The way back to the Wuhan Labs

It It is understandable that many would mistrust the idea that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by a documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, claims to have identified the source of the corona virus – and much of the information he presents comes from public records posted on the Internet.The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China actually published a job posting on November 18, 2019 asking “Scientists to study the relationship between the coronavirus and bats”.
The Google translation of the job posting reads: “Using bats as a research object, I will answer the molecular mechanism that can coexist for a long time without disease with Ebola and SARS-associated coronavirus, and its relationship to flight and longevity. Virology, immunology, cell biology and multiple omics are used to compare the differences between humans and other mammals. “(” Omics “is a term for a sub-area within biology, such as genomics or glycomics.)

On December 24, 2019, the Wuhan Institute of Virology published a second job ad. The translation of this publication explains: “Long-term studies on the pathogenic biology of bats that carry important viruses have confirmed the emergence of bats with important new infectious diseases in humans and animals such as SARS and SADS as well as a large number of new bats and new viruses from rodents were discovered and identified. ”

Tye claims that this posting meant: “We have discovered a new and terrible virus and we would like to recruit people to deal with it.” He also claims that “it was only long after that that news about the corona virus was released”. The doctors in Wuhan knew they were dealing with a number of pneumonia cases over the course of December, but it is correct to say that a very limited number of people knew about this particular coronavirus strain and its severity at the time of this job posting . By December 31, about three weeks after doctors first noticed the cases, the Chinese government has notified the World Health Organization and the first media reports of “mysterious pneumonia” have appeared outside of China.
Scientific American reviews much of the information Tye mentions about Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist nicknamed “Bat Woman”, for her work with this species.

Shi – a virologist whom her colleagues have often referred to as China’s “bat woman” over the past 16 years because of her expeditions to bat-hunt viruses – left the conference she attended in Shanghai and got back on the next train to Wuhan. “I wonder if [the municipal health authority] got it wrong, ”she says. “I never expected anything like this to happen in Wuhan in central China.” Her studies had shown that the southern subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan are at greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping from animals to humans – especially bats, a well-known reservoir for many viruses. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers that they thought, “Could they have come from our laboratory?”

. . . On January 7, the Wuhan team determined that the new virus actually caused the disease that these patients were suffering from – a conclusion based on results from polymerase chain reaction analysis, full genome sequencing, antibody testing of blood samples, and the virus’s ability to humanize Infecting lung cells was based on a petri dish. The genomic sequence of the virus – now officially called SARS-CoV-2 because it is related to the SARS pathogen – was 96 percent identical to that of a coronavirus that researchers identified in horseshoe bats in Yunnan, they recently reported published articles month in nature. “It is crystal clear that bats are the natural reservoir again,” says Daszak, who was not involved in the study.

Some scientists are not convinced that the virus has passed directly from bats to humans, but there are some problems with the theory that another animal was an intermediate carrier of COVID-19 from bats to humans:

Analyzes of the SARS-CoV-2 genome indicates a single spillover event, meaning that the virus jumped from animal to person only once, making the virus likely to circulate among humans before December. If no more information about the animals is published on the Wuhan market, the transmission chain may never be clear. However, there are numerous options. A bat hunter or a wildlife dealer may have launched the virus. Pangolins happen to be carrying a coronavirus that they may have ingested from bats years ago and that is practically identical to a crucial part of its genome SARS-CoV-2. But no one has yet found evidence that pangolines were on the Wuhan market or that sellers traded pangolines there.

On February 4th – a week before the World Health Organization decided to officially call this virus “COVID-19” – the journal Cell research published a communication from scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology about the virus, and concluded: “Our results show that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in fighting 2019 nCoV infection in vitro. Since these compounds have been used in human safety-related patients and have been shown to be effective against various diseases, we recommend that you evaluate them in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease. “One of the authors of this communication was the“ bat woman ”Shi Zhengli.

In his YouTube video, Tye focuses on a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology named Huang Yanling: “Most people believe that she is patient, and most people believe that she is dead.”

There have been enough discussions about rumors about Huang Yanling online in China to encourage official rejection. On February 16, the Wuhan Institute of Virology denied that Patient Zero was one of her employees and, interestingly enough, explicitly named her: “Recently there was false information about Huang Yanling, a graduate from our institute, who claimed that she was Patient Zero in the novel corona virus. “In press reports, the institute is quoted as saying:” Huang was a doctoral student at the institute until 2015, when she left the province and has not returned since. Huang was in good health and was not diagnosed with any illness. ” None of her publicly available research is dated after 2015.

Huang Yanling is actually still listed as a PhD student on the website of the Wuhan Institute of Virology for Diagnostic Microbiology in 2012, and her picture and biography seem to have been recently removed – as is that of two other PhD students from 2013 , Wang Mengyue and Wei Cuihua.

Your name still has a hyperlink, but the linked page is empty. The pages for Wang Mengyue and Wei Cuihua are also empty.

(For what it’s worth, the South China tomorrow post – A newspaper that is general for Beijing – reported on March 13: “According to the government, a 55-year-old from Hubei province could have been the first to sign Covid-19 on November 17. ”)

On February 17, Zhen Shuji, a Hong Kong correspondent for the French public broadcaster Radio France Internationale, said: “When a reporter from Beijing News of the Mainland asked the institute about rumors about patient zero, the institute denied it was initially a researcher Huang Yanling , but after learning that the person’s name exists on the Internet, he admitted that the person had worked in the company but has now left the office and is not reported. ”

Tye says: “Everyone on the Chinese internet is looking for [Huang Yanling] But most believe that their bodies were cremated quickly and the people who worked in the crematorium may have been infected because they had no information about the virus. ((U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that handling the body of someone who has died from coronavirus is safe – including embalming and cremation – as long as the standard safety protocols for the delivery of a deceased person Security protocols have been used sufficiently in China before the extent of the outbreak became known.)

As Tye notes, a public appearance by Huang Yanling would dispel many public rumors and, under normal circumstances, the Chinese government would quickly arrange – provided Huang Yanling was still alive. Several officials from the Wuhan Institute of Virology publicly announced that Huang was in good health and that no one at the institute had been infected with COVID-19. In any case, the Huang Yanling riddle may be controversial, but it does indicate that the lab is hiding something about her.

China Global Television Network, a state-owned television broadcaster, lit another rumor as he tried to dispel it in a February 23 report, “Rumors End With The Wise Men”:

On February 17, a Weibo user who claimed to be Chen Quanjiao, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told the public that the director of the institute was responsible for the leakage of the novel coronavirus. The Weibo post threw a bomb into cyberspace and the public was shocked. Chen soon got out, declaring that she had never released any report information, and expressed outrage to Weibo about such identity fraud. It has been confirmed that this particular Weibo account has been closed several times due to the spread of misinformation about COVID-19.

This February 17 report by Radio France Internationale also mentioned the next important part of Tye’s YouTube video. “Xiaobo Tao, a scientist at the South China University of Technology, recently published a report that researchers at the Wuhan Virus Laboratory were sprayed with bat blood and urine and then quarantined for 14 days.” HK01, another Hong Kong-based news site, reported the same claim.

This doctor’s name is spelled in English as both “Xiaobo Tao” and “Botao Xiao”. From 2011 to 2013, Botao Xiao was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s’s Hospital. His biography is still on the South China University of Technology website.

Sometime in February, Botao Xiao published a research paper on entitled “The Possible Origins of the 2019 nCoV Corona Virus”. He is listed as an author along with Lei Xiao from Tian You Hospital, which is affiliated with the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The paper was removed a short time after posting, but archived images of its pages can be found here and here.

The first conclusion from Botao Xiao’s article is that the bats suspected of carrying the virus are most likely not found naturally in the city. Despite the stories about “bat soup”, they conclude that bats were not sold on the market and were unlikely to be deliberately ingested.

The bats with CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang Province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers from the fish market. Bats usually lived in caves and trees. However, the fish market is located in a densely populated district of Wuhan, a metropolis [area] by ~ 15 million people. The bats were very unlikely to fly onto the market. According to municipal reports and statements from 31 residents and 28 visitors, the bat was never a source of food in the city, and no bat was traded on the market.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have not been able to confirm the presence of bats on the market. Botao Xiao’s article assumes that the coronavirus originates from bats that are used for research in one of the two research laboratories in Wuhan.

We examined the environment of the seafood market and identified two laboratories that are conducting research into the bat coronavirus. The Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention was located just 280 meters from the market. The WHCDC housed animals in research laboratories, one of which specialized in the collection and identification of pathogens. In one of their studies, 155 bats were included Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei Province and another 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang Province. The collection expert was noted in the authors’ contributions (JHT). It was also broadcast for virus collection in nationwide newspapers and websites in 2017 and 2019. He described how he was once attacked by bats and the blood of a bat that were shot at his skin. He knew the extreme risk of infection and was quarantined for 14 days. In another accident, he quarantined again because bats peed on him.

The cage animals were operated on and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated waste were a source of pathogens. They were only ~ 280 meters from the fish market. The WHCDC was also located next to the Union Hospital (Figure 1, below), where the first group of doctors was infected during this epidemic. It is plausible that the virus has leaked around and some of them have contaminated the first patients in this epidemic, although solid evidence is needed in future studies.

The second laboratory was about 12 kilometers from the fish market and belonged to the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. . .

In summary, someone was involved in the development of the 2019 nCoV corona virus. In addition to the origins of natural recombination and the intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably came from a laboratory in Wuhan. The level of safety may need to be increased in high risk biologically hazardous laboratories. Regulations can be made to move these laboratories far from the city center and other densely populated places.

However, Xiao said that Wall Street Journal that he has withdrawn his paper. “Speculation about the possible origins of the post was based on published articles and media and was not supported by direct evidence,” he said in a short email on February 26.

The bat researcher to whom Xiao’s report refers is the virologist Tian Junhua, who works at the Wuhan Center for Disease Control. In 2004, the World Health Organization determined that an outbreak of the SARS virus was caused by two separate leaks at the Chinese Virology Institute in Beijing. The Chinese government said the leaks were due to “negligence” and the officials responsible had been punished.

In 2017, the state-owned Chinese Shanghai Media Group made a seven-minute documentary about Tian Junhua entitled “Youth in the Wild: Invisible Defenders”. Videographers followed Tian Junhua as he traveled deep into caves to collect bats. “Among all known creatures, the bats are rich in various viruses,” he says in Chinese. “You can find most viruses that are responsible for human diseases, such as rabies virus, SARS and Ebola. Accordingly, the caves frequented by bats became our main battlefields. “He emphasizes:” Bats usually live in caves that humans can hardly reach. Only in these places can we find the most ideal virus vector samples. ”

One of his last statements in the video is: “In the past over ten years we have visited every corner of Hubei Province. We have explored dozens of undeveloped caves and examined more than 300 types of virus vectors. However, I hope that these virus samples are kept for scientific research only and will never be used in real life. Because people not only need vaccines, but also protection from nature. ”

The description of Tian Junhua’s self-isolation comes from a May 2017 report by the Xinhua news agency, which was repeated by the Chinese news site

The environment for collecting bat samples is extremely poor. It stinks in the bat cave. Bats carry a large number of viruses in their bodies. If you are not careful, there is a risk of infection. But Tian Junhua is not afraid to go up the mountain with his wife to catch Batman.

Tian Junhua summed up the experience that most bats can be caught with the sky cannon and pulled on the net. However, during operation, Tian Junhua forgot to take protective measures. Bat urine dripped on him like raindrops. If he was infected, he could not find any medicine. It was written in the report.

The wings of the bats have sharp claws. When the big bats are caught by bat tools, they can easily spray blood. Bat blood was sprayed directly onto Tian’s skin several times, but he didn’t flinch at all. Upon his return, Tian Junhua took the initiative to isolate him for half a month. As long as the incubation period of 14 days does not occur, he is lucky to flee, the report says.

Bat urine and blood can transmit viruses. How likely is it that bat urine or blood found a researcher at either the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology? Alternatively, what is the likelihood that some kind of medical waste or other material was not properly disposed of by the bats and that was the initial transmission vector for a human?

Virologists were vehemently skeptical of the theory that COVID-19 was developed or designed in a laboratory. The director of the National Institutes of Health wrote that recent genome research “debunked such claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus was naturally created.” And none of the above is definitive evidence that COVID-19 comes from a bat at the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Final evidence would require much broader access to information about what happened in these facilities in the pre-urban epidemic.

It is a remarkable coincidence, however, that the Wuhan Institute of Virology researched Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses in bats before the outbreak of the pandemic, and that the month that Wuhan doctors treated the first patients of COVID-19, the institute in a hint that “a large number of new bat and rodent viruses have been discovered and identified”. And the fact that the Chinese government insisted for six weeks that COVID-19 could not be spread from person to person means that its refusal cannot be accepted by Wuhan laboratories without independent verification.

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