“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare
The same goes for a virus. What is in a name? That which infects and kills by the millions by any other name would still be as infectious and deadly. Yet, emails obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests show that in the infancy of the pandemic scientists were more concerned with what we should call the virus, than developing the treatments and vaccines to defeat it.
On Thursday, February 14th, 2020, Dr. Shi Zhengli, one of the directors of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, sent an email to Dr. Ralph Baric, the scientist at the University of North Carolina widely regarded as the godfather of gain-of-function research (or, research centered on ways to weaponize viruses and increase their lethality), asking him to have the CoV study group consider revising the technical name they’d given to the Wuhan coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
(The virus named SARS-CoV-2 because it is indeed a SARS virus, a coronavirus, and the second of the outbreaks that have originated in China from a SARS Coronavirus in the last two decades.)
Shi initially took umbrage with the fact that an international coalition had changed the name of the virus from 2019-nCoV, referring to the year it was “discovered” and the fact that it was a novel coronavirus, to SARS-CoV-2, referring more accurately to the family of viruses to which the virus belongs – which seems like a logical development as more information was known.
SARS-CoV-2 Naming 1
She wrote (original spelling preserved):
We heard that the 2019-nCoV was renamed as SARS-CoV-2. We had a fierce discussion among Chinese virologists. We have some comments on this name, I’m wondering if the CoV study group would consider a revision.
I attached the comments from me na dmy Chinese colleague.
Considering the long-term professional relationship the two virologists had it seems like a collegial request, and it certainly seems helpful that she attached comments from her colleagues. But, as I mentioned in an earlier piece, what people sometimes fail
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