How scientists at the Wuhan lab helped the Chinese military in a secret project to find animal viruses
Scientists studying bat diseases at the high-security Chinese laboratory in Wuhan were involved in a large-scale project to investigate animal viruses, along with leading military officials – despite their denial of such ties.
Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that a nationwide plan was launched nine years ago, led by a leading government body, to discover new viruses and detect the ‘dark matter’ of biology involved in the spread of disease .
A leading Chinese scientist, who published the first genetic sequence of the Covid-19 virus in January last year, discovered 143 new diseases in the first three years of the project alone.
The fact that such a virus detection project is being led by both civilian and military scientists seems to confirm incendiary claims by the United States claiming collaboration between the Wuhan Institute of Virology (IPH) and the 2.1 million armed forces of the United States. country.
The plan’s five team leaders include Shi Zhengli, the IPH virologist nicknamed ‘Bat Woman’ for her travels to find monsters in caves, and Cao Wuchun, a senior military officer and government adviser on bioterrorism.
Prof Shi last month denied the US allegations, saying: ‘I don’t know of any military work at the IPH. That info is incorrect. ‘
QUESTIONS: Colonel Cao Wuchun, an IPH advisor, and, right, Major General Chen Wei, China’s top biodeference expert
Still, Colonel Cao is listed on project reports as an investigator of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences of the People’s Liberation Army, works closely with other military scientists, and is director of the Military Biosafety Expert Committee.
Cao, an epidemiologist who studied at Cambridge University, is even on the advisory board of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He was second-in-command of the military team led by Major General Chen Wei, the country’s top biological defense expert, to respond to the new virus and develop a vaccine.
The United States Department of State also raised concerns about risky “ function gain ” experiments to manipulate coronaviruses in the Wuhan lab, and suggested that researchers were getting sick with Covid-like symptoms weeks before the outbreak emerged more widely in the Chinese city.
Last month, Britain, the US and 12 other countries criticized Beijing for refusing to share important data and samples after a joint investigation by the World Health Organization and Chinese into the origins of the pandemic dismissed a lab leak as ‘extremely unlikely’.
Filippa Lentzos, a biosafety expert at King’s College London, said the latest revelations fit Beijing’s “ pattern of inconsistencies. ”
“They still aren’t transparent with us,” she said. “We don’t have hard data on the origins of a pandemic, whether it was a natural animal spill or some sort of accidental research-related leak, but we can’t get clear answers and that just doesn’t inspire confidence.”
The documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday describe a major project called “the discovery of animal-delivered pathogens carried by wild animals,” which aimed to find organisms that could infect humans and investigate their evolution.
It was launched in 2012 and funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China. The project was led by Xu Jianguo, who bragged at a 2019 conference that “a giant network of infectious disease prevention and control is taking shape.”
The professor also led the first expert group to investigate Covid’s rise in Wuhan. He initially denied human transmission, despite evidence from hospitals, then insisted in mid-January that “this epidemic is limited and will end if there are no new cases next week.”
A review of his virus-hunting project admitted that “a large number of new viruses have been discovered, which are of great concern in the international virology community.”
It added that if pathogens spread to humans and livestock, they can cause new infectious diseases “ that pose a major threat to human health and the safety of life and cause major economic losses and even affect social stability. ”
A 2018 update said the scientific teams – who published many of their findings in international journals – found four new pathogens and ten new bacteria, while “ more than 1,640 new viruses were discovered using metagenomics technology. ” Such research is based on extraction of genetic material from samples such as those collected by Prof Shi from bat droppings and blood in the cave networks of southern China.
Such extensive sampling led to Prof Shi’s rapid disclosure last year of RaTG13, the most famous relative of the new strain of coronavirus that causes Covid.
It was stored in the Wuhan Laboratory, the largest repository of bat coronaviruses in Asia.
Pictured: Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, in the central Hubei province of China, during a visit by members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus
It was later revealed that she had changed the name of another virus identified in an earlier paper, obscuring the link to three miners who died of a strange respiratory disease they caught clearing bat droppings.
Prof Shi also admitted that eight more unidentified SARS viruses had been collected in the mine. The institute took its virus sample database offline in September 2019, just a few weeks before Covid cases exploded in Wuhan.
A comment was made on social media after Colonel Cao published an article about a fatal tick bite, in which he said he and Prof. Shi “can always find a virus that has never been found in humans,” adding: ” I suspect this is another so-called ‘scientific research’ made in the laboratory. ‘
In recent years, the Chinese military has stepped up its recruitment of scientists after President Xi Jinping said this was a key element in the country’s march towards global supremacy.
Lianchao Han, a dissident who formerly worked for the Chinese government, said Cao’s involvement raises suspicion that military researchers who are experts in coronaviruses may also be involved in bio-protection operations.
“Many have been working with Western research institutes for years to steal our know-how, but China is still refusing to share critical information a year after the pandemic killed more than three million people.”
David Asher, a biological, chemical and nuclear proliferation expert who led State Department investigations into the origins of Covid-19, said: “ The Chinese have made it clear that they see biotechnology as a big part of the future of hybrid warfare. The big question is whether their work in these areas is offensive or defensive. ‘