As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to spread in France, multiple emails and messages are circulating on social media and messaging platforms. Some of these messages contain misleading information, and some are supposedly based on the expertise of scientists at the Institut Pasteur. The Institut Pasteur asks you not to take any notice of this information and not to pass it on.
For official information about the research carried out at the Institut Pasteur, click here.
The Institut Pasteur's scientists have been working since the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak to deal with this unprecedented situation.
Updated March 18, 2020
NO, the Institut Pasteur did not invent Covid-19 or the virus responsible for it, SARS-CoV-2!
The Institut Pasteur invented a vaccine candidate in 2004 for a previous coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-1.
The conspiracy theory video currently doing the rounds on the Web is entirely false.
One of the Institut Pasteur's missions is to work on all emerging viruses, including coronaviruses. And there are several different types of coronavirus.
- In 2002, a first coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, emerged in China, causing an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
- In 2003, this outbreak spread to several countries and continents.
- At the time, the Institut Pasteur's teams responded to the outbreak by proposing a number of vaccine strategies, including a vaccine candidate based on the measles virus vaccine platform (the measles vaccine can be recombined and used as a means of inducing an immune response against other pathogens, in this case SARS-CoV-1).
- In 2004, an invention disclosure was filed for the vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-1.
The patent filed was for SARS-CoV-1 (responsible for the illness known as SARS in 2002-2003), which is very different from SARS-CoV-2 (responsible for the illness known as Covid-19 in 2019-2020).
- The 2004 patent described the discovery of the virus and the subsequent invention of a vaccine strategy against the virus – and NOT the invention of the virus itself!
- The vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-1 was not tested on humans because, by the time it was ready, the outbreak had fortunately come to an end and there were no more patients to test it on.
- In the coronavirus family, SARS-CoV-2 is one of a group of "SARS-like" viruses.
- The expertise developed in 2003 for SARS-CoV-1, and the vaccine candidate patented in 2004, are currently being put to use by the Institut Pasteur's scientists for the development of a potential vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (responsible for Covid-19), again using the measles platform.
NO, the coronavirus was not created in a laboratory!
A recurring suspicion about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, held by conspiracy groups, is that it is linked to the presence of a P4 laboratory in Wuhan, the city where the virus first appeared. According to conspiracy groups, SARS-CoV-2 was spread when a bat, on which tests had been performed, escaped, and the Institut Pasteur was linked to this. This is completely false.
There are four things to remember:
The coronavirus was not created by humans.
The P4 laboratory in the city of Wuhan, where the virus SARS-CoV-2 first appeared, has nothing to do with the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai (IPS).
This hearsay has no link with the previous work of the Institut Pasteur (Paris) on SARS-CoV-1, the coronavirus that appeared in China in 2002-2003.
The video based on this conspiracy theory, which is currently circulating on the web, is completely false.
1 _ The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was not created by humans.
A scientific article published on March 17, 2020 disproved entirely the idea that this virus resulted from a laboratory manipulation. In the study, the researchers examined what could be deduced from the original coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, working with a comparative analysis of genetic data. In the article, they describe the notable characteristics of its genome and discuss the scenarios in which it could reproduce. Their analyses clearly show that the SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construction or a deliberately manipulated virus.
The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes & Robert F. Garry. Nature Medicine (2020)
Decryption by Prof. Olivier Schwartz, former Scientific director of the Institut Pasteur (https://twitter.com/MinSoliSante/status/1240239777925881856)
2 _ The Institut Pasteur of Shanghai (IPS) did not work on coronaviruses in the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, which is associated with a Chinese institute.
Scientific collaboration with China, on the most dangerous pathogens (referred to as “class 4,” denoting pathogens that can only be the object of research in extremely secure laboratories, designated as “P4”), and on emerging viruses, fits into the context of a French-Chinese agreement for preventing and combatting emerging infectious viruses, signed in Peking on October 9, 2004.
It also fits into the context of the International Health Regulations of 2005, which entered into affect after the agreement, that uphold the principle of containment at source in the battle against infectious diseases.
This intergovernmental collaboration directed:
- Firstly, the construction of the National laboratory of high-security biological containment (a P4 laboratory), in Wuhan on the campus of the Virology Institut of Wuhan (VIW).
Under the authority of a Franco-Chinese steering committee, of which the Institut Pasteur is not a member, the activities of this P4 laboratory are the responsibility of a Chinese director, appointed by the Chinese authorities.
- Secondly, the creation of the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai (IPS), a research center that holds special status within the Academy of sciences in China (IPS-CAS).
The IPS has a governing system based on a board of directors and a joint scientific committee, the former co-led by the President of the Institut Pasteur and the latter led by Mr. Kourilsky, honorary professor of the College de France, and former President of the Institut Pasteur.
The P4 laboratory was indeed planned and constructed with the help of France, in the context of the cooperation agreement of 2004. However, the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai (IPS) is absolutely an independent and distinct Franco-Chinese institut
Regarding the alleged work of the Shanghai Pasteur Institute (IPS) on the coronavirus
Since the emergence of the nouvel coronavirus in Wuhan, the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai (IPS), in line with its mandate, fulfilled its role as a cooperative Franco-Chinese platform, facilitating a better understanding of the evolution of the new virus. It published, as early as the first weeks, an article about the three-dimensional structure of the virus. Its scientific experts furthermore proposed their services to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Virology Institut of Wuhan, to help the on-site staff, but they were not contacted.
The IPS has neither active projects inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, nor active projets in any of the P3 laboratories in Wuhan.
The IPS thus brought its active support to other institutes in the Asia region (Hong Kong, Laos, and Cambodia, primarily) and mobilized itself to help preparations in the most vulnerable countries (including African institutes.)
3 _ The Institut Pasteur (Paris) indeed conducted research in France on a previous coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1), which has nothing to do with SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
The Institut Pasteur (Paris) indeed conducted research in France, between 2002 and 2004, on a preceding coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) which was the cause of the 2003 epidemic. Furthermore, in 2004 the Institut created a vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-1.
The construction of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan began in 2011 and was inaugurated in 2017, which is to say, a dozen years after the invention disclosure that was touted as evidence in the conspiracy theory video.
NO, the Institut Pasteur does not have knowledge of the leak of a bacterial weapon intended for a third world war.
An audio message disseminated widely on social networks evoked a "third world war" and the "leak" of a Chinese bacterial weapon. The information is presented as originating from "the mother of my wife, her best friend works at the Institut Pasteur". This information is of course false.