US nonprofit responds to allegations that it brought a close relative of the Covid-19 virus to Wuhan

“No work has ever been carried out in Laos as part of this collaborative research project” The EcoHealth Alliance — a group that has conducted coronavirus trials while receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — said in a series of tweets Sunday, in response to media reports that the group may have transmitted a potentially dangerous virus from Laos to the United States. Wuhan laboratory.

The group’s name came to light in October when the National Institutes of Health’s first deputy director, Lawrence Tabak, revealed that the EcoHealth Alliance had been testing viruses with financial assistance from the agency. At the time, White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said viruses were being studied under the project “It was molecular far enough that no matter what I did to it, it could never become SARS-CoV-2.” “

EcoHealth came under further scrutiny after emails it obtained through a Freedom of Information request indicated that the group was discussing the possibility of collecting viral samples from bats in Laos and sending them to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The emails were originally obtained by the White Coat Waste Project and sparked a flurry of reports over the weekend, most notably in British science writer Matt Ridley’s Spectator.

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Emails shared between the EcoHealth Alliance and its US government funders revealed that scientists had discussed collecting viral samples from bats in eight countries, including Laos, between 2016 and 2019, and toyed with the idea of ​​moving them to Wuhan, apparently, to avoid the red tape. . A 2016 email cited by The Spectator stated: All samples collected at the Wuhan Institute of Virology will be tested. “

Laos is the birthplace of at least one virus that appears to be very close to SARS-Cov-2. A viral bat strain called Banal-52 discovered in Laos in September shares 96.8% of its genome with the virus that causes the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dimanche, Eco Health Alliance Claims From the emails Ridley quoted “Does not show … that we sampled bats in Laos and are sending the results to Wuhan.”

However, the group acknowledged that it had applied to the National Institutes of Health for permission to operate in Southeast Asian countries, including Laos, and that permission had been granted.

However, the association claimed that it ended up focusing on China instead.

The response did not satisfy Ridley, who is also a co-author of a book on the origin of Covid, which demanded ” Guide “ prove that his report was not “Totally Correct. “

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