On a hill in Wuhan, the Epidemiology Laboratory, established with the help of France, is the site of American suspicions about the source of the Covid-19 epidemic that appeared in this big city in central China.
According to most scientists, the emerging corona virus was most likely transmitted to humans from an animal, and all information indicates a market in the city where wild animals were being sold alive.
However, the presence of the Institute of Epidemiology just meters away from that place raises months of suspicions of SARS-Cov-7leakage from these sensitive facilities.
After several newspaper articles were issued, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke this week of an “investigation” to study this hypothesis, which is not yet based on anything concrete.
The following are the most important questions about the Epidemiological Institute in Wuhan:
What is this site?
According to the Washington Post, the US embassy in Beijing, after several visits to the institute, in 2018 alerted US authorities to inadequate safety measures, apparently in a laboratory conducting studies on the corona virus caused by bats.
Fox News network quoted “unidentified sources” that the current Coronavirus, which was announced in December for its first appearance in Wuhan itself, comes from this particular laboratory, even if it is a natural virus not installed by the Chinese.
A “leak” may be involuntary but rather due to improper preventive measures.
The laboratory is a highly protected facility with the most dangerous strains of known viruses such as Ebola.
It is a B-4 level 4 biological safety laboratory.
This hypersensitive site was created with the help of France, and enables very accurate research to respond quickly in the event of infectious diseases.
It cost about 40 million euros and was funded by China.
Researchers work in total isolation, and there are at least 30 B-4 laboratories in the world, half of which are in the United States.
On the other hand, the Institute of Epidemiology in Wuhan has the largest group of virus strains in Asia, with 1,500 different samples, according to its website.
Although the American press constantly talks about B-4, less serious studies such as those related to the emerging coronavirus are usually conducted in B-3 laboratories, a type of laboratory that the institute also owns.
The institute refused to answer questions from Agence France-Presse.
Hence, it is not possible for France Press to officially confirm that Corona viruses were studied before the outbreak of the epidemic in these laboratories.
Is it the source of the new Corona virus?
Nothing can confirm this.
The Washington Post and Fox News quoted information from unidentified sources who expressed concern about a possible accidental leak of the virus.
According to the TV network, the “first patient” who was behind the spread of the epidemic may have been an employee of the institute who was infected and subsequently transferred to other places in Wuhan.
In response to a question about this hypothesis, US President Donald Trump announced that he is hearing “increasingly this narration,” adding that it is currently “a very in-depth lesson development” by Washington.
When the epidemic began to spread in China, Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Friday, “The local authorities asked whether the Institute of Epidemiology was its source”.
“We know that they did not allow scientists from all over the world to go to this laboratory in order to know what happened there.”
Several theories have been circulated in the past months on the Internet pointing the finger to this laboratory.
In February, the institute released a statement denying these first rumors.
He also announced that as of December 30, he had received samples of the virus, which was unknown and was spreading in Wuhan (then later identified as SARS), and decoded his genes on January 2, and then transferred this information to an organization Global health on December 11.
Then the World Health Organization announced that it had received the gene sequence on January 11 from China.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Legian rejected the US accusations targeting the institute.
What do scientists say?
Many researchers believe that the emerging corona virus is undoubtedly the source of bats.
But they believe that he was transferred through another medium before reaching the human.
Chinese scientists have confirmed that this intermediate animal is the scaly anteater, a small mammal that is threatened with extinction because it is exploited because of its skin scales.
In contrast, studies by other Chinese researchers have been published in well-known scientific journals that the first patient with the emerging coronavirus did not visit the Wuhan wild animal market.
“The source of the epidemic is still an outstanding question,” Philippa Linzos, a biosafety researcher at Kings College in London, told AFP.
She added that nothing suggests the hypothesis of the virus leaking from a laboratory “and there is no real evidence” that the newly created Coronavirus originated from the Wuhan wild animal market.