The newly released documents have revealed shocking details of how a shipment of deadly pathogens from Canada's National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg was received by the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is being reported that one of the scientists escorted from the Canada lab amid an RCMP investigation last July was responsible for exporting the pathogens to China four months before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, her husband Keding Cheng and her students from China were removed from Canada's lab, which is the only level-four facility in the country over what's described as a possible "policy breach." But the shipment of deadly pathogens has raised concerns among scientists. Amir Attaran, a law professor and epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa told CBC News that "It is suspicious. It is alarming. It is potentially life-threatening."
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Canadian officials said the virus shipments are not related to the outbreak of novel Coronavirus or research into the pandemic. As per the Public Health Agency of Canada, the shipment and Qiu's eviction from the lab are not connected. Eric Morrissette, chief of media relations for Health Canada and PHAC said there is no evidence which suggests that the administrative investigation is related to the shipment of virus samples to China. He also explained that in response to a request from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology for viral samples of Ebola and Henipah viruses, the PHAC sent samples for the purpose of scientific research in 2019.
But Attaran told CBC that before the removal of the researcher from Canadian lab, she had already sent one of the deadliest viruses on Earth, and multiple varieties of it to boost the genetic diversity and maximize what experimenters in China could do with it. He also expressed his concerns while saying that the samples were sent to a laboratory in China "that does the dangerous gain of function experiments. And that has links to the Chinese military."
In addition, Attaran said that in Canada, the gain of function experiments -- which are conducted when a natural pathogen is taken to a lab, made to mutate, and then analyzed to see if it has become more deadly or infectious -- is not prohibited. But the practice is not very famous as it is considered too dangerous.
He pointed out the Ebola study which involved researchers from the NML and University of Manitoba. The lead author of this research Hualei Wang, is involved with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, which is a Chinese military medical research institute situated in Beijing. All of this has led to conspiracy theories linking the SARS-CoV-2 with Canada's microbiology lab and the Wuhan lab.
The PHAC and RCMP have denied any connection between the novel Coronavirus outbreak which turned into a pandemic after its emergence in China and the shipment of the virus from Canada.
What Was Shipped to China?
PHAC claims that the Canadian lab routinely shares samples with other public health labs. The recent documents include a whole list of 15 strains of viruses that were shipped from Canada to China. It included:
The release of the new documents have triggered confusion over how to package the deadly viruses and the lack of decontamination of the package before shipping. It was also reported that the National Microbiology Lab's shipper initially planned to send the viruses in an inappropriate packaging but changed it when the Chinese clients flagged the problem. The package was sent from Winnipeg to Toronto and then to Beijing in a commercial Air Canada flight on Mar 31 last year.