The controversial virology institute participated in a project sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) – a state-funded scientific research institution – from 2012 to 2018. The project team comprised five military and civil experts who conducted research at WIV labs, military labs and other civil labs. This research led to "the discovery of animal pathogens [biological agents that causes disease] in wild animals."
Results of the project were published by the NSFC on its website on Feb. 1, 2018. The NSFC stated that the project "discovered over 1,640 types of new viruses by using the metagenomics technology,” and that the research was performed by a civil and military team. As an advanced virology institution, the WIV has the only P4 lab – the highest biosafety level lab – in China and the biggest repository of bat coronaviruses in Asia. (Related: Award-winning scientist says coronavirus was created at Wuhan lab.)
Shi denied the connection between the WIV and the military at a public webinar on March 23.
"I don't know of any military work at the WIV. That information is incorrect," Shi said. She didn't mention that the WIV was used by a Chinese military medical team in early 2020 for developing coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines.
Shi also said that no WIV staff was infected with COVID-19. She told Science magazine in July last year that no pathogen leaks or personnel infections had occurred and that "there is 'zero infection' among staff or students with SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses."
But an investigation conducted by the DOS found that "several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019 – before the first identified case of the outbreak – with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses."
In late March, overseas Chinese media reported that three WIV staff members started to have symptoms similar to COVID-19 as early as November 2019. Chinese state-run media China News disputed the report, claiming that it was based on rumors.
China News also reported that a Chinese specialist told the WHO investigation team, which visited China in February to investigate the origin of the virus, that cases dating back to 2019 were patients at WIV-related hospitals and not members of WIV staff.
Shi directs the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at WIV. She started to investigate coronaviruses when China suffered from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 and 2003.
Beijing authorities said the SARS virus was transmitted from civets – a small, meat-eating animal endemic to Asia and Africa – to humans in southern China's Guangdong Province in November 2002. It then spread to other Chinese cities and neighboring Hong Kong because the regime didn't allow people to discuss this infectious disease in the first two months. SARS eventually killed at least 774 people and infected 8,096 people from 31 countries.
Chinese state-run network CCTV reported on Dec. 29, 2017, that Shi and her team didn't believe that civets were the natural hosts of SARS, and were only the intermediate host. They had already been investigating bats from different Chinese regions as possible virus hosts as far back as 2004.
In 2011, Shi's team detected a SARS-like virus from bats living in a cave in southwestern China's Yunnan Province. They then named this virus "WIV1" and conducted further studies. CCTV didn't report the details of the virus but said Shi's team continued to get samples from the same cave for five years.
Since 2015, Shi's team has been publishing their test results in international magazines, including Virologica Sinica, Nature and Lancet. Shi and her team published an article in Nature linking COVID-19 to bats weeks after the Chinese regime publicly announced the COVID-19 outbreak.
Shi's team discovered a coronavirus in the bats that they had collected from an abandoned copper mine in Tongguan township, Mojiang county in Yunnan Province. Six miners had been infected while working there and three of them died.
Earlier this year, China purged all references to studies done by Shi in the NSFC database. This included the details of more than 300 studies, including those that investigated diseases that passed from animals to humans.
Those studies were carried out by the WIV and had been referred to by researchers as the most complete studies on animal-to-human transfer of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 – the virus behind COVID-19. (Related: Chinese Communist Party destroyed evidence linking Wuhan Institute of Virology to the coronavirus.)
Also gone are studies that are key to any investigation about the source of the virus – one is looking into the risk of cross-species infection from bats with SARS-like coronaviruses and the other is looking at human pathogens carried by bats.
In December 2019, the Wuhan lab altered its database of viral pathogens – the wildlife-borne viral pathogen database. The database included information on virus variants in other wild animals.
Experts believe changes were made to throw off investigators. Keywords such as "wildlife" or "wild animals" were deleted. The title was also changed from "Wildlife-borne Viral Pathogen Database" to "Bat And Rodent-borne Viral Pathogen Database." The term "wild animal" was replaced with "bat and rodent" or "bat and rat."
Other terms connecting the database with the outbreak were also deleted.
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