NIH director doesn’t rule out that virus could have leaked from lab

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing to discuss vaccines and protecting public health during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Washington , 2020.

Michael Reynolds | Swimming pool | Reuters

The director of the National Institutes of Health said Monday it appears Covid-19 came from an animal, but he didn’t rule out the possibility that scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were secretly investigating it and that it was leaked from there could .

It is still unknown whether the virus leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, adding that the World Health Organization’s investigation into the origin of the coronavirus had gone “backwards”.

“The extensive evidence from other perspectives says no, this was a naturally occurring virus,” said Collins. “Not to say that it couldn’t have been secretly examined at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and got out of there, we don’t know about it. But the virus itself doesn’t have the characteristics of being deliberately created by human labor.” . “

The WHO investigation was made difficult by China’s refusal to participate, says Collins.

“I think China basically refused to consider another WHO investigation and just said, ‘No, not interested,'” Collins told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

“Wouldn’t it be good if they actually opened their lab books and let us know what they’re actually doing there and learn more about the cases of people who got sick in November 2019 that we’re really not interested in? know enough, “said Collins.

U.S. intelligence reports, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, showed that in November 2019, three employees at the Wuhan Institute of Virology developed symptoms similar to those of Covid-19 infections.

About three months ago, President Joe Biden launched his own investigation, giving his intelligence services 90 days to move forward with investigating the origins of the virus and reporting the results. The deadline for entries is Tuesday.

“It’s going to be an interesting week because tomorrow is the day of the 90-day deadline that President Biden has given intelligence agencies to do all of their rummaging to see if they can get more insight into the nature of this virus.” can get started in China, “said Collins.

Most of the information collected will likely remain secret, but some information from the report will be made public, according to Collins.

“We don’t know what they’re going to come up with either, but we’re very interested,” said Collins.

Collins also took part in the debate on whether or not the US was funding so-called gain-of-function research in the Wuhan laboratory, a debate that was brought up by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul and the President’s medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, have always been involved. Gain-of-function research is when scientists take a pathogen and make it more contagious, more deadly, or both, to study how to fight it.

“The type of gain-of-function research that is very carefully considered is when you take a human pathogen and do something with it that would increase its virulence or its transmissibility,” said Collins. “You have not investigated a pathogen that was pathogenic to humans, these are bat viruses.”

Part of research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded in part by the NIH through a grant to the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, looked at how bat viruses can infect humans.

“By the strict definition, and this was examined very carefully by all reviewers of this research in anticipation of a possible occurrence, this did not correspond to the official description of so-called gain-of-function research, which requires supervision,” said Collins. “I know it got a lot of attention, but I think it’s a lot out of place.”

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