China's Patient Zero Likely a Wuhan Lab Worker Infected While Working With Bat Samples: WHO Expert

Even as China continues to refute the likely possibility of coronavirus being a result of lab leak, the World Health Organization (WHO) admitted that the world's first Covid-19 patient may have been infected by a bat while working for a Wuhan lab.

Dr Peter Embarek suggested that a Chinese researcher could have been infected while taking samples for research.

It was towards the end of December 2019 that China informed WHO about COVID-19. Despite several scientists and researchers insisting that the coronavirus is not natural, with a high possibility of a lab leak, China has denied its role towards the spread of the virus.

Wuhan Institute of Virology, China
Wuhan Institute of Virology, China Twitter

Possibility of Employee Getting Infected in the Field

Speaking to Denmark's television station TV2, Embarek said that an employee who was infected in the field by taking samples falls under one of the probable hypotheses.

"This is where the virus jumps directly from a bat to a human. In that case, it would then be a laboratory worker instead of a random villager or other person who has regular contact with bats. So it is actually in the probable category," he said.

The Danish scientist, who led the WHO's four-week investigation on the origins of coronavirus in China, had initially claimed the theory that the virus was from a lab in the city was "extremely unlikely". He had also insisted that there was no evidence of transmission of virus 'in Wuhan or elsewhere' before December 2019.

A few days later, Embarek admitted to discovering at least 13 Covid variants in Wuhan in December, confirming the growth of virus for some time to allow development of various strains.

Lab Scientists Were Bitten by Bats - Report

Earlier in May, reports emerged about the scientists at the Wuhan lab admitting to being bitten by bats during research. A video, which first appeared in China on 29 December, 2017, to celebrate its "bat woman" director Shi Zhengli, included the footage of a researcher's badly swollen limb from a likely bat bite. The scientists also admitted getting spattered with blood during the research work.

The state-run TV revealed that researchers were seen handling bats and collecting its feces in the field without wearing gloves, masks and other PPE.

The footage included a clip of virus expert Cui Jie talking about how a bat's fangs once went right through his glove. He described the sting as feeling "like being jabbed with a needle."

A scientist was also shown handling samples with bare hands as the narrator explained the risk of injury "still exists," and that team members received rabies vaccine before each field sampling, the report said.

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