Since the Novel Coronavirus outbreak in December 2019 netizens have become suspicious about the Wuhan Institute of Virology as it is claimed that the Coronavirus was leaked from the particular lab where the researchers were studying the virus for seven years. Now, some rare pictures from the laboratory have sparked startling theories amid Coronavirus pandemic.
The laboratory in Wuhan which keeps more than 1,500 strains of deadly viruses, specialises in research of 'the most dangerous pathogens', in particular the viruses carried by bats.
The Coronavirus origin conspiracy
While many scientists claimed earlier that the deadly Coronavirus which has infected over 1.6 million people globally jumped to humans from wild animals sold as food in a market in Wuhan, there are several theories which contradict such claims.
Some experts and officials also claimed that the virus, called as SARS-CoV-2, could be a biological warfare weapon engineered in China, while another set of people claimed that the virus was stored in Wuhan lab from where it escaped. As per recent reports, the speculation of a virus leak from Wuhan lab is no longer being discounted by the UK government either.
Meanwhile, a few images appeared on social media platforms and news sites, which were captured between 2015 and 2017. These photos give us an opportunity to look inside the interiors of the controversial institute in Wuhan. The images showed Wuhan researchers were wearing full-body protective suits like astronauts as well as the head shields inside the lab while conducting experiments.
The Wuhan laboratory
Officials in China decided to build the laboratory after the country suffered from SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 which infected 8,422 people and killed 774 individuals worldwide. The laboratory took 15 years to get completed. It is a four-storey lab with the highest biosafety level of P4 and the most advanced lab in China.
A Chinese virologist, Zhou Peng in 2018 told state news agency Xinhua: "We are proud to say that we are already at the forefront in the field of studying the immunity mechanism of bats, which carry viruses for a long time. Bats carry viruses but are not infected [by them]. [They] provide hope for mankind to study how to fight viruses."
Later, Beijing News reported that researchers found that humans might have caught the coronavirus directly from bats after conducting studies. It should be noted that Wuhan Institute of Virology is situated about 10 miles from the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, believed to be the source of the new Coronavirus outbreak, while Wuhan Centre for Disease Control is barely three miles from the market.
As per Professor Richard Ebright of Rutgers University's Waksman Institute of Microbiology, New Jersey, it is suggested that the virus is not created in a lab, but it could have easily escaped from there while it was being analysed. He also said that he has seen researchers at both the laboratories who studied the viruses with only 'level 2' security – rather than the recommended level 4. That means there are only minimal protections against infection of lab workers.
"Virus collection, culture, isolation, or animal infection would pose a substantial risk of infection of a lab worker, and from the lab worker then the public. He concluded that the evidence left 'a basis to rule out [that coronavirus is] a lab construct, but no basis to rule out a lab accident," Prof Ebright added.
While rejecting such claims, earlier Dr Gerald Keusch, a Boston-based professor said that bat Coronavirus is resembling SARS, while the new Novel Coronavirus has been isolated by many groups of legitimate scientists, which includes Wuhan lab and US investigators.
He also added that anxiety increases at the time of crisis and "it is easier to explain the appearance of an aberration like SARS-CoV-2 as the result of an act of deliberation or incompetence of a laboratory than it is to admit to the fact that nature and evolution, assisted by environmental factors and human intrusions into environmental ecosystems, results in viral evolution."