enhanced understanding of bats and their ecology within the context of pathogens of security concern.” Associated with this, the emails show a collaboration between CSU, EcoHealth Alliance and the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories to build a bat research site at CSU to expand bat infection studies.
- The global bat alliance evolved into a group called Bat One Health Research Network ( BOHRN). By 2018, key BOHRN scientists were working with DARPA on a project called PREEMPT. CSU records on PREEMPT show that Rocky Mountain Laboratories, CSU and Montana State University are developing “scalable vectored” vaccines to spread through bat populations “to prevent emergence and spillover” of potential pandemic viruses from bats to human populations. Their goal is to develop “self-disseminating vaccines” — which spread contagiously between bats — in hopes of eliminating pathogens in their animal reservoirs before spillover into humans. This research raises concerns about unintended consequences of releasing genetically engineered self-spreading entities into the open, and the ecological risks of their unknown evolution, virulence and spread.
Once a defense-associated scientist, you can never get that smell from your smock.
From the Defender, under a scary picture of a bat, test tubes with red fluid (cherry Koolaid? I know, Blood!) and worms or intestines inside the tubes, comes the article that includes this:
University officials and proponents of the new facility argue the laboratory is necessary to enhance research capabilities looking into emerging diseases and viruses resulting from zoonotic — animal-to-human — transfer.
While CSU denies that gain-of-function research will occur at the laboratory, some researchers connected with the new facility previously were associated with actors involved with such research, including experiments conducted in Wuhan, China.
Francis Boyle, J.D., Ph.D., a bioweapons expert and professor of international law at the University of Illinois, is concerned about the facility.
Boyle told The Defender:
“It is well known that Colorado State University has a long and ongoing history of specialization in weaponizing insects with biowarfare agents for delivery to human beings.
“This new lab will magnitudinally increase CSU’s offensive biowarfare capabilities, in gross violation of the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and my Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that provides for life in prison.”
The article goes on to interview Ms. Bowman again, who repeats and then the Defender expands upon her claim that CWD in animals, primarily deer, originated in Fort Collins, or if not, certainly is one of the spots from which it spread.
I am not sorry. I received a Masters degree in science from CSU, and I never met a single person in a lab that I was worried about whether they were careless or not paying attention while working in a lab and I have every confidence that anyone working in a lab where live diseases are being handled will take extreme, careful measures in carrying out procedures so that nothing “escapes” and if any scientist state they’re not handling the nasty diseases, they won’t be. Could that change? Yes, but not without it being public knowledge.
Anyway, that new lab, which is supposed to start construction this summer, and the fact I’m trying to get bats to stay around, but in the bat house where they belong instead of inside my deck or roof (where they went after the deck was replaced), makes me just a little sensitive to issues involving them.
So, what’s on your minds? The floor is open...