While most early reports indicated a market close to Wuhan was the source of the original COVID-19 infections, there was skepticism about this theory.

Sen. Tom Cotton suggested that Chinese officials misled the public on the origins of the novel coronavirus that has killed at least 362 people and infected more than 17,400 others, saying it may have originated in a “superlaboratory.”

At a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing with US military leaders on Thursday, Cotton described the coronavirus as the “biggest and most important story in the world” and “worse than Chernobyl.”

Cotton, a longtime China hawk, suggested Beijing had not been as forthcoming about the number of infections and was “lying about it from the very beginning” to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic. Chinese officials have been accused of lowering the number of cases and tamping down on reports weeks before it was formally acknowledged by the government.

“They also claimed, for almost two months until earlier this week, that it originated in a seafood market in Wuhan,” Cotton said, referring to a study published by The Lancet. “That is not the case.”

If the market was not the source of the pathogen, what was? Researchers at the Beijing-sponsored South China University of Technology now conclude that the coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Chinese scientists believe the deadly coronavirus may have started life in a research facility just 300 yards from the Wuhan fish market.

A new bombshell paper from the Beijing-sponsored South China University of Technology says that the Wuhan Center for Disease Control (WHCDC) could have spawned the contagion in Hubei province.

‘The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus,’ penned by scholars Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao claims the WHCDC kept disease-ridden animals in laboratories, including 605 bats.

It also mentions that bats – which are linked to coronavirus – once attacked a researcher and ‘blood of bat was on his skin.’

So it may be that a sloppy scientist failed to follow proper decontamination protocol before exiting the laboratory. This is especially troubling as researchers who work in the highest level of biosafety containment must undergo vigorous training before using such facilities.

The lab is located 280 metres from the infamous wet market and adjacent to the Union hospital where the first group of doctors was infected.

It read: “It is plausible that the virus leaked around and some of them contaminated the initial patients in this epidemic, though solid proofs are needed in future study.”

A second laboratory, located at approximately 12km from the wet market, was mentioned in the report, as it said: “This laboratory reported that the Chinese horseshoe bats were natural reservoirs for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) which caused the SARS outbreak in 2003.”

The laboratory is said to belong to Wuhan Institute of Virology and is classified as P4, the highest level of biosafety laboratory.

The full report is here, including this conclusion:

In summary, somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories. Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from city center and other densely populated places.

Not placing high-level biological containment facilities next to market places seems like a sensible idea.

Once this epidemic is contained and controlled, the Chinese need to take a long, hard look at their approach to bioethics.

 

 
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