After many conspiracies surrounding the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the chief of the institute came out to bust them all. Wang Yanyi, director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, called the conspiracy as "pure fabrication." She told China's state media CGTN on Saturday, "How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it," questioning the conspiracy narrative. She called it "pure fabrication" that the coronavirus leaked from the institute's lab.
Her institute received a clinical sample of the unknown pneumonia last year on December 30, after which it was found to contain a new coronavirus, now called 'SARS-CoV-2,' which has killed over 344,200 globally. Before this, Wang said they didn't know the virus existed, reported China Global Television Network.
Speculations were made based on a Nature article that said they discovered a 'novel coronavirus' originating from bats was published by the same institute in April 2018. To which she responded that the virus mentioned in that article was not SARS-CoV-2.
Any Newly-Found Coronavirus is Called Novel Coronavirus
She added that as a new virus gets discovered it would be called "novel" citing that MERS was also a novel coronavirus when discovered, the same went with the 2018 article, this might have caused confusion, Wang said.
The 2018 article's virus causes diarrhea and death among piglets, while its genomic sequence was only 50 percent similar to the new virus that causes COVID-19. "It's a rather big difference," she said.
What About the Bat Coronavirus?
This February, they published another article in Nature that said that a new coronavirus was discovered from bats which had 96.2 percent genomic similarity to the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). It is called RaTG-13.
After this, further conspiracy came that the COVID-19 virus originated from the bat virus. To which she responded that the institute did not isolate or obtain the live virus of the RaTG-13 coronavirus. While adding that in nature, "it takes a long period of time for a virus to naturally evolve and mutate to become SARS-CoV-2."
She referred to a statement by Edward Holmes, the world's leading virologist studying the evolution of viruses. Wang said that he believed that it would take 50 years for the bat virus (RaTG-13) to naturally evolve to the COVID-19 causing the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Wang said that non-professionals may think that 96.2 percent similarity rate to be "very high." But academically it was not, as the entire genome of COVID-19 virus contained almost 30,000 bases, here a 3.8 percent difference with the bat virus means over 1,100 nucleotide positions should differ, which is huge, Wang said.
"It requires more than 1,100 mutations in these exact positions to become SARS-CoV-2. Thus, the probability is very low," she added US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously claimed that there was evidence of the pathogen's connection to Wuhan's lab that handles exotic viruses. But WHO replied that they did not offer any such evidence supporting their "speculative" claim. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed such claims.
Right now the Wuhan lab has three strains of live viruses, with the one having the highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 was only 79.8 percent. Wang called for scientists across the world to cooperate in finding answers in tracking the origin of novel coronavirus with scientific data and facts. China's President Xi Jinping had earlier said that the country would be open for an impartial review.