The theory of coronavirus leakage focuses on controversial research

The search for answers to the origins of Covid-19 has shifted the global focus to a controversial science corner that previously operated out of the public eye.

Known as the “function benefit”, research involves the exploitation of pathogens, often to make them more deadly, to understand how viruses behave and how they can become resistant to vaccines. Critics say the risk of a virus և outbreak չափազանց causing an outbreak is too high և In 2014, US President Barack Obama stopped profiting from function testing while officials were drafting stricter approval guidelines.

But the research continued after a ban in laboratories around the world, often with US funding, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an institution at the center of the coronavirus debate.

A multinational team of 15 scientists working at the Wuhan Institute received $ 600,000 in US government funding for 2015-2020 to study whether bat coronaviruses pose a threat to humans, said Anthony Fauch, director of the National Institute of Allergic Infectious Diseases. listening this week.

As part of the work, the team, including a well-known Chinese virologist Shi heng englin, known as the “bat” of China, linked two different coronaviruses to each other to create a more dangerous version that they found could infect humans. 2015 Scientists have published the journal Nature.

Shi heng englin inside Wuhan Institute P4 Lab © Feature China / Barcroft Media / Getty

On Tuesday, Fausi denied that the experiments were in the interest of examining function. However, in 2015 The article contained a strong warning. “Scientific panels may consider that such studies are built on chemical viruses based on circulating strains, and that their pursuit is extremely risky.”

“These data and restrictions represent a crossroads for GOF [gain of function] “Research problems,” the scientists wrote in the article. “The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks should be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens.”

Their warning has received more attention as some scientists, who do not yet have conclusive evidence that Sars-Kov-2 jumped naturally from humans through bats or animal intermediate servers, are now considering leaking it from the Wuhan Institute.

“We need to take both natural and laboratory hypotheses seriously until we get enough data,” wrote a group of scientists, including Ralph Barrick, in 2015. One of the authors of the article, open letter this month.

An investigation by China at the World Health Organization earlier this year found it “extremely unlikely” that Sars-Kov-2 had left the research facility. But the conclusion was challenged in March by countries such as the United States, Britain, and WTO Director-General Tedros Adanom Gebraes, who said the investigation was “not large enough.”

US President Biden ordered his intelligence agencies this week review the evidence for the laboratory leak hypothesis և reach a conclusion within 90 days. Chinese state media have repeatedly done so denied that a laboratory leak was possible և described the theory as a “conspiracy”.

The new focus on the US National Institutes of Health has raised difficult questions about the Wuhan Institute հարաբերությունների’s research. Baric և EcoHealth Alliance, a non-governmental group through which the NIH directed its funding, like Fauci, previously denied that their work at Wuhan was in the interest of research into function, in part because it was not intended to increase the infectivity of humans.

Baric, NIH, EcoHealthAlliance և Wuhan Institute did not respond to requests for comment.

However, NIH-funded work in Wuhan was classified, with some experts, including Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, arguing that it should not be done.

“Whether or not the Covid-19 epidemic was the result of a laboratory leak, the fact that such a result is reliable means that this is a category of research that we should not have funded or helped carry out,” Ebraith said.

Ebritt also questioned the security standards at Wuhan institutions. In 2016, some scientists, including Shi և EcoHealth Director Peter Daszak, used NIH funding to conduct experiments on live coronaviruses at Wuhan Biosafety Lab 2. published the details of the work, BSL-2 facilities are usually used only for medium-risk work, where researchers can experiment in open benches with only lab coats and gloves.

“If this work was done, it definitely should not be in BSL-2,” said Ebritt. “It’s roughly equivalent to a standard dentist’s office.”

China’s first 4th Biosafety Level Laboratory, where the most hazardous biological work is carried out, opened in Wuhan in 2018. Daszak did not respond to a request for comment.

Ebritt is not alone in her concerns. American diplomats in China in 2018 Cables were reportedly sent Warning Washington. “The new laboratory [at Wuhan] There is a serious shortage of properly trained specialists and investigators needed to operate this high-content laboratory safely. ”

Although scientists say the world can never know for sure whether Covid-19 originated naturally or in the Wuhan Laboratory, many believe that the epidemic indicated why such research should not have taken place at all.

Milton Leitenberg, a biological weapons expert at the University of Maryland, said: “Whatever we classify this work as, it should not have been at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Additional message from Yuan Yang և Nian Liu in Beijing

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