New Delhi: The Chinese scientist at the centre of the hypothesis that the COVID-19 pandemic originally started with a leak from her lab in the city of Wuhan, has completely denied her institution was to blame for the global disaster. Top Chinese virologist Dr Shi Zhengli also told New York Times that she is baffled with the fact that the world is “constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist”.
“How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?” Dr Shi Zhengli told the New York Times in a recent interview.
“I don’t know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist,” she told the US daily.
Last month, US President Joe Biden had ordered intelligence agencies to throughly investigate the origin of the coronavirus, including the Wuhan lab leak theory.
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden had said in a statement on the investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
The leaked theory has been floated ever since the outbreak of the global pandemic last year, including by former US president Donald Trump and ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
However, this gained more and more traction recently after numerous new reports claimed that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell sick in 2019 after paying visit to a bat cave in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
Shi Zhengli is an expert in bat coronaviruses, and many researches have said she might have been heading the so-called “gain-of-function” experiments where scientists in China worked on to increase the strength of a virus to further study its effects on hosts.
As per the New York Times, in 2017, Dr Shi and her colleagues at the Wuhan laboratory had released a report on an experiment “in which they created new hybrid bat coronaviruses by mixing and matching parts of several existing ones – including at least one that was nearly transmissible to humans – in order to study their ability to infect and replicate in human cells.”
However, Shi said in an email to the paper that her experiments differed from “gain-of-function” testings as they did not seek to create a virus more dangerous. Instead they were actually trying to understand how the virus might jump across other species, Shi Zhengli said.
“My lab has never conducted or cooperated in conducting GOF experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses,” she said.