Covid does not originate from an infamous southern Chinese bat cave at the center of the “lab leak” theory, according to a French study.
Mojiang Cave has been touted as the possible birthplace of the virus after it emerged, six minors were stricken with a mysterious flu-like illness in 2012.
Scientists from the now infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were dispatched to investigate at the time and returned bat samples to the lab 1,000 miles away.
One of the viruses they collected is the closest known relative of the one that causes Covid, sharing nearly 97% of its genetic makeup.
Supporters of the laboratory leak theory believe that either the miners were infected with an early version of Covid or that the pathogen that caused the pandemic was the result of experiments on viruses sent back to Wuhan.
But French researchers now say neither could be true after a retrospective study of the medical reports of minors at the time.
They said their symptoms were too different to be Covid and asked why no hospital staff or close contact with minors got sick.
Writing in the study, they added: “One also has to wonder why a virus that killed over 4 million people and infected over 200 million people in 18 months caused no disease in 7 years of 2012 to 2019. “
They added that RATG13 – the virus that closely resembles Covid and was found in horseshoe bats in Mojiang – was not able to infect humans and there was no evidence to suggest that the tinkering around in a lab might give him that ability.
However, one of the main scientists behind the latest study had ties to the Wuhan lab, which raises a possible conflict of interest.
Horseshoe bats are known carriers of the viruses and scientists believe they could be the culprit of the pandemic
Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were the first to link SARS to bats for the first time in a study in 2004 after raiding a cave in Yunnan province (pictured at the time). This cave is not the one in question
The WIV is the high-security laboratory specializing in handling dangerous coronaviruses at the center of the alleged cover-up. Pictured: Laboratory researchers in February 2017
The six minors with mysterious pneumonia were sent to Mojiang Cave to eliminate bat guano in April 2012. They were between 30 and 63 years old and three died from their infection.
The latest study, led by Roger Frutos, a microbiologist at the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development, said hospital records showed “major gaps” between their illnesses and typical symptoms of Covid.
WHO to start NEW investigation after first probe is whitewashed
The World Health Organization will begin a new investigation into the origins of the Covid epidemic and determine whether the virus originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.
A new team of experts will be appointed, including experts in biosafety, laboratory safety, genetics and how viruses spread to humans.
They will examine whether the coronavirus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan at the end of 2019 – a claim denied by China, which also wants the WHO to examine whether the virus originated in another country.
It comes after US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence agencies to investigate the “lab leak” theory.
A WHO spokesperson said “the priority of the new team must be data and access in the country where the first reports were identified.”
The previous investigation had recommended that China examine the first suspected cases of the coronavirus, with the team saying in its final report that the data provided by the country was insufficient.
But of the 400-plus-page report, only three were attributed to the lab leak hypothesis.
The original investigation was mired in controversy as it was led by Peter Daszak who had undisclosed ties to the Wuhan lab.
They pointed out that one of the telltale symptoms of Covid is a dry cough, while the minors suffered from a very different type of cough.
They were found to be coughing up blood or mucus.
CT scans showed that they also did not have the same lung scars seen in many hospital patients with coronavirus.
All of the minors suffered from swollen lymph nodes in the chest or “water on the lungs,” symptoms reported only in less than 0.01% of Covid patients.
“We therefore reject the Mojiang mine as the origin of SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote in the article published in the journal Environmental Research.
“Dismissing the Mojiang mine theory leaves the lab leak story without any scientific backing, making it simply an opinion-based story. “
However, the researchers have been accused of failing to refute the central claims of the laboratory leak theory.
Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: “The theory supports that this virus [which infected the miners] maybe he was the ancestor of SARS-CoV2… not that it was SARS-CoV2 itself.
“So a certain difference in pathology is not unreasonable. “
He said he was still not convinced the lab leak theory was the most likely origin of the virus.
But he admitted that there had been “remarkable coincidences”
He added: “The pandemic started in Wuhan, which is far from the bat caves of southern China (and) is home to the institute of virology which is undertaking molecular work, including gain of function, on coronavirus. “
His comments were echoed by Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, who said it was “entirely possible” that the origins of Covid could be traced back to the Mojiang Caves.
He told MailOnline “While I still believe this is the result of a natural animal spillover, a lab leakage accident still cannot be ruled out. ”
Professor Livermore added that the theory of laboratory leaks had shifted from conspiracy to mainstream thought because extensive research had failed to find a natural reservoir for SARS-CoV-2.
He said it was also “important” to note that one of the authors of the article, Christian Devaux, was involved in the establishment of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Dr. Devaux’s involvement is listed in the disclosures in the document.
The WIV specializes in handling dangerous coronaviruses, in what is known as “gain-of-function” research.
The risky experiments involve designing viruses to make them more infectious or deadly, in hopes of developing treatments and vaccines to forestall epidemics.
But French researchers say RATG13, the pathogen first discovered in horseshoe bats in Mojiang, likely was not used to create Covid.
They said that while it’s real, the viral particles weren’t isolated from animals, which means researchers only have samples of its genetic code, not physical copies of the virus itself. .
“Therefore, there is no evidence that this sequence matches a real, viable virus or even that all reads are from the same virus,” they wrote in the study.
“RATG13 has never been isolated as a virus and replicated in cell cultures. It has no physical existence and therefore cannot escape from a laboratory.
But questions still hang over the Mojiang Caves. Attempts by Western journalists to visit the caves have been denied and the caves are closely monitored by Chinese authorities.