US Should Probe its Own Labs Before Throwing Mud at Others on Virus-origins Tracing: FM

By Global Times

Aug 23, 2021 08:22 PM

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. Photo: VCG

As the US has been repeating claims that the novel coronavirus was leaked from a lab, it should investigate its own labs first given its advanced virus editing capabilities and poor lab safety history, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday amid continuous US smears against China ahead of the deadline for its 90-day intelligence agency-led virus probe.

The US has been ignoring the WHO joint team report and continue to allege that there was a "lab leak from Wuhan Institute of Virology," and uses its intelligence agencies to fabricate reports. But slandering China cannot whitewash the US, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at the routine press conference.

The US started virus editing studies earliest in the world and has the strongest capability in the field. It is the biggest sponsor and researcher on coronavirus studies. Media reported that Professor Ralph Baric with University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC), started such studies in the 1990s and his team has long mastered coronavirus synthesis and modification techniques. 

Baric said in an interview with an Italian media outlet in September 2020 that "it is possible to engineer a virus without leaving a trace." Probe into Baric's team will give the answer to whether studies on coronaviruses have produced the virus.

Wang also underlined US' biolab safety records, which were among the worst in the world. From January 2015 to June 2020, UNC reported 28 incidents involving microbial gene engineering to the National Institutes of Health. Six of those cases involved SARS, MERS and other coronaviruses. Eight research staff members were possibly infected. Except one staffer who was quarantined for 14 days after getting bitten by a coronavirus-infected mouse, other exposed personnel continued to work normally. The relevant report intentionally deleted key details on the gene editing and the aftermath process. 

Baric has close cooperation with two institutes at the Fort Detrick and the professor's rich resources and techniques on coronavirus modification were widely applied there. US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick saw severe safety incidents in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak and was ordered to close by the US CDC. 

The US has tried all means to prove that the Wuhan Institute of Virology leaked the coronavirus, but experts with the WHO have visited the place twice and they concluded that a lab leak was highly unlikely, Wang said.

"When will the US invite WHO experts to visit the biolabs at UNC and USAMRIID at Fort Detrick?" Wang asked, urging it to stop "pouring dirty water on others" and investigate its own labs first. 

Global Times

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