Wuhan Institute of Virology Coronavirus: Interesting Findings

I have been following the news of the 2019 Coronavirus. One popular fringe theory regarding the coronavirus origin is that it may have originated in a lab in Wuhan. I have found interesting information regarding the Wuhan Virology Institute that I have not seen mentioned on the news. I thought I would share this information, as I have no idea what else to do.

1.) In 2017, researchers at the Wuhan Virology Institute claimed to be the first lab to edit the bat genome using CRISPR-CAS technology (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182866 ). While this is not incredibly striking, it means that scientists in Wuhan have had 2+ years of technology to potentially edit the bat genome and create/explore new virus variations.

2.) Shi Zhengli, senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, had a sole grant dedicated to the research of bat viruses: “Identification, genetic evolution and pathogenesis of bat viruses in China”. The large bulk of their research was spent researching coronaviruses. A summary of Shi Zhengli’s research profile can be viewed here: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8089-163X?fbclid=IwAR1qf5t83nY8alMwmfydXXnddn-_GXEuhsuVt_VEB3LVeSKYNwvRLStjZ-4

Of particular note are recent articles from the Wuhan Institute:

  • Bat Coronaviruses in China (3-2019) Link
  • Origin and evolution of pathogenic coronaviruses (3-2019) Link
  • Characterization of a New Member of Alphacoronavirus with Unique Genomic Features in Rhinolophus Bats (4-2019) Link
  • Detection and characterization of a novel bat-borne coronavirus in Singapore using multiple molecular approaches (10-2019) Link
  • Discovery of Bat Coronaviruses through Surveillance and Probe Capture-Based Next-Generation Sequencing (1-29-2020; submitted Nov. 6 2019) Link

3.) On the Wuhan Institute of Virology webpage, lab pictures have been posted. At least two pictures from the laboratory of Shi Zhengli shows handling of bats/bat samples with little to no protective equipment, in one case a student has no masks and only gloves while clearly seen holding a bat. I have posted all images here: https://imgur.com/a/GwiHVmk in case they get taken down in the future. The native link is: http://159.226.126.127:8082/web/55577/33

4.) The news has reported that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was 20 miles from the Huanan Market. In fact, from Baidu, it seems there are multiple buildings that constitute the Wuhan Institute of Virology (search 武汉病毒所 under Baidu Maps). The nearest building is actually only 20 km (12 miles) from the marketplace, much closer than the news has reported. However, I have no way of knowing which building bat research was performed at.

Overall, this raises 3 immediate questions:

1.) What genomic editing was done at the Institute? And could this be related to the nCOV?

2.) How were bat samples handled and deposited? Was proper protocols being followed? I think this needs to be investigated.

3.) Is it possible to evaluate the relevant genome elements of the bats/viruses studied at the Wuhan Institute in relation to the current Coronavirus? I am sure scientists have thought about this, but I have not seen any work done so far.

Originally posted at https://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/ewbc9h/wuhan_institute_of_virology_coronavirus_personal/

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