A Chinese-run biolab in California that contained hundreds of vials of deadly viruses could have sparked a major disease outbreak, a House committee has warned.
Dr. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican congressman from Ohio and chairman of the committee investigating the Covid pandemic, said in remarks Wednesday that even a seemingly minor misstep, such as accidentally tearing a protective glove, could have led to a disastrous leak from the laboratory can lead.
The illegal facility in Fresno, California was discovered by researchers in December 2022 and contained biological samples of Covid, HIV, herpes and malaria, among others, as well as hundreds of mice genetically modified to be more susceptible to viruses. infections.
Photos obtained by DailyMail.com through court documents at the time showed boxes stacked on top of each other in the laboratory. Investigations later revealed that the facility had received nearly $150,000 in funding from U.S. taxpayers.
Dr. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, chairman of today’s hearing before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, said even a seemingly minor misstep, such as accidentally tearing a protective glove, could have led to a leak from the lab.
Nearly 1,000 abused and malnourished white laboratory mice were discovered in poor conditions at the facility. About 200 of them were already dead. The remainder were humanely euthanized by a veterinarian
Among hundreds of vials containing infectious viruses and bacteria, many of which had been improperly stored in poor freezers, were samples of malaria, pictured here, next to Chinese characters. Other infectious agents included strains of the herpes virus, the bacteria that causes meningitis, chlamydia, Covid-19 and HIV.
At a hearing today on strengthening biolab regulations at national and international levels, Dr. Wenstrup, head of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, said: ‘Lab leaks can occur for all kinds of reasons.
‘They can arise from misuse of biological materials, escaped aerosols, laboratory design errors or human error, which can be as simple as not wearing protective equipment properly or accidentally puncturing a glove.
“An accident like this could easily have occurred in Fresno County, California.
“(This was) where… a Chinese company operated an illegal laboratory where it conducted dangerous experiments with Covid-19 and other viruses.
‘In this laboratory, authorities found hundreds of mice genetically modified to catch and carry (the) Covid-19 virus.
“This is troubling because we already know that these laboratory-related incidents, if left unchecked, can have predictable but disastrous consequences.”
Experts warned when the illegal laboratory was discovered that it increased the risk of viruses escaping and causing widespread infections in the community.
They also warned that the unsafe conditions could have allowed pathogens to settle on packaging used for Covid-19 and pregnancy tests stored at the warehouse, putting customers at risk of infection.
The discovery of the facility is further made possible by suggestions that Covid-19 escaped from a laboratory in China.
Many experts believe that the Covid pandemic was sparked by a laboratory leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China, which was known to be experimenting with coronaviruses.
The US has also suffered several laboratory leaks in the past despite strict safety protocols, including smallpox, tuberculosis and the Zika virus – the most recent of which occurred in 2016.
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert and director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of California, San Francisco, said earlier: ‘This was a very disturbing news story.
‘Given the potential for such laboratories to accidentally release agents that could endanger the public, we need regulations to ensure that biosafety is maintained at all times in laboratories around the world that study infectious pathogens. ‘
Many of the 25,000 local residents were also concerned, with one saying online: ‘How come they didn’t know? So every company comes in and pays, and that’s it, no follow up, basically? Someone has to answer this.’
Another added: “There’s more to it… We just know what they want us to know… I don’t feel like they kept me safe!”
The Select Subcommittee is exerting strong influence in the coronavirus debate, with its chairman claiming that Dr. Anthony Fauci was secretly escorted to CIA headquarters last month to be asked to participate in the agency’s investigation into the origins of Covid.
The mice were locked in a poorly ventilated room barely larger than a closet and under constant bright light, as shown in the photo above. Court documents also show they lacked adequate food and water
Several of the 32 freezers found containing biological material and dangerous pathogens were not functioning properly because the power to the building had gone out
Blood and plasma from unknown sources were also found in some of the several freezers on the premises
The illegal laboratory in Fresno County was only discovered late last year after an enforcement officer noticed a garden hose coming from the back of the building.
Once inside, investigators found industrial freezers filled with hundreds of vials of biological material and stacks of cardboard boxes.
There were also a thousand dead or dying laboratory mice that had been genetically modified to be more vulnerable to human infections.
The lab was run by Universal Meditech Inc, a company with strong ties to China, which made unlicensed Covid and pregnancy tests sold in Texas and California.
But after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered a recall of its products due to lack of approval, the company went bankrupt.
It was then acquired by one of its creditors, Prestige Biotech, which ordered the laboratory equipment to be moved from the main laboratory in Fresno to the warehouse in nearby Reedley, California.
Researchers have now visited to clear the laboratory and deep clean it to remove any dangerous pathogens lurking there. The rodents have all been destroyed as well.
Investigators also raided offices in China linked to Prestige Biotech, but the buildings were empty and no company employees were present.
Meditech recently tried to sue the province for $50 million over the lab’s destruction, saying the danger was exaggerated, but the province responded that there was “no merit” in the claim.
Among the viruses and bacteria labeled at the California facility, inspectors found hepatitis B and C, dengue, HIV, two strains of the herpes virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), tuberculosis, meningitis, rubella, coronavirus and malaria.
It was also determined that a large number of vials at the facility contained biomaterials, including blood and tissue from unidentified sources, as well as many other unlabeled chemicals.