The head of the Chinese coronavirus research program in Wuhan has apologized to Donald Trump for suggesting that the virus has left her laboratory.
Shi Zhengli, head of the team that examines bat corona viruses at the Wuhan Research Institute, denied ever seeing how the virus currently affects the world until the first outbreak began.
In the most detailed statements since the pandemic began, Shi said: & # 39; Trump's claim that SARS-CoV-2 leaked from our institute completely contradicts the facts.
& # 39; It endangers and influences our academic work and our private life. He owes us an apology. & # 39;
Shi Zhengli, head of bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (photo), has denied rumors that the virus that is currently sweeping the world has escaped her laboratory
Shi (left) called for an apology from Donald Trump after claiming to have seen evidence that the virus had left the laboratory and said it was completely contradictory.
When asked how she can be safe, Shi said that the pandemic virus does not match samples in her laboratory and that all employees were tested for both active coroanvirus infections and antibodies and found to be negative.
Shi responded to a series of written questions that the science magazine emailed her two months ago.
The responses have been formulated with information officers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences who oversee the laboratory, and have likely been reviewed by the communist government.
However, experts who have reviewed their answers say they provide some useful information about Shi's thoughts about the virus.
In her response, which is the most detailed that Shi has given since the pandemic started, she said her lab first encountered SARS-CoV-2 on December 30th.
Her team received samples from patients with "pneumonia of unknown origin" in Wuhan and was asked to examine them.
Shi said they "quickly identified the pathogen," the virus that was later called SARS-CoV-2.
She added that SARS-CoV-2 did not match a sample in her laboratory, but resembled another virus that her team had identified and called RaTG13.
She said the sample came from a bat that was found in the Hubei region in 2013 and was 96.2 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2.
However, she added that a 96 percent similarity – in terms of viruses – still makes a big difference, meaning that the two are likely to have a common ancestor, but have been developing separately for at least 20 and possibly up to 50 years.
Shi (center photo) said SARS-CoV-2, the current pandemic virus, was first brought to her laboratory on December 30 last year and did not match any of the samples she held
Shi said SARS-CoV-2 probably developed in bats, but was likely to have passed through an intermediate host before it landed in humans.
One theory suggests that the bat could have passed the virus on to a pangolin – a mammal whose scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine – and then to humans.
Shi admitted that this is a possibility, but said that it is currently impossible to tell which animals it has gone through before it gets into humans.
Unlike some researchers, Shi does not believe that the wet market in Wuhan, where the first group of cases was discovered, marked the first cases of the virus.
She explained that her team took several samples from the market and that while traces of the virus were found in the sewage and on door handles, none were found in animal samples.
Shi added that animal samples were also taken from farms in Hubei province and that no trace of the disease was found there.
This, along with years in which bats were caught in Hubei and tested for coronaviruses without detecting this virus before it spread, makes her think that it is not from the province at all.
When asked where it could come from, she just said, “I can't draw any conclusions until we have solid evidence.
"Tracking the origins of the virus is a scientific question that scientists should answer based on solid data and scientific evidence."
SARS-CoV-2, which became known simply as "Coronavirus", first appeared in Wuhan in December last year and has since spread worldwide.
Almost 17 million infections have been confirmed in almost every country in the world, with more than 660,000 deaths confirmed.
Due to test problems and some patients who show no symptoms, the actual number of infections and deaths is unknown – but probably much higher.
Shi added that all laboratory staff were tested for active coronavirus infections and antibodies and found to be negative. Speculation that they may have been the first patients (file picture)
The virus has led to unprecedented economic shutdowns, first in China and then worldwide, that have devastated the global economy and probably triggered one of the greatest recessions in history.
As treatments for the virus improve, no cure is known and experts warn that a vaccine may be months away – and may not be fully effective.
Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis has been heavily criticized both in the US and around the world, claimed in May that he had seen evidence that the virus had left the Wuhan laboratory without revealing what that evidence was.
The claim was then repeated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the two men dropped the subject in later interviews.
Trump is now believed to have seen a Pentagon contractor report claiming traffic patterns and mobile data collected in the laboratory indicate that some sort of leak occurred around October 2019.
However, the report has been largely unmasked by specialists in the open source intelligence community, the Daily Beast reports.
The true source of the virus remains a mystery, as a global investigation of its origins is required.
China has so far refused to agree to these calls, but two WHO experts are currently in Beijing to lay the groundwork for such an investigation.
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