The Origin Story of Pandemic Still Missing
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~ What is China trying to hide about the origins of the pandemic — and why?

In Wuhan, a World Health Organization team has launched its investigation into the origins of the virus which has infected 105 million people worldwide and cost 2.2 million lives over the past year. Many scientists have speculated that the virus leaped from animals to humans. This kind of zoonotic spillover has occurred before, such as in the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014.

But there is another pathway, also plausible, that must be investigated. That is the possibility of a laboratory accident or leak. Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, is a major transportation hub and a center of virus studies in China. It has at least six facilities with BSL-3 laboratories for handling infectious agents. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has studied bat coronaviruses that are similar to the one that ignited the pandemic.

~ ‘Gain of function’ research

Investigators would want to carefully examine research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). This would require transparency and verification of data and sample provenance. But it has not been forthcoming. All bat samples, viral strains, and all sequences from the WIV collection should be examined.

It is known from public documents that Dr. Shi Zhengli leads a research team at WIV, was conducting “gain of function” research on bat coronaviruses, which involves modifying their genomes to give the viruses new properties, such as the ability to infect a new host species or transmit from one host to another more easily. They also collected thousands of samples from bat caves in China.

~ A critical database went offline

At the core of Dr. Shi's work is a database at the institute. The institute collected more than 15,000 samples from bats, covering over 1,400 bat viruses. Of particular interest are the full sequences of eight viruses sampled in 2015 in an unidentified location in Yunnan province. In 2012, six people who were clearing bat feces from an abandoned mine in Yunnan developed an illness with symptoms very similar to covid-19. Three eventually died.

A section of the database was password-protected and not accessible. The second portal of virus databases in China, created by the National Virus Resource Center, has also gone offline. All key virus databases managed by the WIV are now offline.

We don’t know where the pandemic began. But a major step toward finding the answer is to examine all the relevant databases and laboratory records, including those at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and elsewhere, and the clues they may hold.

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