A team commissioned by the World Health Organization to investigate the source of the coronavirus in Wuhan in January concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that the pathogen originated in a top-security lab in the ground-zero Chinese city.
And a WHO report — seen on Monday by AFP before its official release — found that Covid-19 was most probably first passed to humans from a bat through an intermediary animal, with investigators all but ruling out the laboratory leak theory.
However, that may not completely lay to rest a notion that was brought into the mainstream by former US president Donald Trump and others, and which gained oxygen as Chinese secrecy and the inability to pinpoint a natural source raised suspicion.
The institute houses a lab with a biosafety rating of “P4” — the highest possible — which is determined by the level of danger and resulting security measures posed by the pathogens studied there. P4-level pathogens include those which cause diseases such as Ebola.
The P4 lab is Asia’s first and was built at cost of 300 million yuan ($42 million), opening in 2018. It houses the largest virus bank in Asia, with more than 1,500 strains. A P3 lab — the biosafety level that includes coronaviruses — has been in operation at the site since 2012.
The institute studies some of the world’s most dangerous diseases and previously conducted extensive investigations into the links between bats and disease outbreaks in China. Its scientists helped shed light on the Covid-19 pathogen in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan.
In February of 2020, researchers there published work concluding that the genetic makeup of the new virus was about 80 percent similar to the SARS coronavirus, and 96 percent identical to a coronavirus found in bats.
Many scientists think the virus that causes Covid-19 originated in bats and may have jumped to people via another still-undetermined mammal, and gained traction among humans in late 2019 at a wet market in Wuhan where wildlife species were sold as food.
News Source: News18