The U.S. government’s leading health research body has raised a series of major concerns about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and the activities of a secret Chinese lab that was investigating bat disease.
The National Institutes of Health asked if Covid-19 was linked to the deaths of three minors eight years ago and questioned whether Wuhan’s high-security lab had samples of the virus before the pandemic outbreak ended. from last year.
The agency also asked to learn more about the “apparent disappearance” of a scientist from the lab who is said to be patient zero, and questioned whether roadblocks had been placed around the Wuhan Institute of Virology between October 14 and 19 of last year.
The National Institutes of Health asked if Covid-19 was linked to the deaths of three minors eight years ago and questioned whether Wuhan’s high-security lab had samples of the virus before the pandemic outbreak ended. from last year. A lab worker is pictured above
The questions will fuel growing suspicions about China’s cover-up.
“It appears that NIH experts are no longer content to dismiss lab escape scenarios as conspiratorial theories,” said a US-based biomedical expert.
The NIH is Washington’s premier medical research organization, headed by Francis Collins, one of the world’s top geneticists.
He was appointed by Barack Obama and reconfirmed in the post by Donald Trump.
The NIH raised concerns in a letter last month to EcoHealth Alliance, a charity that is trying to restore U.S. support for research with its longtime collaborators at the Wuhan Institute of Virology on zoonotic diseases that go from animals such as bats to humans.
A $ 3.7million (£ 2.8million) grant to the charity – led by British scientist Peter Daszak – was halted after The Mail on Sunday revealed the United States was funding the controversial Chinese lab at the center of the global review.
The NIH letter, sent by Michael Lauer, deputy director of extramural research, said there were “serious biosafety concerns” regarding the research at the Wuhan lab. This confirms a series of revelations from MoS about its security procedures.
Lauer said funding would only be restored if outside experts could probe Wuhan’s facilities and registers with particular attention to whether staff had Sars-Cov-2 [the strain of coronavirus that causes disease] in their possession before December 2019 ”.
Mystery: Image believed to be missing scientist Huang Yanling, top, Patient Zero from China
He demanded a sample of their virus used to determine the genetic code and asked for answers on “the apparent disappearance of Huang Yanling, a scientist / researcher who worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology but whose web presence at laboratory has been abolished ”.
The young researcher was identified on social media as Patient Zero shortly after the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan. The institute denied doing any harm, insisting that she had completed her studies and moved to another part of China.
The seven restoration funding terms in Lauer’s letter, according to a tweet from Daszak, sought explanations for a series of “unusual restrictions” on lab facilities in mid-October, including a “decrease in phone traffic. laptops’ and roadblocks.
Lauer also said the agency needed to know why the Wuhan Institute “failed to note that the RaTG13 virus, the bat-derived coronavirus in its collection with the greatest similarity to Sars-Cov-2 , was in fact isolated from an abandoned mine where three men died. in 2012 with a disease remarkably similar to Covid-19 ‘.
It is very significant. A growing focus is on six miners who fell ill – three eventually died after spending 14 days removing bat droppings in the Mojiang mine, about 1,000 miles from Wuhan.
A recently discovered master’s thesis by the Chinese doctor who treated them and sent tissue samples to the Wuhan Institute describes his patients as having fever, dry cough, limb pain and headache.
Shi Zhengli, a renowned Wuhan-based virologist known as Batwoman for her cave sample collection expeditions and cutting-edge research, told Scientific American magazine in June that these miners died from a fungal infection. rather than a coronavirus.
Professor Shi revealed the existence of RaTG13 – which has 96% genetic similarity to Sars-Cov-2 – in an article submitted to the journal Nature on the same day in January that China belatedly admitted to human transmission. She condemned the “outrageous” demands of the NIH.
Other experts wondered why more information had not been shared about this strain, which fuels the idea of zoonotic transmission.
It has since emerged that, unusually, his name appears to have been changed from a virus identified in a previous academic article from 2016, obscuring links to the Mojiang mines.
“The fact that Shi continues to try to distract from these dead miners and their potential connection to the RaTG13 and Covid-19 discovery is concerning,” a leading Western expert said.
Chinese officials initially sought to blame a Wuhan market selling wild animals as the source of the outbreak, but this was disputed by a series of scientific studies before being officially ruled out three months ago. George Gao Fu, director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted that no viruses were found in animal samples taken at the scene.
Some scientists have been intrigued by the range of unusual characteristics of the spike protein that lead to the high infectivity of Covid-19 – including the ‘insertions’ of a pangolin coronavirus sequence that allows the virus to bind tightly to cells. human and at a “furin cleavage site” this facilitates entry of human cells – since these features are not found on the nearest coronaviruses.
Nikolai Petrovsky, professor of medicine at Flinders University in Adelaide, and head of a vaccine research team, published an article in May saying the new virus is “not typical of a normal zoonotic infection. Because it was “only suitable for infecting humans.” since the start of the pandemic.
“We still have not been able to satisfactorily explain how the virus has become so perfectly adapted to humans,” he said.
Leading the way: some of the Mail on Sunday stories this year about the lab in the city where the outbreak began
Yesterday, he praised the NIH for challenging the Wuhan lab. “They are doing the right thing: making the restoration of funding conditional on assistance as part of a full investigation. Surely EcoHealth Alliance has nothing to lose and everything to gain by cooperating with this request?
Previously leaked emails showed the NIH halted funding for EcoHealth Alliance over “allegations that the current crisis was precipitated by the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s release of the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19.”
The move was all the rage, with 77 US Nobel Laureates asking NIH director Dr Collins to review the agency’s end of funding, saying it set “a dangerous precedent by interfering with the conduct of science. “.
Daszak, a former Kingston University parasitologist who earns $ 402,000 (£ 307,000) a year to run the EcoHealth Alliance charity, condemned the NIH for its “outrageous” conditions.
“It mocks our basic process of funding biomedical research that conspiracy theories are reworked in this way,” he tweeted.