Debunking a persistent COVID-19 lie. Yes, the Virus has been Isolated.

Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, lying, or both.

It all started when I posted a screenshot from this article about the dire COVID-19 situation in Texas on Instagram.

While the appropriate reaction is horror, a woman named Jackie thought it a good and purposeful thing to enter my direct messages and write, “OMG!!! Propaganda at it’s finest!!!! Children aren’t dying!!!! Sicko!!!

(I think I got the exclamations points correct).

Then she followed up with a demand to “Show me where they have isolated the virus, you can’t because they haven’t, and yet there is a variant how is that possible?”

(Waves hands, gesturing everywhere).

Another anti-vaxxer names Kate, or a bot hard to tell, wondered why I didn’t answer her question?

Big Sigh.

“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self awareness,” Annie Savoy, Bull Durham.

Here’s the deal. If you think every news organization reporting on the surge in Texas is lying, then nothing I am going to say here will sway you. The COVID-19 stats are freely available at the Texas Dept. of Health and Human Services. Here is a screenshot from August 14, 2021. Over 52,000 people have died.

And the Dallas-Forth Worth Hospital Council did indeed report that they had no ICU beds. This took me 3 minutes to find on Google. You can read the article here.

Okay, so if I am not going to convince any “true believers” why write this article at all?

Many people are exposed to this disinformation passively. What I mean by that is someone brings it up in conversation or they see it mentioned in the comments section on a post. Or they are even at a school board hearing on masks and it is mentioned by some maskhole. And here’s the issue, being exposed to incorrect information even once can be enough to sew seeds of doubt. So knowing it is wrong and why upfront is a bit like vaccinating yourself against these lies.

So big deep breath. Here we go…

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVIS-19, has of course been isolated

I have included an image of it from the NIH above.

The CDC received a specimen from a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2 on January 20, 2020. Then they cultured the virus to grow it for study. This literally means it was isolated. By February 2, 2020, the CDC had enough SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture for researchers. On February 4, 2020, the CDC shipped SARS-CoV-2 specimens to the BEI Resources Repository. You can read about that chain of events here.

The virus has also been isolated by researchers in South Korea, Italy, and Canada just to name a few.

We wouldn’t know about the spike protein that seems to be the obsession of many anti-vaxxers if the virus hasn’t been isolated.

So where does this lie originate?

The lie that SARS-CoV-2 hasn’t been isolated didn’t come from Kate or Jackie. According to Reuters, it originated or was popularized in 2020 by a man named David Crowe. You can read their report here. David Crowe was not a virologist or a biologist or a doctor (he died in 2020), he was a telecommunications expert. He was also a noted AIDS denialist. Being an AIDS denialist should of course discredit anyone from being an authority on any medical subject. Remember, medical conspiracy theories are a red flag for disinformation. Read about how to find online information here.

Crowe stated that a virologist was lying when they used the word “isolation” and that a coronavirus had never been “purified.” He was also speaking gibberish with scientific words. I’m not going to link to any of his information as it doesn’t deserve the traffic and people shouldn’t be exposed to his falsehoods.

This obsession with “isolation” and “purification” appears to be based on Koch's postulates, which is often abused by the forces of anti-science, including AIDS denialists. Koch was a German microbiologist from the 1800s who contributed much to our understanding of infectious diseases. Koch proposed 4 postulates that were needed to be met for a microbe to be considered the cause of a disease. They are as follows:

  1. The organism must be regularly associated with the disease and its characteristic lesions.

  2. The organism must be isolated from the diseased host and grown in culture.

  3. The disease must be reproduced when a pure culture of the organism is introduced into a healthy, susceptible host.

  4. The same organism must be re isolated from the experimentally infected host.

There are lots of issues with Koch’s postulates today, meaning now that we know so much more about infectious diseases they don’t always hold up. For example, the organism that causes syphilis can’t be grown in culture, but that doesn’t mean syphilis doesn’t exist! Some microbes grow very well in the human body and are just too finicky for the lab. Hey look, they evolved into a very specific eco niche.

Postulates 2 and 3 seem to be the ones that David Crowe referenced, but here's the issue. Koch's postulates are from before scientists knew about viruses, which grow inside a living cell. This is basic biology. Bacteria can grown on what is called nutrient media, this is the culture referenced by Koch. Viruses, being intracellular, require a living cell to grow. And you have to grow them to find them. Proof the virus is there is then obtained by a variety of methods depending on the virus, but this could include isolating viral particles from liquid where the cells are growing. While scientifically this is isolating the virus, this doesn’t satisfy the Koch purists, who want the virus without any foreign genetic material, which means no growing them in cells. This is a bad faith request and simply ridiculous.

Look, we also used to think the earth was the center of the universe. Insisting on Koch’s postulates to apply to COVID-19 is the same as insisting we use astronomy from 800 A.D. to guide space fight today.


Yes, It Makes My Head Hurt Too

This information is easily available. I mean there is even a nice little Lumen module on how to to isolate and culture viruses that you can find here. If you Google “COVID-19 isolation fact check” multiple articles come up refuting the claim that the virus has never been isolated. If you Google Koch’s postulates you will find in the first few entries information explaining why they don’t hold up today as written and need modification. The point being the correct information isn’t hard to find, but you’d have to step out of the echo-chamber of disinformation to be exposed. It also takes conspiracy theory thinking, because the idea that every world government is conspiring to lie about the existence of SARS-CoV-2 is about as conspiracy theory as it gets.

I hate being Jackie and Kate's unpaid research assistant as they are clearly asking in bad faith, but this lie is still floating about so I felt it worth debunking. So now you know, indeed SARS-CoV-2 has been isolated. More importantly, anyone claiming that it hasn’t is ignorant and uninformed and should be ignored.

Most of us are willing to spend 5 minutes to read about a movie to decide if we should see it or not. It takes about 5 minutes of Googling to find the right information about the existence of SARS-CoV-2. Or, you know, you could just listen to the experts at the WHO, Health Canada, the CDC, the Ministry of Health in New Zealand, the Ministero della Salute in Italy, etc.

The lie that SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t exist originated or was popularized by an AIDS denialist who worked in telecommunications. Believing that Koch’s original postulates must be met to prove something is an infectious disease means you don’t believe viruses can cause infections at all…and that you like your medicine circa 1880.