Hunt for 'Patient Zero' scientist who 'disappeared' from Wuhan lab after coronavirus outbreak
A SCIENTIST dubbed “Patient Zero” who vanished from the Wuhan virus lab shortly after the first Covid-19 outbreak is being hunted by US authorities.
Washington's leading health body is demanding answers from the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology – the facility which houses zoonotic bat diseases such as coronaviruses.
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) dramatically pulled funding from US charity EcoHealth Alliance which supports the Chinese research facility.
And in a letter to the charity last month, Michael Lauer, the NIH's deputy director for extramural research, wants an explanation over “the apparent disappearance of Huang Yanling.”
Lauer said the female scientist had worked at the Wuhan facility before her “web presence" was "deleted.”
The young scientist had been identified as “Patient Zero” on social media after the pandemic spread across Wuhan – a city with a population of 11 million.
And amid speculation over her whereabouts, bosses at the Institute of Virology denied she had been harmed and claimed she had completed her studies in another part of China.
The NIH also wants to know if Covid-19 was linked to the deaths of three miners eight years ago and whether the lab actually had the strain of coronavirus BEFORE the outbreak late last year.
Mr Lauer said funding could be restored if third-party experts could investigate the facility in China “with specific attention to addressing…whether staff had Sars-Cov-2 in their possession prior to December 2019’.
According to the Wall Street Journal, he has laid out seven conditions to having finding restored including explanations over “out- of-ordinary restrictions” from mid-October including roadblocks and “diminished cell phone traffic.”
NIH has also asked why the Wuhan lab failed to disclose that its RaTG13 disease was actually found in an “abandoned mine” in Mojiang where three men died in 2012.
The letter says that RaTG13 is “the bat-derived coronavirus in its collection with greatest similarity to Sars-Cov-2”.
According to the US medical agency, the three men – who spent 14 days collecting bat poo from the mine – suffered from symptoms “remarkably similar to Covid-19.”
And a master's thesis from a Chinese medic who treated the miners – six in total fell ill – revealed he sent tissue samples to the Wuhan Institute and noted their symptoms included fevers, coughs, headaches and sore limbs.
Following the outbreak in Wuhan, officials in China blamed a wet market in the city as the source of the virus.
However, this theory has been formally discounted after a series of scientific studies found that no such viruses were found in animal samples from the market.
In fact, scientists who have studied Covid-19 have discovered a number of unique features on its spike protein which enhances its infectiousness and are not closely related to coronaviruses.
These include “insertions” of a coronavirus sequence from a pangolin that allows the disease to bind tightly with human cells.
There is also a “furin cleavage site” that makes it easier to enter the cells of human beings.
Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, of medicine at Flinders University in Adelaide, said Covid-19 is “not typical of a normal zoonotic infection” since it is “uniquely adapted to infect humans”.
He said: “We still haven’t been able to satisfactorily explain how the virus came to be so perfectly human adapted.”
Yesterday, professor Petrovsky praised the NIH for demanding answers, saying: “They’re doing the right thing: making reinstatement of funding conditional on assistance in a full investigation.
“Surely EcoHealth Alliance has nothing to lose and everything to gain by co-operating with this request?”
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