Image source, Getty Images
After studying the genes of the new coronavirus, international scientists determined that the virus was not artificially made and preliminarily inferred that it was related to animals such as bats and pangolins. However, was Wuhan, China, the source of the virus, where the outbreak first broke out?How do viruses transfer from animals to humans?Currently, no scientist can perfectly answer these questions.
U.S. officials and the media have recently refocused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Some scientists questioned that although the virus is not artificially manufactured, it may still be related to the laboratory. They urged China to be more transparent and open to the international community to independently investigate the source of the virus and trace the virus. The source helps to understand the evolution of the virus and prevent the next outbreak of the same type.
China believes that the claim that the virus came from a laboratory is fake news with no scientific basis. It emphasizes that the virus does not necessarily originate in Wuhan. Scientists are waiting for answers. However, China refuses to allow international experts to visit the local area for investigation.Chen Wen, Minister of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, said in an interview with the BBC that the establishment of an independent investigation committee by the international community to investigate the source of the new crown virus is politically motivated and will distract the current anti-epidemic efforts.
BBC Chinese is trying to sort out the discussion of the safety and transparency of the Wuhan Virus Research Institute in the scientific community.
The virus is not made artificially, but it can still be related to the laboratory?
The scientific community has different views on this issue: some scientists believe that there is no evidence that the new coronavirus has nothing to do with the laboratory, even if it is not artificially manufactured, the virus may also change in cell culture or infect researchers; but more scientists It is believed that this kind of statement related to the laboratory is difficult to be confirmed, and bats have a greater chance of contacting and transmitting the virus to humans outside the laboratory than involving the laboratory.
Peter Daszak, chairman of the U.S. Environmental and Ecological Health Alliance, has cooperated with China in research on emerging infectious diseases in the past 10 years.He pointed out that the probability that the new coronavirus is related to the laboratory is very low.
According to a research by Shi Zhengli’s team from Wuhan Institute of Virology published in Virologica Sinica (Chinese Virology (English)) in 2018, scientists have conducted research in Yunnan and found that about 2.7% of the population living in nearby bat caves, for individual bats Coronavirus produces antibodies.These viruses are not necessarily harmful to the human body, nor may they become epidemics.Dasak said that this research indirectly infers that at least 100 million people in Southeast Asia may have access to bats, and they may potentially be infected with different bat coronaviruses. Compared with the dozens of people in the institute with strict epidemic prevention management, from the probability point of view , The probability of the virus being transmitted to humans outside the laboratory is higher.
Angela Rasmussen, an infectious disease expert at Columbia University in the United States, agrees. He said that compared with the theory leaked in the laboratory, there are too many other possibilities. For example, someone is exploring caves and collecting bat droppings. Making fertilizer, etc., as long as someone comes into contact with wild bats, it is basically possible to transmit the virus.
Shi Zhengli's team at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China has compared the genes of the new coronavirus with "all" bat coronaviruses in the institute. The two do not match. She described it as a relief when interviewed by the media.
But Richard Ebright, a biologist at Rutgers University in the United States, and Nikolai Petrovsky, an infectious disease expert at Flinders University in Australia, all told the BBC Chinese that currently It is not possible to completely rule out the theory that the virus is caused by an accident in the laboratory.
Petrovsky believes that scientists generally do not perform complete genetic sequencing of all viruses. Viruses still have the opportunity to appear in the process of cell culture. Only by sequencing all viruses involved in cell culture can they know whether they are related to Related to the new coronavirus.
Ebright said that the claim that Chinese researchers tested "all" bat coronaviruses in the institute could not be confirmed, and questioned that they may have only tested some of the viral genetic data to reach a conclusion.He said that international participation is needed to conduct a comprehensive scientific forensic survey, including the collection of samples of laboratory personnel, environment and facilities, to answer the question.
Tim Trevan, the founder of a biochemical agency consulting company in Maryland, USA, also told BBC Chinese that only the Chinese side can disclose the genetic sequence of all viruses involved in order to relieve the doubts of the outside world.
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Researchers were exposed to bats without equipment
Questions about the safety of the laboratory from the outside world mainly come from the documentary of the laboratory and the reports of related researchers in the Chinese media.
In May 2017, Xinhua News Agency reprinted a report from the "Wuhan Evening News", which tells that a researcher at the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once forgot to wear protective equipment and was "dipped on him from the top of his head like bat urine like two spots." Several times, bat blood was sprayed directly on the researcher's skin, and the result was quarantined for 5 days.
In December 2019, this documentary about the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that researchers sometimes did not wear complete protective equipment PPE when collecting bat samples in the wild.
Some media also found an internal photo of the Wuhan Institute of Virology uploaded by China Daily on Twitter. The seal on the side of the cold storage door was suspected to be broken, which caused safety questions. The photo has been recently released. been deleted.
These fragmentary fragments and reports are not directly related to the new coronavirus, and it is difficult to infer that the virus is related to the research institute.However, what Western scientists are concerned about is that if Wuhan laboratories and researchers have revealed safety concerns during interviews with the media, it is reasonable to question the relevant laboratory safety risk standards.
Xiao Botao, a professor of biological sciences at South China University of Technology in China, published an article in February that also quoted Chinese media reports on the laboratory, questioning safety issues and inferring that the laboratory may be the source of the virus.However, the article caused controversy, and Xiao Botao quickly withdrew the article, and there was no direct evidence to support the media's claim that he had guessed the potential source of the virus.
American expert Richard Ebright analyzed Chinese media reports on the laboratory. He told the BBC Chinese, “The Wuhan Centers for Disease Control and Wuhan Institute of Virology related to the new bat virus is divided into two parts: local collection of bats and According to the classification of laboratories, neither of them have sufficient PPE and inappropriate biochemical safety standards, which may cause accidental infection of laboratory staff."
The laboratory that studies viruses and bacteria has a standard system called "Biosafety Level" (BSL), which is divided into four security levels according to the type of virus or bacteria and the risk of its leakage, with the lowest level. Level 2015 is the highest. In 4, Wuhan Institute of Virology established the country's first P4 laboratory, which is the laboratory with the highest level of biosafety, but not all experiments are carried out in the PXNUMX laboratory.
Ebright said that before the emergence of the new coronavirus, most of the animal coronaviruses other than SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, also known as "atypical pneumonia") and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) were studied in BSL- 2. China’s “two institutions conduct research on bat viruses at the BSL-2 level, including virus isolation, virus cultivation, and testing on animals. However, BSL-2 can only provide the lowest protection against infection, and there will be high Risk of accidental infection due to exposure to the virus."
Australian infectious disease expert Nikolai Petrovsky explained to the BBC in Chinese that it is currently known that wild bats may harbor many dangerous viruses, but most of them do not necessarily pose risks to humans.As far as he knows, no country currently requires researchers who collect bat samples in the wild to be equipped with PPE. However, wearing PPE is a reasonable choice.
American expert Tim Trevan told the BBC Chinese that virus research is obviously different from the observation of bat habits by ordinary biologists. Researchers are studying wild bats to understand SARS. They knew from the beginning that wild Bats may contain some coronaviruses that are harmful to humans, so they should be better equipped for research.
He agrees that most of the wild coronaviruses in the world are harmless to humans, but the risk management for infectious disease research is not simply to reduce the risk of infection, but to completely eliminate the possibility of infection, even if it is 0.0001% of the possibility of causing a large-scale infectious disease. It should also be avoided as much as possible.
Image source, AFP
A sudden epidemic has pushed the Wuhan Institute of Virology into the spotlight of the world.
Laboratory management model
Trivin believes that China once punished those who publicized the epidemic during the epidemic. This kind of culture that values authority and class is detrimental to the management and operation of high-risk laboratories.He believes that high-risk laboratories are full of unpredictable factors, and the research team continues to learn from mistakes and mistakes to make progress on their own, and the person who points out the error is not necessarily the high-level person, but the everyone working in the laboratory.
For example, he said that a hospital in the United States was hit by an infectious disease. One of the wards had a particularly large number of infections by medical staff. In the end, a cleaner stepped up and pointed out that the ward was particularly seldom discarded medical gloves. The medical staff in the ward had an error in the procedure.
He pointed out that laboratories should maintain a high degree of transparency to let the outside world know about the nature and dangers of experiments, and the safety standards of each experiment, but Chinese officials seem to be reluctant to cooperate with other countries in this regard.
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American experts have also questioned the procedures of the Institute of Virology to deal with virus genes.
Michael Conway, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Central Michigan State University, USA, published a paper in the "Journal of Infectious Diseases" in March, stating that the two fish cDNA samples submitted by the Wuhan Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences many years ago had SARS. Sort of coronavirus-like viruses.
Why do two kinds of fish suddenly have SARS-type coronavirus?In his article, he proposed two possibilities: one is that the coronavirus has appeared in nature, including ecology in water; the other is that these samples are contaminated.
Michael Conway questioned the BBC's Chinese language, saying that the Institute of Aquatic Biology and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may share facilities for testing gene sequencing, and improper procedures may result in contamination of cDNA samples.
However, there is currently no evidence to prove that the cDNA samples were contaminated for this reason.
Michael Conway emphasized that he did not think this was a malicious act, and even if the fish sample has the genetic sequence of the SARS coronavirus, it does not mean that it will become an ancestor virus. It is just that the fish may also be the new coronavirus. Host.
At present, scientists only believe that the new coronavirus is related to bats and pangolins. Some Chinese research teams have studied aquatic organisms and have not found that the new coronavirus is significantly related to them.
p role=”text” class=”css-19db9gm-Copyright etq3yw90”>Image source, EPA
The virus laboratory follows the biosafety level
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The analysis believes that China's opaque information regarding the epidemic and the source of the virus has become a fuel-supporting agent for various "conspiracy theories" and the reason why the United States continues to question China.
The Washington Post of the United States stated on April 4 that the U.S. government circulated a diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in China about the Wuhan Laboratory, which mentioned that the U.S. embassy staff and medical-related experts had visited Wuhan many times. Research Institute, they issued a warning to the US government that the safety of the laboratory is insufficient and lack of trained operators and investigators to ensure the safe operation of the laboratory.
The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the telegram, but the report received widespread attention and U.S. officials responded differently.
US Secretary of State Pompeo, who is tough on China, said in an interview with Fox News, "We know that the virus originated in Wuhan, China, and we also know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is only a few miles away from that market (Editor’s note: the actual distance is less than 30 kilometers) There are still many things to be discovered, and the U.S. government will work hard to find out."
However, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly stated that the current US intelligence seems to show that the new coronavirus is likely to be natural and not manufactured in a laboratory, but they cannot be completely sure.
France has participated in the establishment of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The French Presidential Palace issued a statement clarifying that there is no real evidence that the virus originated in a laboratory.
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Other Western countries did not link the source of the virus to the laboratory, but called for independent investigation of the source of the virus.German Chancellor Merkel asked China to be transparent about the source of the new crown virus outbreak; Australian Prime Minister Morrison agreed that the source of the new crown virus should be investigated independently. The incident should not be regarded as criticism but should be regarded as an important public health issue. Because it is important for global public health to get important information as early as possible.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said that China’s position is that this is a scientific issue and should be left to scientists and medical experts to study it.He pointed out that the head of the WHO has repeatedly stated that there is no evidence that the new coronavirus was produced in a laboratory, and many well-known medical experts in the world also believe that the so-called laboratory leaks have no scientific basis.
In an interview with the BBC, Minister Chen Wen of the Chinese Embassy in the UK made it clear that independent investigation of the source of the virus is politically motivated. “It disperses energy and resources. Its political purpose is obvious. No one will agree and it will not benefit anyone.” .
Yuan Zhiming, an expert from the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, stressed in an interview with China Global Television Network that the virus will never flow from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. All strict management systems and scientific research codes of conduct have been studied, and no one has been infected.Yuan Zhiming said that there is no evidence to prove that the virus is artificially synthesized. At the same time, with the workload and wisdom of scientists, it is impossible to artificially synthesize this virus.
"I think that as a scientist ourselves, and as a technology manager, I have been engaged in laboratory biosafety management and scientific research project management for a long time. I know that this is impossible to happen. I also believe that as long as the epidemic is not over , Especially when the overseas epidemic is endless, this kind of suspicion or this kind of discordant voice will never disappear," he said.
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