Fact Check: Scientists Did NOT Lie About Isolating The Virus That Causes COVID-19

Fact Check

  • by: Jennifer Dobner
Fact Check: Scientists Did NOT Lie About Isolating The Virus That Causes COVID-19 Not Fraud

Did scientists fraudulently claim that they had isolated and sequenced viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19? No, that's not true: The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been independently isolated and sequenced by multiple scientists around the world since January 7, 2020.

Claims that the virus has never been isolated have circulated since vaccines for COVID-19 were introduced in early 2020, including in this 11-minute video clip from January, 19, 2022, which was posted on the New Guards Media Facebook page under the title "Dr. Thomas Cowan explains why all papers that claim to have 'Isolated and Purified' a virus are FRAUDULENT." It opened:

Why are there, let me take a guess here, approximately 150,000 papers since 1954, including, let me take a guess 10,000 in the last year with the title called the isolation and purification of such and such a virus? ... I've seen about 50 of them, the isolation and purification of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and everybody who disputes me, sends me these papers and says you have to be wrong because all the scientists in the world are saying they've isolated and purified this virus. So, what I've said up to now is how it should be done. And so why are they writing these papers that say the isolation and purification, and then they do the genome and then they do the variants and et cetera. What are they doing?

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:Screen Shot 2022-02-18 at 2.09.22 PM.png

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Feb 18 19:37:42 2022 UTC)

Chinese scientists were the first to identify the existence of a new, or novel, coronavirus in mid-December of 2019. Temporarily named 2019-nCoV, they reported the discovery to the World Health Organization on December, 31, 2019.

By January 10, 2020, they had isolated the virus and publicly shared its complete genome for use by scientists around the world for research and vaccine development. Multiple examples of this have been published, including in the Journal of Virology, Science Daily and by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cowan is a retired general practitioner who voluntarily surrendered his medical license to California's medical board in a legal document signed by him on December 7, 2020.

He further claims that no one can prove the SARS-CoV-2 exists because no one has ever seen it. This is false.

Subhash Verma, an associate professor and director of the cell and molecular biology graduate program at the University of Nevada, Reno, told Lead Stories in a February 23, 2022, phone interview:

I culture this virus all the time, I don't know what he's talking about. Certainly, [viruses] are microscopic. We cannot see them outside the naked eye, but in the cells, we can use different mechanics and different kinds of measures to look at them. They are there.

Images of the virus have also been shared by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and the CDC.

Cowan has questioned the existence of the COVID-19 omicron variant in a string of eight images, which mix facts with falsehoods. The claim has been debunked by Lead Stories, as has Cowan's claim that 5G technology is the source of COVID.

His description of how viruses are isolated and of the isolation process itself is wrong, Verma said. According to Cowan, isolation occurs when healthy cells are stressed and starved of nutrients and break down into particles called bacteriophage, which cause and prove the existence of disease.

That is not true and not the way bacteriophages are formed, nor does the breakdown of a cell prove disease, Verma said. Without an actual viral particle, neither a starved bacteriophage nor a fragmented genome can make an infectious particle. "He's hiding facts," Verma said.

Cowan repeated these claims during a January 26, 2022, episode of the Sol Luckman Uncensored podcast, which was originally broadcast on Spotify under the title, "Debunking Virology & the Entire Stinking 'Virus' Narrative w/Dr. Tom Cowan." On the podcast, Cowan claims that viral causation -- the spread of a disease among individuals in the same place, which occurs with SARS-CoV-2 -- could logically explain the spread of disease and deaths following the bombing of Hiroshima or the Chernobyl disaster.

Viral causation is a phenomena, but it varies by virus. COVID-19, for example, spreads easily when it is aerosolized, while blood-borne pathogens like HIV spread through bodily fluids. Neither can be compared to contracting a disease from radioactive material following a nuclear explosion, Verma said.

"It is totally ridiculous to compare," he said. "The science is very clear on this."

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Jennifer Dobner

Jennifer Dobner is a Salt Lake City-based journalist with more than two decades of reporting experience. Jennifer has worked as a staffer for The Associated Press, The Salt Lake Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune and Idaho Falls Post-Register. As a freelancer her work has been published by The New York Times, Outside Magazine Online, Reuters, Cannabis Wire and others. Jennifer’s documentary film work includes the international award-winning 2018 film Church & State and 2021’s award-winning Anchor Point.

Read more about or contact Jennifer Dobner

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