TOKYO: A Japanese specialist in infectious diseases and the coronavirus says there is no evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology caused the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus but the Institute may not have had the required safety standards.
However, KUTSUNA Kenji, the head of the Infection Control Department at Osaka University Hospital notes in a research paper publish by Yahoo News Japan that “the Chinese government hid important public health data during the SARS epidemic, and in fact, there are cases in which the infection spread among researchers who were working on the SARS coronavirus at the Beijing Institute of Virology.”
But, he says, there is no evidence to confirm the outflow theory regarding the new coronavirus despite accusations by the FBI and America’s Department of Energy.
Before the SARS epidemic, he says, bats were not known to host coronaviruses, but in the last 15 years at least 30 different coronaviruses have been identified as hosted by bats and these viruses can be transmitted to other animals and even humans.
The closest virus to the new coronavirus, RaTG13, has been found in bats and was reported in Nature by Dr. Zheng-Li Shi of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
It is known that animals such as raccoon dogs, hedgehogs, badgers, rabbits, mice, porcupines, and foxes were sold at the South China Seafood Market from November to December 2019. Some of these animals were infected with the new coronavirus. In addition, the fact that the new coronavirus has been found in the stall processors where these animals were sold and the cages where the animals were kept also seems to support the theory of animal origin.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has carried out work that included evaluating the infectivity of human cells by creating a synthetic virus. The United States pointed out that there were problems with safety and management at the Institute.
Kutsuna notes that facilities that conduct research on infectious diseases require a “Biosafety Level (BSL)” and only facilities with a BSL of 3 or higher are capable of handling Risk Group 3 pathogens. BSL4 is for research institutes that handle particularly dangerous viruses. It is said that the research on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducted in a laboratory of BSL2, not BSL4 or BSL3, leading some to suspect that the Institute could be the source of the virus’s spread.