An American scientist who worked at the Wuhan virology laboratory says that it’s highly unlikely the novel coronavirus escaped from there, despite conspiracy theories that suggest otherwise.
As Business Insider reports, the Wuhan Institute of Virology is at the center of a conspiracy theory that holds that SARS‑CoV‑2 (the official name of the virus that is currently causing a worldwide pandemic) managed to make it out of the laboratory. Though there is no evidence to support the theory and scientists believe it jumped naturally from bats to humans through an intermediary host, the theory persists.
Jonna Mazet, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis, has spent time working in that laboratory and training researchers there. She said that it’s extremely unlikely that the novel coronavirus escaped from that lab, and she laid out the reasons why.
Specifically, she said that the laboratory has strict safety protocols in place.
For example, active virions brought into the lab are split into separate containers, with half chemically deactivated, the other half kept “living” (although it bears noting that viruses aren’t living organisms in the strictest sense). The active pathogens are then dipped in liquid nitrogen, rendering them inactive until they’re thawed and reactivated. Researchers studying the virions analyze the chemically-deactivated ones that can’t spread and reproduce. The “living” ones are kept, frozen, in a secure area.
What’s more, Mazet says that researchers collecting samples in the field “wear extreme personal protective equipment, including multiple layers of gloves, eye protection, full body suits, and masks.”
Mazet is not the first person affiliated with the Wuhan laboratory to publicly state that its safety protocols would prevent a virus from accidentally escaping the facility. As reported at the time by The Inquisitr, Yuan Zhiming, the vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, claimed that it’s all but impossible the virus could have gotten out, in light of the facility’s safety procedures.
“We have a strict regulatory regime and code of conduct of research, so we are confident,” he said at the time.
Mazet pointed to other reasons why she’s confident SARS-CoV‑2 didn’t escape from the Wuhan lab. For example, she noted the research of her colleague, Shi Zhengli, revealed that the genetic structure of the novel coronavirus doesn’t match that of any viruses being studied in the lab. Further, Mazet notes that the COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest in a long line of animal-to-human transmission of diseases, and is the seventh such viral disease observed in the last century.
Finally, she noted that the people most likely to contract and spread a virus aren’t the people who work in a laboratory, but rather everyday people. Such people tour caves where virus-carrying bats reside, and hunt and eat animals that may be carriers of a virus.