A group of amateur sleuths on the internet is being credited for much of the work that forced mainstream scientists and the media to acknowledge the possibility of the lab leak theory after months of skepticism and ridicule.
The group dubbed itself DRASTIC, an acronym for Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19.
"Without the work done by the DRASTIC team, I don't really know where we would be today with the origins of covid-19," tweeted Alina Chan, a researcher at MIT and Harvard in April.
"Because what they have accomplished collectively is not something scientists can do. It's more similar to intelligence gathering," she added.
For months, members of the team probed the evidence available to test statements from Shi Zhengli, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and others who ridiculed the possibility of the lab leak theory.
A feature story in Newsweek documents how DRASTIC unraveled various attempts by the Chinese government and the Wuhan Institute to conceal evidence that supports the theory that the coronavirus could have come from a laboratory leak.
Thanks to DRASTIC, we now know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had an extensive collection of coronaviruses gathered over many years of foraging in the bat caves, and that many of them—including the closest known relative to the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2—came from a mineshaft where three men died from a suspected SARS-like disease in 2012.
We know that the WIV was actively working with these viruses, using inadequate safety protocols, in ways that could have triggered the pandemic, and that the lab and Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to conceal these activities. We know that the first cases appeared weeks before the outbreak at the Huanan wet market that was once thought to be ground zero.
Among the major investigators of the group was a young man from eastern India who goes by the name The Seeker on social media. He was able to show that information on a database from China's Ministry of Science and Technology proved Wuhan Institute researchers were lying about the death of miners who had died from contracting a disease similar to the coronavirus.
The story shows how a popular but false narrative can coalesce into an article of faith by scientists and the media until independent agents look for clues and connections being ignored by the media and covered up by those responsible.
"Not sure why no one else thought of this before, but I guess no one was looking," said The Seeker after finding a key piece of evidence that was hiding in plain sight.
Here's more about the lab leak theory:
Scientists push for full investigation into COVID-19 lab leak theory www.youtube.com