(USA Features) American health experts and researchers say China is hampering efforts to find treatments for COVID-19 infections by failing to reveal the origin of the virus.
“It is imperative that we identify the origin of the SARS CoV-2 virus,” Robert G. Darling, a medical doctor and expert on biological weapons formerly with the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, told the Washington Times.
“The Chinese almost certainly know but they have not shared it. By learning its origin it will better help us understand the biology of the virus and how it behaves,” he added.
Based on previous reporting, it is believed by many that the virus originated in a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan city, Hubei province, near central China, after being transmitted to humans from a bat.
But increasingly, U.S. health experts are questioning that narrative and have opened suggested coronavirus could have escaped a Chinese laboratory in the same region where bats were being used for experiments.
The Times quoted a senior State Department official who said such questions about the virus’ origin have to be answered, and that recently published reports regarding the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where China’s sole high-security virus research center is located, have also raised new queries about whether the virus leaked.
“It’s the only Level 4 lab in the PRC, built in response to SARS in 2003, so the question is a valid one,” the official said, according to the Times.
Still, the official noted further that “until we are absolutely certain where this is coming from, it would be irresponsible to put something out about lab origins” of the virus.
“That’s for scientists to figure out and I know they’re actively working it. Those results should be public eventually,” he said.
The Communist Chinese government has largely been silent on the origins of the disease, other than claiming it transitioned to humans from bats or from bats to another animal, then to humans.
However, in February two Chinese scientists, Xiao Botao and Lei Xiao, with state-run universities in Guangzhou and Wuhan, published a paper stating that the virus may have escaped from a laboratory near the market.
They argued that despite the official government explanation of a natural transmission, they said it is possible “yet little proof has been reported.”
The scientists said the new virus is very similar to a bat coronavirus found in horseshoe bats, and that the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, which is located close to the suspect market, was studying bat viruses at the time.
The center “hosted animals in laboratories for research purpose, one of which was specialized in pathogens collection and identification,” they stated.