I have not noticed any incident that could indicate that a virus leak has occurred in the virology laboratories in Wuhan – Danielle Anderson said in an interview with the Bloomberg agency. The 42-year-old researcher was the only foreign scientist working there just before the COVID-19 epidemic in China.
- In an interview with Bloomberg, the virologist admitted that she was impressed by the security measures used in laboratories in Wuhan and that she does not recall a case when one of the researchers fell ill in November 2019
- In May, U.S. President Joe Biden called on security services to investigate the hypothesis that a virus spill from a Wuhan laboratory was responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak. Such speculation fueled China’s reluctance to cooperate with other countries
- Danielle Anderson called for a full investigation into the causes of the pandemic. She admitted that in her opinion the most likely hypothesis is the natural origin of the virus, however, accidental leakage of the virus from the laboratory cannot be completely ruled out in her opinion.
- More such stories can be found on the main page of Onet.pl
The fact that the COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Wuhan – the city that is home to a virology institute – gave rise to speculation that the virus may have spilled out of the lab via infected personnel or a contaminated facility. These suspicions were only fueled by the lack of transparency in China’s actions since the first days of the epidemic.
As noted by Bloomberg, the US questioned the safety of the lab and claimed that there was a controversial Gain of Function study there that could alter viruses to make them more dangerous. However, Danielle Anderson described the work in the laboratory in a completely different light in an interview with Bloomberg.
Strict safety rules in a Wuhan laboratory
According to the researcher, who ended her visit to Wuhan in November 2019, a lot of distorted information about the laboratory’s activities appeared in many media. The research it conducted was more routine than the way it was reported in the media.
“It was an ordinary laboratory, like many others in the world. What is said about him is not in line with reality, ‘said the 42-year-old virologist, who began working with researchers in Wuhan in 2016.
Danielle Anderson, who completed her BA studies at the Australian Deakin University, then worked, inter alia, in Boston, back in Australia and in Montreal. In Wuhan, where she carried out her career goal work on Ebola, she worked in contact with many other researchers working in the laboratory. She was also there when the SARS-CoV-2 virus began to spread.
“We went to dinners and lunches together, we saw each other outside the laboratory” – said the researcher.
As Danielle Anderson emphasized, the laboratory building was characterized by the highest level of biological safety – the air, water and waste leaving the facility were filtered and sterilized. The protection against leakage of the tested pathogens was the use of strict procedures, and each of the scientists had to undergo 45-hour training before being certified to work independently in the laboratory. The researcher added that entering and leaving the facility was associated with the requirement to take both chemical and personal showers.
Where did the virus leak from the lab hypothesis come from?
The Donald Trump administration in 2020 indicated the hypothesis that the virus escaped from the Wuhan facility. Virologists initially rejected this theory. As they emphasized, viruses regularly jump from animals to humans, and there was no clear evidence of artificial interference with the SARS-CoV-2 genome, or the presence of pandemic virus strains in the laboratory.
While political commentators suggested that the allegations may have been designed to put pressure on Beijing, China’s actions have also raised questions. The government refused, inter alia, admitting international scientists to the Wuhan facility in early 2020. Beijing only let WHO experts in after a year, but even then they only got limited access.
The WHO team’s final report, which was verified by Chinese scientists, dismissed the possibility of a leak from the lab. However, China’s reluctance to cooperate prompted scientists to reconsider their position. In May, 18 researchers called on the journal Science to include the possibility of a laboratory accident in their investigation.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted that this hypothesis had not been thoroughly investigated, and US President Joe Biden called on US intelligence to prepare a new report on the subject. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, an earlier report indicated that in November 2019, three lab researchers were reportedly hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.
Danielle Anderson denies any of the researchers got sick
However, as Danielle Anderson said, no one she knew fell ill at the Wuhan institute at the end of 2019. The researcher also pointed to the procedure for reporting symptoms there, which correspond to pathogens kept in high-risk laboratories.
– If someone got sick, I assume I would be sick too, and I wasn’t. I was tested for SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore and never had it Said the virologist.
The names of the scientists who were to be hospitalized were not released. The Chinese government and Wuhan researchers themselves have repeatedly denied that anyone at the facility has contracted COVID-19. Meanwhile, many of Danielle Anderson’s associates from Wuhan traveled to Singapore in late December for a symposium on the Nipah virus. However, no one mentioned any disease there.
– There were no rumors, and scientists gossip about such things. From my point of view, nothing unusual happened then – judged Danielle Anderson.
Researcherwhich after the outbreak of the pandemic focused on the new coronavirus, he does not claim that the virus certainly could not have come from a laboratory. She admitted the SARS coronavirus, which appeared in Asia in 2002 and killed more than 700 people, then escaped from the facilities where it was stored several times. However, this time evidence would be needed that some sort of incident happened.
“I’m not naive enough to say that I absolutely rule out that possibility,” Danielle Anderson said.
Danielle Anderson: The natural origin of the virus is a much more plausible hypothesis
At this point her most likely hypothesis is the natural origin of the virus. It took scientists almost ten years to figure out where the pathogen responsible for the 2002 epidemic appeared in nature. Therefore, the researcher emphasizes that she is not surprised that SARS-CoV-2 is still not found in nature. Meanwhile, the Wuhan facility was so large that Anderson did not know what all researchers were working on at the end of 2019.
However, she is convinced that no virus was intentionally created to infect humans and then released on purpose, as far-reaching theories have shown. The researcher admitted that theoretically, it would be possible that someone working in the lab was conducting Gain of Function research (which involves modifying viruses), infecting himself, and then inadvertently infecting others. However, she stressed, there is no evidence for this and the probability of such a course of events is very small.
As he emphasizes, obtaining permission for such research usually requires obtaining a number of multi-stage approvals. Their conduct is strictly limited, as exemplified by the imposition of a moratorium on research on the Spanish flu virus in 1918, which was isolated several decades after its expiry. The researcher adds that growing the virus is difficult and complicated.
Danielle Anderson: Investigation needed into pandemic origins
Even if this did occur, the material the scientists are studying is not initially infectious, so large amounts of it were needed to accidentally infect humans. Danielle Anderson admits thatAn investigation is needed to establish the origin of the virus once and for all.
The researcher admitted that she was shocked by the way the laboratory was depicted in some media outside China and by the attacks on scientists. She emphasized that threats of violence that many SARS-CoV-2 scientists have experienced since the outbreak of the pandemic made them afraid to speak, due to the risk that their words would be misinterpreted.
According to Danielle Anderson due to the coexistence of humans and animals in Wuhan, there was an environment conducive to the spread of a new zoonotic disease. However, she admitted that is shocked at the way the disease developed into a pandemic.
“A pandemic is something no one could have imagined on this scale,” she said, adding that scientists should reconstruct the course of events and determine what went wrong and how to stop the spread of future pathogens with pandemic potential.