Battling the highest number of coronavirus related deaths and infections globally, the US has been found of providing $ 3.7 million grant to the Wuhan-based laboratory carrying out research on virus derived from bat caves.

US topped the global charts with highest number of deaths due to coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the death toll stood at 20,389, higher than the 19,468 deaths reported by Italy.

NIH funded coronavirus experiments at Wuhan laboratory

Coronavirus
Xinhua/IANS

In a report published by the Daily Mail, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was conducting the coronavirus experiments on mammals, with funds received from the United States National Institute of Health.

Responsible for the biomedical and public health research the NIH has been listed as a partner by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The other American institutes that have partnered with the research lab, include: University of Alabama, University of North Texas Eco Health Alliance, Harvard University, and the United States National Wildlife Federation.

WIV, which conducts experiments on bats, has more than 1,500 strains of deadly viruses stored and specialises in research of 'the most dangerous pathogens', in particular the viruses carried by bats.

The lab injected pigs with virus from bats

Lesser short-nosed fruit bat
Bat Wikimedia Commons

The project released its first research in November 2017. Titled 'Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus,' the research was conducted on the bats found in a cave in Yunnan.

"The bats were captured and sampled for coronaviruses used for lab experiments. All sampling procedures were performed by veterinarians with approval from the Animal Ethics Committee of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Bat samplings were conducted ten times from April 2011 to October 2015 at different seasons in their natural habitat at a single location (cave) in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. Bats were trapped and faecal swab samples were collected," said the research.

Titled 'fatal swine acute diarrhoea syndrome caused by an HKU2-related coronavirus of bat origin', another study was published in April 2018. It said: "Following a 2016 bat-related coronavirus outbreak on Chinese pig farms, bats were captured in a cave and samples were taken. Experimenters grew the virus in a lab and injected it into three-day-old piglets. Intestinal samples from sick piglets were ground up and fed to other piglets as well."

US government faces flak for funding Wuhan laboratory

coronavirus update 12 april
John Hopkins University

Hitting out at the US government, US Congressman Matt Gaetz said: "I'm disgusted to learn that for years the US government has been funding dangerous and cruel animal experiments at the Wuhan Institute, which may have contributed to the global spread of coronavirus, and research at other labs in China that have virtually no oversight from US authorities."

Anthony Bellotti, president of the US pressure group White Coat Waste, criticising the US government for spending tax dollars in China, said: "Animals infected with viruses or otherwise sickened and abused in Chinese labs reportedly may be sold to wet markets for consumption once experiments are done."

Did coronavirus escape Wuhan laboratory?

Conspiracy theories have been hinting at the possibility of the virus being developed in the WIV. A few days ago, a theory suggested that it was possible that a scientist might have been accidentally sprayed with the blood containing virus and then passed on to others.

Last week, Cao Bin, a doctor at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, had revealed that out of the first 41 cases found positive for coronavirus, 13 had no contact with the wildlife market, raising the doubts that the virus was in fact lab originated. 'It seems clear that the seafood market is not the only origin of the virus,' he said.

Quoting senior government sources, the publication revealed that while 'the balance of scientific advice' was still that the deadly virus was first transmitted to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, an accident at the laboratory in the Chinese city was 'no longer being discounted'.