Three Wuhan lab scientists who were genetically altering the Covid virus were the first to fall sick with it, a new investigation has claimed.
According to multiple US government officials interviewed as part of a lengthy inquiry by independent news outlet Public and Racket, the first people infected by the virus are allegedly Ben Hu, Ping Yu, and Yan Zhu.
They were all members of the Wuhan lab suspected to have leaked the pandemic virus and were partaking in gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on SARS-like coronaviruses.
Gain-of-function research involves altering animal viruses in a lab to make them more infectious.
Shi Zhengli – dubbed the ‘Bat Lady’ of ‘Bat Woman’ for her work on bat coronaviruses – investigated the possibility Covid could have emerged from her lab back in 2020 according to colleagues. Here she is pictured working with other researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured) was running risky experiments on coronaviruses just before the outbreak of Covid-19
Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and coauthor with Matt Ridley of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19 said: ‘Ben Hu is essentially the next Shi Zhengli.
‘He was her star pupil. He had been making chimeric SARS-like viruses and testing these in humanized mice. If I had to guess who would be doing this risky virus research and most at risk of getting accidentally infected, it would be him.’
Ms Zhengli, known as ‘the bat woman of China,’ led the WIV’s gain-of-function research.
One of her colleagues revealed last week that at the start of the pandemic, Dr Shi feared the possibility that Covid could have emerged from experiments carried out at the Wuhan lab.
Professor Wang Linfa, described as a friend of hers by the BBC, said the respected scientist spent ‘sleepless nights’ combing through frozen virus samples at the WIV, fearing ‘what might happen’ if she found an exact match for Covid in her lab.
Mr Hu and Mr Yu coauthored a scientific paper with Ms Zhengli in 2019 on the ‘Geographical structure of bat SARS-related coronaviruses’.
Jamie Metzl, a former member of the World Health Organization expert advisory committee on human genome editing who raised questions starting in early 2020 about a possible research-related pandemic origin, said: ‘It’s a game changer if it can be proven that Hu got sick with Covid-19 before anyone else. That would be the “smoking gun.” Hu was the lead hands-on researcher in Shi’s lab.’
On Saturday, The Times quoted an anonymous US state department investigator saying: ‘It has become increasingly clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in the creation, promulgation, and cover-up of the Covid-19 pandemic.’
The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2021 that three researchers from China’s WIV sought hospital care in November 2019, months before China disclosed the Covid-19 pandemic.
The newspaper said a previously undisclosed US intelligence report provided fresh details on the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits.
A State Department fact sheet released near the end of the Trump administration said ‘the US government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses.’ It did not say how many researchers.
China refused to give raw data on early Covid-19 cases to the WHO-led team probing the pandemic’s origins, according to one of the team´s investigators, Reuters reported in February, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.
David Asher, a former US official who led a State Department task force on the virus’s origins for then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told a Hudson Institute seminar in March 2021 that he doubted the lab researchers became sick because of the ordinary flu.
He said: ‘I’m very doubtful that three people in highly protected circumstances in a level three laboratory working on coronaviruses would all get sick with influenza that put them in the hospital or in severe conditions all in the same week, and it didn’t have anything to do with the coronavirus.’
He added that the researchers’ illness may represent ‘the first known cluster’ of Covid-19 cases, the WSJ reported.
President Biden signed a bill earlier this year that specifically called for the release of the names and roles of the researchers at the WIV who fell ill in the fall of 2019, their symptoms and date of symptom onset, plus whether or not they had been involved with or exposed to Covid research.
On December 29, 2017, two years prior to the pandemic, Chinese state-run TV showed a video that allegedly includes Ben Hu overseeing a lab worker handle specimens. Neither are wearing a mask.
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