Home ENGLISH ARTICLES China’s ‘Batwoman’ supercharged Frankenviruses to infect humans using HIV in sinister experiment before Covid ‘lab leak’

China’s ‘Batwoman’ supercharged Frankenviruses to infect humans using HIV in sinister experiment before Covid ‘lab leak’

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Credit: De Agostini – Getty


China’s ‘Batwoman’ supercharged Frankenviruses to infect humans using HIV in sinister experiment before Covid ‘lab leak’

A CHINESE scientist at the centre of the Wuhan lab leak storm supercharged hybrid “Frankenviruses” using HIV in experiments years before the Covid pandemic.

Dr Shi Zhengli – known as “Batwoman” for her research into bat-based coronaviruses – was manipulating the bugs to make them more infectious to humans as part of research into SARS.

Dr Shi Zhengli has always furiously denied any allegations over Covid

Dr Shi Zhengli has always furiously denied any allegations over CovidCredit: AFP

The scientist and her team published a paper in the Journal of Virology in 2007 that showed how viruses could change to attack human cells by splicing them.

Funded by the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, the experiment saw a SARS-like coronavirus found in a horseshoe bats combined with parts of a HIV virus to see how well it could infect humans.

The research was carried to better understand how humans can contract viruses from animals which exhibit no apparent infection – a process often known as zoonoses.

It warns that bats could hosting all manner of other viruses – such as the Hendra, Nipah and Lyssa infections – and notes these bugs could spread to other animals and mutate to infect humans.

“It is not unreasonable to conclude that bats are a natural mixing vessel for the creation of novel CoVs and that it is only a matter of time before some of them cross species barriers into terrestrial mammal and human populations,” reads Dr Shi’s paper.

And it is this research paper which appears to be one of the early indications of the type of work that was going on in Wuhan amid allegations that Dr Shi’s lab may have been the source of Covid.

Similar experiments were also undertaken by Dr Shi’s team in 2010 which built on the work three years earlier, further testing how coronviruses can infect humans by tinkering with the spike protein.

Dr Shi’s lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is believed to have been carrying out gain-of-function research on coronaviruses in another effort to try and soup them up in the months before the pandemic.

Her tests were allegedly carried out in part using US-taxpayer funding funneled to WIV by the US-based non-profit the EcoHealth Alliance, headed by Dr Peter Daszak.

WIV has the prime suspect as circumstantial evidence of a potential lab origin of the virus – that has killed 4million people worldwide – continues to grow.

Its theorised that Covid may have escaped by a researcher getting infected, improperly disposed of waste, or potential breaches in the security at the lab.

Dr Shi and the lab have furiously denied all allegations of a lab leak, but US President Joe Biden last month ordered a “redoubled” investigation into the facility amid swirling suspicions.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been at the centre of a storm over a potential 'lab leak'

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been at the centre of a storm over a potential ‘lab leak’Credit: AFP

“Frankenvirus” experiments were bugs are tinkered with to make them more infectious or deadly are highly controversial, with some scientists arguing they should be banned due to the risk of a lab leak.

Scientists often carry out the work to better understand how viruses transfer between their hosts and humans, or how they may mutate, but some argue it is not worth the potential consequences.

Dr Steven Quay, chief executive of pharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics, told the Washington DC-based Hudson Institute that advances in virus and vaccine research had “opened the floodgates where you can have a bioweapon in the morning and have a vaccine in the afternoon”.

And the expert has also been one of the biggest advocates of the lab leak theory, arguing that  Covid was immediately extremely infectious the moment it started spreading in Wuhan.

It was a phenomena, the professor says, that doesn’t match the pattern of a naturally occurring disease.

Based on comparison with the SARS-CoV-1 and MERS epidemics, Dr Quay said “the probability that a community-acquired zoonosis” would produce the results seen in the early spread of SARS-CoV-2 was “literally one in a million”.

Dr Shi Zhengli was carrying out experiments with horseshoe bats

Dr Shi Zhengli was carrying out experiments with horseshoe batsCredit: De Agostini – Getty

However, despite his and others claims Dr Shi has furiously fought back against any allegations against her or her lab.

In a rare interview two weeks ago, she said said the theory was baseless and accused the world of “trying to pour filth on me”.

The scientist said: “How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?

“I don’t know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist.”

Dr Shi also denied carrying out gain of function experiments – tests to make viruses more infectious – which are widely reported to have occurred at the lab.

And she also hit back at claims that WIV staff had become sick with Covid-like symptoms in November 2019, saying: “If possible, can you provide the names of the three to help us check.”

What do we know about the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

THE WUHAN Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the global pandemic.

Various theories have been swirling about the lab, which is headed up by Chinese scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.

Most scientists do not believe the virus leaked from the lab, and the lab itself has categorically denied the claims.

The lab specialised in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.

Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the lab – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).

BSL-4 labs are the only places in the world where scientists can study diseases that have no cure.

Scientists from the lab even tested mysterious

virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.

It has been suggested this fatal mystery bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.

Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid ‘super-virus’ that can infect humans in 2015, according to medical journal Nature Medicine

Despite fears surrounding the research, the study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.

There is no suggestion the facility’s 2015 work is linked to the pandemic.

The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.

China has began tightening security around its biolabs with President Xi Jinping saying it was a “national security” issue to improve scientific safety at a meeting last February.

China has long been accused of covering up or distorting its role in the early days of the pandemic, with claims the Communist Party manipulated case and death figures while withholding information from WHO.

WHO’s first investigation into the origin of Covid was much derided – and D Daszak, who was part of the probe has now been booted off a UN team looking into the virus.

Beijing has a history of lab leaks in which deadly viruses have accidentally escaped and critics have highlighted what they allege is a gung-ho approach to safety.

China has accused the US of playing politics by stoking fears over a lab leak, and have even attempted to shift the focus to bio labs in the US.

It emerged last month Wuhan lab staff became sick and needed hospital care weeks before China admitted it was facing an outbreak, according to US intelligence.

There is currently no evidence to suggest the virus was intentionally released by China.

And experts have claimed that the truth about Covid could bring “national shame” to China and topple the Communist Party.

Meanwhile, rumours run wild that a top Chinese spymaster may have defected to the US with secrets about the Wuhan lab.


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