The United States National Institutes of Health were caught deleting gene sequences that were gathered from early COVID-19 infected individuals. The action was in obedience to an order from the Chinese government, further raising concerns about Beijing’s continued efforts to cover up crucial information about the virus’s origins.
A Chinese scientist requested that the NIH eliminate the gene sequences after having submitted them just three months beforehand. The NIH explained that those submitting data maintain a right to that data and can withdraw it if they see fit.
According to the statement from the NIH, the researcher requested that the sequences be deleted from the database on claims that the information had been updated and needed to be rerouted to a different database, the name of the new database is currently unknown. The paper mentions advanced sequencing technology which could detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for creating COVID.
The deleted data had sequences of coronavirus from hospitalized patients in Wuhan early in the virus’s development back in January of 2020, according to a paper from virologist Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of Seattle.
Bloom told news outlets that the sequence deletion from the NIH creates a “skewed picture” of the viruses present in Wuhan in those early days. He suggested that there would have been more data like it available early on had there “been a wholehearted effort” made in the first days of the pandemic to be transparent about the virus and it’s danger.
Bloom said that even though the data got deleted from the NIH’s archive, he was able to recover the deleted files from Google Cloud, which allowed him to continue conducting research on 13 early epidemic viruses.
While the data isn’t likely to reveal everything there is to know regarding the origin investigation, the naked attempt to erase it from U.S. databases at the behest of Chinese researchers is suspicious at best.
University of Pittsburgh evolutionary biologist Vaughn S. Cooper said that the whole matter makes one wonder have “other sequences like these. . . been purged?”
The data Bloom uncovered does offer one damning suggestion though: the pathogen was circulating in Wuhan before it arrived at the seafood market. Bloom stated that the WHO investigative team that called dismissed the lab-leak theory didn’t have access to this raw data about the earliest COVID infections.
Author: Lauren Black