Scientists have sequenced the COVID-19 genome and traced it back to bats found in caves in China’s Yunnan community.
Bats from Yunnan were however used for coronavirus experiment at a Chinese laboratory which is now coming under scrutiny.
And the lab at the center of scrutiny over a potential coronavirus leak has been using U.S. government money to carry out the research on bats from the Yunnan caves.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook the coronavirus experiments on mammals captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan, funded by a $3.7 million grant from the US government.
Scientists now believe the bats from Yunnan could be the original source of the deadly outbreak and not the animal market in Wuhan as was earlier thought.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology, is based twenty miles from the wildlife market that was thought to be the location of the original transfer of the virus from animals to humans.
The Mail in the UK reported that document obtained showed that scientists at the lab “experimented on bats as part of a project funded by the US National Institutes of Health, which continues to licence the Wuhan laboratory to receive American money for experiments.”
The Wuhan Institute keeps more than 1,500 strains of deadly viruses, specializes in the research of ‘the most dangerous pathogens’, in particular the viruses carried by bats.
Chinese officials decided to build the institute after the country was ravaged by an outbreak of SARS in 2002 and 2003, killing 775 people and infecting more than 8,000 globally.
US government condemned
US Congressman Matt Gaetz said after learning of the US grant that “I’m disgusted to learn that for years the US government has been funding dangerous and cruel animal experiments at the Wuhan Institute, which may have contributed to the global spread of coronavirus, and research at other labs in China that have virtually no oversight from US authorities.”
Anthony Bellotti, president of the US pressure group White Coat Waste has also condemned the US government’s funding of the Chinese lab saying “Animals infected with viruses or otherwise sickened and abused in Chinese labs reportedly may be sold to wet markets for consumption once experiments are done.”
The National Institute of Health is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research.
The Wuhan Institute lists them on their website as a partner as well as several other American academic institutions.
According to documents as part of the NIH research at the institute, scientists at the lab grew a coronavirus in a lab and injected it into three-day-old piglets.
American biosecurity expert Professor Richard Ebright, of Rutgers University’s Waksman Institute of Microbiology, New Jersey, revealed that evidence suggests COVID-19 was not created in one of the Wuhan laboratories, but is possible it easily escaped from there while it was being analyzed.
Results of the U.S-funded research were published in November 2017 under the heading “Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus.”
It was summarized as “Bats in a cave in Yunnan, China were captured and sampled for coronaviruses used for lab experiments.
“All sampling procedures were performed by veterinarians with approval from the Animal Ethics Committee of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
“Bat samplings were conducted ten times from April 2011 to October 2015 at different seasons in their natural habitat at a single location (cave) in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. Bats were trapped and faecal swab samples were collected.”
With the latest findings of COVID-19 bats being under research at a lab means that a leak from the Wuhan laboratory can no longer be completely ruled out.
Coronavirus has killed over 100,000 people globally and infected over 1.6 million people worldwide.