Wuhan Institute of Virology

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The Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (WIV) is a research institute. It was designed to study virology. It is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The institute is in Jiangxia District, Wuhan, Hubei. It opened China's first biosafety level 4 (BSL–4) laboratory in 2015.[1]

In January 2020, conspiracy theories spread which said that the COVID-19 pandemic came from a virus made by the WIV. But scientific evidence says that the virus is natural.[2][3][4][5][6] One story in the Washington Post said that US State Department had raised safety concerns about WIV's research on bat coronaviruses in 2018.[7] In April 2020, U.S. intelligence officials looked into reports the virus may have started by an accident by WIV scientists studying bats.[8][9][10][11]

Experts do not believe the virus escaped from the institute.[12][13] One expert said that up to seven million people in Southeast Asia are infected each year with bat coronaviruses. He said there are probably only about six people who work with the viruses at the institute. It does not make sense that virus came from one of these of people compared with the millions of other people affected by bats. The staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were trained at US labs and follow high safety standards. The evidence shows that this is not a laboratory accident.

History[change | change source]

The WIV started in 1956 as the Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). In 1961, it became the South China Institute of Microbiology, and in 1962 was renamed Wuhan Microbiology Institute. In June 1978 it was named Wuhan Institute of Virology.[14]

In 2015, the WIV's National Bio-safety Laboratory was completed at a cost of 300 million yuan ($44 million). It was built with help from the French government's CIRI lab.[1][15] Some of the money to build the laboratory was given by the U.S. government.[11]

Coronavirus research[change | change source]

In 2005, a group including researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology published research into the origin of the SARS coronavirus. They found China's horseshoe bats have a lot of SARS-like coronaviruses.[16] Scientists took samples from thousands of horseshoe bats in locations across China, and found over 300 bat coronaviruses.[17]

In 2015, an international team including two scientists from the Institute made a hybrid virus, combining a bat coronavirus with a SARS virus. The SARS virus had been changed to grow in mice and copy human disease. The hybrid virus was able to infect human cells.[18]

In 2017, a team from the Institute found that coronaviruses from horseshoe bats at a cave in Yunnan had all the genetic pieces of the SARS virus. They said this could be the source, and that the human SARS virus probably came from this cave. The team studied the bats for five years. They said there was a village only a kilometer away, and because of this there was the risk of another bat virus like SARS affecting people.[17][19]

2019–20 coronavirus pandemic[change | change source]

In December 2019, cases of pneumonia linked with an unknown coronavirus were reported to health authorities in Wuhan. The Institute checked its coronavirus collection and found the new virus was 96 percent identical to a sample its researchers had taken from horseshoe bats in southwest China.[20]

A team at the Institute were the first to identify, analyze and name the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). They made it available for scientists around the world to study.[21][22]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cyranoski, David (2017-02-22). "Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world's most dangerous pathogens". Nature. 592 (7642): 399–400. Bibcode:2017Natur.542..399C. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.21487. PMID 28230144.
  2. Taylor, Adam (29 January 2020). "Experts debunk fringe theory linking China's coronavirus to weapons research". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  3. Cohen, John (19 February 2020). "Scientists 'strongly condemn' rumors and conspiracy theories about origin of coronavirus outbreak". Science. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  4. Fisher, Max (2020-04-08). "Why Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Flourish. And Why It Matters". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  5. Noor, Poppy (2020-04-13). "A third of Americans believe Covid-19 laboratory conspiracy theory – study". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  6. Holland, Kate (2020-03-27). "Sorry, conspiracy theorists. Study concludes COVID-19 'is not a laboratory construct'". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  7. Rogin, John (14 April 2020). "State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  8. Rincon, Paul (16 April 2020). "Coronavirus: Is there any evidence for lab release theory?". BBC. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  9. Lipton, Eric; Sanger, David E.; Haberman, Maggie; Shear, Michael D.; Mazzetti, Mark; Barnes, Julian E. (11 April 2020). "He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump's Failure on the Virus". New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  10. Dilanian, Ken; Kube, Courtney (16 April 2020). "U.S. intel community examining whether coronavirus emerged accidentally from a Chinese lab". NBC News. Retrieved 16 April 2020. The U.S. intelligence community is examining whether the coronavirus that caused the global pandemic emerged accidentally from a Chinese research lab studying diseases in bats [...] Separately, the idea that the virus emerged at an animal market in Wuhan continues to be debated by experts. Dr. Ronald Waldman, a former official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a public health expert at George Washington University, said the theory has fallen out of favor in some quarters, in part because one of the early infected persons had no connection to the market.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Rapoze, Kenneth (14 April 2020). "China Lab In Focus Of Coronavirus Outbreak". Forbes. Retrieved 17 April 2020. For months, anyone who said the new SARS coronavirus might have come out of a virology research lab in Wuhan, China was dismissed as a right wing xenophobe [...] But on Tuesday, the narrative flipped. It's no longer a story shared by China bears and President Trump fans. Today, Josh Rogin, who is said to be as plugged into the State Department as any Washington Post columnist, was shown documents dating back to 2015 revealing how the U.S. government was worried about safety standards at that Wuhan lab. [...] At the very least, for a government that likes to save face, the fact that the U.S. government helped build and fund the Wuhan virology lab in question should be enough for China to open that info vault to scientists at the World Health Organization.
  12. Brumfiel, Geoff; Kwong, Emily (23 April 2020). "Virus Researchers Cast Doubt On Theory Of Coronavirus Lab Accident". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  13. Barclay, Eliza (23 April 2020). "Why these scientists still doubt the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese lab". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  14. "History". Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  15. "China Inaugurates the First Biocontainment Level 4 Laboratory in Wuhan". Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 3 February 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  16. Li, Wendong; Shi, Zhengli; Yu, Meng; Ren, Wuze; Smith, Craig; Epstein, Jonathan H; Wang, Hanzhong; Crameri, Gary; Hu, Zhihong (28 Oct 2005). "Bats Are Natural Reservoirs of SARS-Like Coronaviruses". Science. 310 (5748): 676–679. Bibcode:2005Sci...310..676L. doi:10.1126/science.1118391. PMID 16195424. S2CID 2971923.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Cyranoski, David (1 October 2017). "Bat cave solves mystery of deadly SARS virus — and suggests new outbreak could occur". nature.com. Archived from the original on 17 January 2020. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  18. Butler, Declan (12 November 2015). "Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research: Lab-made coronavirus related to SARS can infect human cells". Nature News. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18787.
  19. Drosten, C.; Hu, B.; Zeng, L.-P.; Yang, X.-L.; Ge, Xing-Yi; Zhang, Wei; Li, Bei; Xie, J.-Z.; Shen, X.-R. (2017). "Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus". PLOS Pathogens. 13 (11): e1006698. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1006698. PMC 5708621. PMID 29190287.
  20. Qiu, Jane (11 March 2020). "How China's "Bat Woman" Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus". Scientific American.
  21. Buckley, Chris; Steven Lee Myers (1 February 2020). "As New Coronavirus Spread, China's Old Habits Delayed Fight". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  22. Cohen, Jon (1 February 2020). "Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak's origins". Science. Retrieved 4 February 2020. The viral sequences, most researchers say, also knock down the idea the pathogen came from a virology institute in Wuhan.