Three live bat coronaviruses on Wuhan laboratory: Chinese state media
BEIJING – The Chinese virology institute in the city where the first case of COVID-19 appeared had three live strains of bat coronavirus on the site, but none matched the new contagion caused chaos worldwide, according to its director.
According to scientists, COVID-19 – which first emerged in Wuhan and killed nearly 340,000 people worldwide – came from bats and could be transmitted to humans through another mammal.
But the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster CGTN that the claims made by President Donald Trump and others that the virus could have leaked from the facility was “pure fabrication”.
In an interview filmed on May 13, but broadcast on Saturday night, Wang Yanyi said the center had “isolated and obtained several coronaviruses from the bats.”
“Today we have three strains of live viruses … But their highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 is only 79.8 percent,” he said, referring to the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.
One of their research teams, led by Professor Shi Zhengli, has been researching bat coronaviruses since 2004 and focusing on “source tracing of SARS”, the strain behind another virus outbreak nearly two decades ago.
“We know that the whole genome of SARS-CoV-2 is only 80 percent similar to SARS. It’s an obvious difference,” he said. “Thus, in the previous research by Professor Shi, they did not pay attention to such viruses that are less similar to the SARS virus.”
We hear speculations that the biosafety lab is related to the virus, which had been circulating online for months before Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the theory to the mainstream by claiming that they have evidence that the pathogen originated in the institute.
The lab said it received samples of the unknown virus on December 30, identified the virus genome sequence on January 2 and submitted pathogen information to the WHO on January 11.
Wang said in an interview that before receiving samples in December, their research team had not “encountered, researched or kept the virus in the laboratory.” “In fact, like everyone else, we don’t know the virus exists,” he said. “How could it have leaked from our lab without our own sample of the virus.”
The World Health Organization says Washington has not provided evidence to support these “speculations.”
In an interview with Scientific American, Shi said the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence did not match any of the bat coronaviruses previously collected and studied by his laboratory.
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