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Is this the truth to the leak of COVID-19 from Wuhan Lab?

Chinese professors Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao from South China University of Technology had uploaded a research article titled ‘The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus’ on the website ResearchGate. The article was curiously withdrawn by the authors of the article itself. 

When Professor Botao Xiao was questioned by The Washington Post journalist on the reason for suddenly withdrawing the article after publishing it, he said, “Because it was not supported by direct proofs.” Whether that was the real reason for the withdrawal or whether they were pressurised into withdrawing this article is a matter of investigations by competent global authorities. 

GoaChronicle.com in its investigations into the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic has managed to get a copy of the article published by the Chinese professors. The theory of the professors though with no supported direct proofs, as revealed by Botao Xiao, opens up a topic of discussion for scientists and governments world over. We must assess the truth of this possibility opined by the professors:

The article states: “Two descriptions of the virus published on Nature this week indicated that the genome sequences from patients were 96 per cent  or 89 per cent identical to the Bat CoV ZC45 coronavirus originally found in Rhinolophus affinis. It was critical to study where the pathogen came from and how it passed onto human. 

An article published on The Lancet reported that 41 people in Wuhan were found to have the acute respiratory syndrome and 27 of them had contact with Huanan Seafood Market . The 2019-nCoV was found in 33 out of 585 samples collected in the market after the outbreak. The market was suspicious to be the origin of the epidemic, and was shut down according to the rule of quarantine the source during an epidemic. 

The bats carrying CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers away from the seafood market. Bats were normally found to live in caves and trees. But the seafood market is in a densely-populated district of Wuhan, a metropolitan of 15 million people. 

The probability was very low for the bats to fly to the market. According to municipal reports and the testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors, the bat was never a food source in the city, and no bat was traded in the market. There was possible natural recombination or intermediate host of the coronavirus, yet little proof has been reported. 

Was there any other possible pathway? 

We screened the area around the seafood market and identified two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus. 

Within 280 meters from the market, there was the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention (WHCDC). WHCDC hosted animals in laboratories for research purpose, one of which was specialised in pathogens collection and identification. In one of their studies, 155 bats including Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei province, and other 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang provinc. The expert in collection was noted in the Author Contributions (JHT). Moreover, he was broadcasted for collecting viruses on nation-wide newspapers and websites in 2017 and 2019. He described that he was once by attacked by bats and the blood of a bat shot on his skin. He knew the extreme danger of the infection so he quarantined himself for 14 days. In another accident, he quarantined himself again because bats peed on him. He was once thrilled for capturing a bat carrying a live tick.

Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens. They were only 280 meters from the seafood market. The WHCDC was also adjacent to the Union Hospital where the first group of doctors were infected during this epidemic. 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. 

The second laboratory was 12 kilometers from the seafood market and belonged to Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. This laboratory reported that the Chinese horseshoe bats were natural reservoirs for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) which caused the 2002-2003 pandemic.

The principle investigator participated in a project which generated a chimeric virus using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, and reported the potential for human. A direct speculation that SARS-COV or its derivative might leak from the laboratory. 

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. “

It is no secret that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, houses China’s only P4-Level Biosafety Laboratory capable of storing, studying, or engineering Pathogen Level 4 microbes such as other coronaviruses, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, H5N1 influenza virus, Japanese encephalitis, and dengue.

Prof. Shi Zhengli is one of China’s most formidable virologist. She is a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. She had published findings of some startling facts in her report in 2007:

Three points clearly established as early as 2007:
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which uses ACE2 as its receptor for cell entry. SL-CoVs and SARS-CoVs share identical genome organizations and high sequence identities, with the main exception of the N terminus of the spike protein, known to be responsible for receptor binding in CoVs. 2.
 
Whereas the SL-CoV spike protein was unable to use any of the three ACE2 molecules as its receptor, and the SARS-CoV spike protein failed to center cells expressing the bat ACE2, the chimeric spike protein the study created did gain its ability to center cells via human  ACE, and 3.
 
A minimal insert region (amino acids 310 to 518) was found to be sufficient to convert the SL-CoV S from non- ACE2 binding to human ACE2 binding, indicating that the SL-CoV S is largely compatible with SARS-CoV S
The world continues to grapple with the most pertinent question – Was the 2019-nCoV leaked out accidentally or deliberately? In time, the truth will come out.

 

Batao Xiao Article

 

Savio Rodrigues

Savio Rodrigues Founder & Editor-in-Chief GoaChronicle.com

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