China's gung ho biolabs have ‘REPEATEDLY released deadly viruses onto the world’ – so Covid 'lab leak' is no shock
CHINA’S gung ho approach to biolab safety means the theory that Covid came from one in Wuhan is no shock.
The country has seen at major leaks from labs in the past, while the poor protection given to staff has increased the risk.
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There is a growing suspicion the Covid virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
What was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory has gained traction to the extent that President Joe Biden has ordered US spies to investigate.
British intelligence has also reportedly recently assessed the theory and upgraded its likeliness from "remote" to "feasible".
China’s refusal to allow a full investigation and increasingly shrill denials have fuelled suspicion that it is seeking to cover up culpability.
Shocking biosecurity lapses spanning over 40 years have also led to some to question the official Chinese line that the disease was passed from animals to humans.
There are also suspicions an H1N1 influenza epidemic in the late 1970s may have leaked from a lab, while an outbreak of a bacterial infection in 2020 was attributed to a leak from a vaccine plant.
Richard H Ebright, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, is one of the growing number of scientists who have said the lab leak theory needs to be fully examined.
He told The Sun Online there were “two separate laboratory accidents in Beijing in 2004” in which a SARS virus was entered into the human population.
SARS stands for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome and SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
Professor Ebright said staff working on projects around bat SARS-related coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were poorly protected and there was a lax approach to biosecurity.
He said they used “personal protective equipment, usually just gloves; sometimes not even gloves” and safety standards “were usually just Biosafety level 2”.
Professor Ebright said “that would pose a high risk of infection of field-collection, field-survey, or laboratory staff upon contact with a virus having the transmission properties of SARS-CoV-2”.
What do we know about the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
THE Wuhan Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the pandemic.
Various theories have been reported about the lab, which is headed up by scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.
The lab specialises in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.
Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the facility – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).
BSL-4 labs are the only areas in the world where scientists are permitted to study diseases that have no cure.
Scientists from the lab even tested a mysterious virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.
It has been suggested this fatal bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.
Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid 'super-virus' that can infect humans in 2015, according to journal Nature Medicine
The study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.
There is no suggestion the facility's 2015 work is linked to the pandemic and the facility denies the lab leak claims.
The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.
Fears about lab security across the globe have been growing in the suspicions about the WIV have grown.
Experts from King's College London compiled the report titled "Mapping Maximum Biological Containment Labs Globally" in an effort to highlight the "significant risks" posed by the labs amid the pandemic.
Pathogens which have been studied in labs of this kind include Ebola, the Nipah and Lassa viruses, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever – all which have potential to be more fatal than Covid.
There have also been reported leaks of the SARS virus in Taiwan and Singapore.
The United States has also seen 219 reports of release and 13 reports of loss of agents on the biological select agents and toxins list of pathogens and toxins.
This list, known as BSAT for short, includes Ebola, the original SARS virus, Lassa fever virus and strains of the bacterium that can cause anthrax disease.
Research carried out by Gilles Demaneuf, who is part of the DRASTIC group seeking to expose Chinese biosecurity lapses, looked at what happened during the 2004 leaks in China.
The Institute of Virology, part of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was carrying out research into SARS in the wake of an outbreak in 2003.
In February 2004 two researchers became contaminated and developed symptoms such as diarrhoea and high fever, though they later recovered.
It emerged that due to overcrowding in a lab samples of a SARS strain was placed outside in the corridor.
A researcher took out a sample to place under a microscope but became contaminated, despite using what she thought was a disinfectant solution.
The World Health Organisation launched investigation into the lapse and was scathing about the lab.
“Investigators have serious concerns about biosafety procedures at the Institute — including how and where procedures using SARS coronavirus were carried out, and how and where SARS coronavirus samples were stored,” it said.
Then in April 2004, graduate student at the Institute started a short-term internship in the viral diarrhoea department of the Institute of Virology in Beijing became ill on a train.
It emerged that she had come infected with the SARS virus and was treated for viral pneumonia in her home town.
A nurse who treated her became ill and another researcher at the institute also became ill with SARS.
By the end of April, 700 people were quarantined and in total there were 11 cases across four generations.
A promised full report from the WHO, however, failed to materialise.
The 1977 H1N1 outbreak in north-eastern China, concentrated in the cities of Tianjin, Lioning and Jilin remains a mystery but one common theory is that it came from a lab leak.
A peer reviewed scientific paper in 2010 suggested said the virus reappeared after a 20-year absence.
"Genetic analysis indicated that this strain was missing decades of nucleotide sequence evolution, suggesting an accidental release of a frozen laboratory strain into the general population."
The lab from where this could have leak has been identified.
Professor Ebright he has an open mind about whether Covid could have been transmitted to humans via animals he said there is “circumstantial evidence” which is “noteworthy”.
He said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology “has the world's largest collection of horseshoe-bat viruses, and that possessed and worked with the world's closest published relative of” Covid.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – is the only facility in China which deals with bat coronaviruses.
Studies show that one of the viruses collected by the lab's scientists from a mine is a 96.2 per cent match for SARS-CoV-2 which causes Covid-19.
“The outbreak occurred in Wuhan, a city of 11 million persons that does not contain horseshoe-bat colonies and that is outside the flight range of the nearest known horseshoe-bat colonies," he said.
“The outbreak occurred in Wuhan, on the doorstep of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the laboratory that conducts the world's largest research project on horseshoe bat viruses.
“The laboratory actively searched for new horseshoe-bat viruses in horseshoe-bat colonies in caves in remote rural areas in Yunnan province, brought those new horseshoe-bat viruses to Wuhan, and then mass-produced, genetically manipulated, and studied those new horseshoe-bat viruses inside Wuhan.”
Professor Ebright said the behaviour of the Chinese has also raised suspicion, in particular refusal to allow World Health Organisation investigators full access.
“A nation or an institution seeking to its clear name immediately would open the books, open the databases, and open the freezers,” he said.
“A nation or an institution seeking to hide culpability would not.
“The actions of China and the Wuhan Institute of Virology over the last eighteen months have matched the actions of a nation and institution seeking to hide culpability.”
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