Trump owes us an apology: Chinese virologist

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/25 20:44:04

Photo taken on May 29, 2020 shows the live broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump speaking at a press conference at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. Photo:Xinhua

US President Donald Trump owes us an apology, Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), who has been dubbed "Bat Woman" by some foreign media outlets and put in the spotlight during the COVID-19 outbreak due to issues regarding the virus' origin, said in an email to the Science magazine's 18 questions concerning the novel coronavirus. 

US President Trump's claim that SARS-CoV-2 [the novel coronavirus] was leaked from our institute totally contradicts the facts, Shi said in the email, which was released by Science Magazine on Friday. 

She noted that Trump's claim "jeopardizes and affects our academic work and personal lives. He owes us an apology."

Shi stressed that she and her colleagues discovered the novel coronavirus in late 2019 in samples from patients who contracted pneumonia of an unknown origin and that they had beforehand "never been in contact with or studied this virus nor did we know of its existence."

As to the origin of the virus, Shi said that, according to the findings of the team and international peers, it is very likely to have originated from bats.

The virus may have evolved in one or more intermediate hosts, become adapted to humans, and eventually spread among the human population. However, it remains unclear which animals were the intermediate hosts and how it spilled over to humans, Shi told Science Magazine.

We know from historical experience like HIV that the places where big emerging diseases first break out usually are not their place of origin (where the spillover originally happened), Shi said in the email. 

Shi noted that her team has done bat virus surveillance in Hubei Province for many years, but have not found that bats in Wuhan or even in the wider Hubei Province carry any coronaviruses that are closely related to the novel coronavirus. So she does not believe that the spillover of the virus from bats to humans occurred in Wuhan or in Hubei Province. 

Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo: Li Hao/GT

There had been rumors that 'patient zero' of COVID-19 was a researcher from WIV.

In the email, Shi noted that, to date, no staff or students in the WIV has been infected by either bat SARSr-CoV or SARS-CoV-2 as they had recently tested the sera of all staff and students in the lab.

In late April, the US National Institutes of Health ended funding for the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, led by wildlife disease specialist Peter Daszak, who has conducted collaborative research with Shi. The fund cancellation came along with the Trump administration's promotion of the theory that the virus came from a lab. 

She said in the email that she does not understand the move and believe it's absolutely absurd. 

"This project should be an international cooperative effort aiming to gather scientists from different countries to jointly explore early warnings and predictions of infectious diseases, which will help vaccine research and drug development to protect us from coronavirus threats," she said. 

Global Times  


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