In an explosive revelation, American officials have confirmed that records of initial COVID-19 cases in Wuhan were purged from a US database at the insistence of Chinese scientists.
According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Chinese researchers asked the US National Institute of Health to remove gene sequence of early COVID-19 cases from a crucial scientific database, sparking concerns that the information accessed by scientists studying the origins of the virus may be incomplete.
In March 2020, a team of academics from Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the pandemic is reported to have originated, submitted sequences of the virus that causes the disease to a US-based archive. It is reported that the data contained the gene sequence of coronavirus samples collected from Wuhan in January and February 2020.
However, three months later, they were asked to delete the sequence the archive, the US National Institutes of Health said on Wednesday.
In its defence, the NIH said, “Submitting investigators hold right to their data and can request withdrawal of their data.”
A statement issued by the NIH said the scientist who submitted the sequences requested in June 2020 that they be removed because they had been updated and were to be posted to another, unspecified database. The NIH told investigators that scientist wanted to avoid confusion and had therefore asked to delete the older gene sequence.
While the removed information did not prove how COVID-19 first infected humans, but experts believe that the incident further proved that the Chinese have not been entirely transparent in how they dealt with the data about the pandemic.
Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, wrote a paper describing in detail about the removal of information from the NIH database. Bloom claimed in his article that the missing data entail sequences from virus samples collected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January and February of 2020 from patients hospitalized with or suspected of having Covid-19.
Bloom said while some of the deleted content was still available in a paper online, but many scientists look for gene sequences in authoritative sources such as the NIH database. Bloom claims he has found the deleted data after searching it elsewhere on the internet.
The latest revelation comes at a time when the scientists across the globe have resumed the investigations into the origins of COVID-19 pandemic in earnest. The greater scrutiny of the genesis of the virus and the possibility of it being man-made also took place after US President Joe Biden ordered an inquiry into the origins of the pandemic and sought a report in 90 days.
Dr Fauci, Peter Daszak and American bureaucrats accused of suppressing the truth about COVID-19
The revelation about the gene sequence being deleted by an American organisation also comes at a time when they United States’ leading expert on infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, found himself in the eye of an ever-intensifying storm, ever since hundreds of his private emails were made public by two US media outlets.
The emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act request shed light on Dr Fauci’s reticence on considering the possibility of a lab leak origin of COVID-19 even as the virus was priming itself to ravage the United States and the rest of the world. Besides Fauci, the role of Peter Daszak, American scientists and bureaucrats in suppressing the truth about the origins of COVID-19 has also come to the fore.