On June 14, it was reported that a video had emerged showing live bats in Wuhan Institute of Virology, adding to the theory that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may have leaked from the institute, accidentally or otherwise. Before the video had emerged, the allegations of live bats in the lab were categorically denied by the authorities managing the lab. Interestingly the video also disapproved the denial of the World Health Organization investigators who had kept calling the theory of live bats in the lab a “conspiracy”.
..The published data are in this paper. These viruses include those able to bind to ACE2, the human cell-surface receptor for SARS-CoV, and able to infect and cause illness in the humanized mouse SARS model…https://t.co/HFzjtvA50c— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) October 2, 2018
Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO team tasked with finding the origin of the virus, had denied the presence of bats in the institute. He had claimed that only virus samples collected from the bats in caves were analysed in the lab, saying the that bats were never brought to the bat and they were released after samples were collected from them. But the video from the Wuhan laboratory had proved his claims wrong.
Now, old tweets of Peter has emerged on Twitter where he had talked about how they were conducting research on the virus and the disease that it causes. It shows that they were well aware of the potential danger of the virus to mankind more than a year before the pandemic hit us, despite that they brought the bats to the laboratory, risking a leak of the virus from the lab or during the transit.
In the tweet thread, Peter wrote, “A very important cave site in Yunnan Province, China – We’ve found a series of SARS-related Coronaviruses in bats from this cave that have every genetic element of the original SARS-CoV outbreak virus.”
He further added that the published data was in a paper. “These viruses include those able to bind to ACE2, the human cell-surface receptor for SARS-CoV, and able to infect and cause illness in the humanized mouse SARS model,” he said.
In our paper: “Risk of spillover…and emergence of a disease similar to SARS is possible.” Proposed “serological surveys of people, to determine if spillover is already occurring”. Here’s the result, evidence of recent human exposure to SARSr-CoVs, China https://t.co/1tbm7wE6SQ— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) October 2, 2018
Mentioning the location of the cave, he noted that it was located in a rural part of Yunnan Province that is not far from Kunming. He further asserted if a cave-like that would have been the origin of the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Towards the end, he mentioned the paper in which his team wrote about the Risk of spillover and the emergence of a disease similar to SARS.
What was in the papers shared by Peter?
In the first paper titled “Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus”, the authors talked about the large number of SARS-related coronaviruses that were detected in horseshoe bats since 2005 in different areas of China.
The paper read, “The full-length genomes of 11 newly discovered SARSr-CoV strains, together with our previous findings, reveals that the SARSr-CoVs circulating in this single location are highly diverse in the S gene, ORF3 and ORF8. Importantly, strains with high genetic similarity to SARS-CoV in the hypervariable N-terminal domain (NTD) and receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the S1 gene, the ORF3 and ORF8 region, respectively, were all discovered in this cave.”
After examining the evidence of recombination events among SARSr-CoVs harboured by bats in the single location, the scientists noted that the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV might have originated as a result of a series of recombination within the S gene and around ORF8 followed by the spillover from bats to civets and people either in the region or during movement of infected animals through the wildlife trade.
In the second paper, titled “Serological Evidence of Bat SARS-Related Coronavirus Infection in Humans, China”, the authors discussed how, during the SARS outbreak investigation, they identified epidemiological evidence of a zoonotic origin of SARS-CoV. The paper further said, “These results indicate that some SARSr-CoVs may have high potential to infect human cells, without the necessity for an intermediate host. However, to date, no evidence of direct transmission of SARSr-CoVs from bats to people has been reported.”
Their study reportedly provided the first serological evidence of likely human infection by bat SARSr-CoVs or, potentially, related viruses. They suggested more extensive surveillance to learn about possible infection in the region. “Bat woman” Shi Zhengli was one of the authors of both papers.