US President Donald Trump and secretary of state Mike Pompeo have each claimed that there’s proof the pathogen got here from the lab in Wuhan — the metropolis the place the illness was first detected late final 12 months.
But the World Health Organization mentioned Washington had supplied no proof to assist the “speculative” claims, and scientists consider the coronavirus jumped from animals to people, presumably at a Wuhan market promoting wild animals.
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The prime US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci has echoed the WHO’s assertion, telling National Geographic that each one proof to date “strongly indicates” a pure origin.
China has strongly denied the allegations, however hypothesis and conspiracy theories have endured.
Here are some key questions on the Wuhan Institute of Virology:
Work by the lab’s scientists helped to make clear the Covid-19 pathogen in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan.
In February, they printed work concluding that the new virus shared a 79.6 p.c sequence identification to the SARS coronavirus, and that it was 96 p.c equivalent at the entire-genome stage to a coronavirus present in bats.
The lab’s researchers had already carried out intensive investigations on the hyperlinks between bats and illness outbreaks in China, and had highlighted the need to put together for viruses probably spreading out of their pure reservoirs into human communities.
Scientists suppose Covid-19 originated in bats and will have been transmitted to individuals by way of one other mammal like a pangolin, however there is no such thing as a definitive reply to date.
The Wuhan institute homes the largest virus financial institution in Asia which preserves greater than 1,500 strains.
The advanced incorporates Asia’s first most-safety lab outfitted to deal with Class four pathogens (P4) akin to Ebola.
The 300-million-yuan ($42 million) P4 lab opened in 2018. A P3 lab has been in operation since 2012.
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While the US intelligence group mentioned it had concluded the coronavirus was not human-made, it added that it will proceed to examine if the outbreak began from contact with contaminated animals or from “an accident” at the Wuhan lab.
US diplomatic cables seen by The Washington Post earlier mentioned that officers had been involved about insufficient security requirements associated to researchers’ dealing with of SARS-like bat coronaviruses in the excessive-safety lab.
The institute has mentioned it acquired samples of the then-unknown virus on December 30, decided the viral genome sequence on January 2 and submitted data on the pathogen to the WHO on January 11.
Shi Zhengli, one of China’s main specialists on bat coronaviruses and deputy director of the Wuhan P4 lab, mentioned she would “bet her life that (the new coronavirus) had nothing to do with the lab”, in accordance to Chinese state media.
And in an interview with Scientific American, Shi mentioned the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence didn’t match any of the bat coronaviruses her laboratory had beforehand collected and studied.
Researchers have famous that whereas there is no such thing as a proof for the lab accident idea, there’s additionally no clear proof that the virus got here from the Wuhan market.
A examine by a gaggle of Chinese scientists printed in The Lancet in January discovered that the first Covid-19 affected person had no connection to the market, and neither did 13 of the first 41 confirmed circumstances.
Professor Leo Poon of The University of Hong Kong mentioned the scientific group’s consensus was that the virus shouldn’t be human-made.
“We need to look at the origin of this virus. It is important, because from a public health point of view, we want to know how it happened, and (if we can) learn from this,” he mentioned.
David Heymann, professor of infectious illness epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: “We have a hypothesis that it came from a live animal market, and I haven’t seen anybody provide evidence that shows to the contrary.”