What does the world want China to reveal in the Wuhan lab leak investigation?

The WHO chief had said that the lab leak hypothesis needed further investigation.

The US push for a new investigation to determine the origin of the coronavirus – including whether it leaked from a Wuhan lab – raises an important question: what has China failed to disclose?

This weekend the Group of Seven leaders is readying a new, transparent, study called by the World Health Organization into the origins of the virus, according to a draft statement seen by Bloomberg News. Yet until now they have remained unclear what exactly they want.

In his statement, giving intelligence agencies 90 days to re-evaluate the origins of COVID-19, President Joe Biden asked them to come up with a “question specific to China”. Beijing officials have repeatedly denied that the virus leaked from the lab, and pointed to a WHO report earlier this year that said it was most likely natural.

But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the laboratory leak hypothesis required further investigation, adding that he was ready to deploy more resources. He said scientists would benefit from “full access to data”, including biological samples, from at least September 2019. The European Union similarly called for more data.

Here’s what a new study should check out:

Details on Wuhan Lab Research

A major outstanding question is what kind of work was actually going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The top bat coronavirus researcher in the lab, Shi Zhengli, said in a March 2020 article in Scientific American that the genetic code of the virus that causes COVID-19 did not match any samples from his lab. She also told the WHO team that all staff had tested negative for COVID-19 antibodies.

Still, researchers do not yet have access to all the coronavirus isolates and genomic sequence data kept in Wuhan laboratories. And they also didn’t have access to log books and records of research that was being done on coronaviruses, specifically viruses with the RATG13 bat sequence similar to SARS-CoV-2, which are known to reduce COVID-19. are pathogens.

There are also questions about whether the institute conducted gain-of-function experiments, in which researchers manipulate naturally occurring viruses to see whether they can be made deadly or more infectious.

Medical Records of Lab Workers

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that US intelligence indicates that in November 2019, three researchers at the lab became so ill that they sought hospital care. Multiple media also reported that the Chinese government had restricted access to an abandoned copper mine in southwest China where researchers at a Wuhan lab collected samples of the coronavirus after a 2012 incident in which six miners ” had fallen ill with a mysterious “respiratory disease”.

Bat coronavirus researcher Xi told the WHO team that all staff had tested negative for COVID-19 antibodies. China Daily reported again this week that none of the staff members of the Wuhan Institute of Virology had ever contracted the virus that caused COVID-19.

Still, researchers do not have access to measurable records and samples collected from institute staff seeking hospital care in late 2019. And they would also like to see medical records and samples collected from miners in southwest China.

More data on early cases

To identify early human cases in December 2019, the WHO team looked at health records, mortality data, trends in retail sales of cold and cough medicines, and records of influenza-like illnesses and severe respiratory infections in the two months before the outbreak in Wuhan. Pattern reviewed. .

International investigators examined 76,000 cases from more than 200 medical centers, and researchers in China also tested some 4,500 patient samples stored in hospitals in Wuhan and other parts of China.

Nevertheless, the WHO team that visited Wuhan earlier this year proposed further analysis of cases of respiratory illness that occurred in Wuhan in October and November 2019.

Documentation on Wuhan Weight Markets

To identify potential animal sources, 11,000 blood samples drawn from livestock and poultry were tested in 31 provinces, as well as 1,914 samples from 35 species of wild animals. Researchers in China looked for SARS-CoV-2 in swabs from 12,000 animals and 50,000 samples from 300 different species of wild animals. All were negative.

This week researchers found that 38 animal species sold in markets in Wuhan from May 2017 to November 2019 included mink, masked palm civet, raccoon dog, Siberian weasel, hog badger and Chinese bamboo rat.

Nevertheless, gaps remain in the evidence to support the theory that the virus spread from animals to humans. WHO researchers have not looked at full documentation of which species of animals were sold live in Wuhan markets in 2019, when they were present, and a list of their vendors and suppliers.

The WHO team has called for additional samples of animal species that could act as reservoirs, including bat populations in China and neighboring countries. They will also benefit from the names and addresses of farms that raised minks, foxes, raccoon dogs and other fur-producing animals in China from 2018 to 2020.

Evidence from outside China

Chinese officials have repeatedly raised fears that the virus originated elsewhere in the world, and was brought into the country through frozen food imports or even a US military operation. State Department officials have repeatedly called on the US to provide access to Fort Detrick in Maryland, which is home to the US Bio-Defense Agency.

The WHO team has called on other countries to collect and analyze epidemiological, clinical, molecular and environmental data to better understand the origins of the virus, as some reports have suggested that it may have originated in China before December 2019. Will be walking outside. They are demanding more research for this. Understand whether it can be transmitted from contaminated products to humans, and under what circumstances.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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