A University of Texas Medical Branch Lab director who visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017 says that it would be foolish to dismiss the idea that the coronavirus escaped from the facility, and that “Accidents happen” in such labs.
The Houston Chronicle reports that James Le Duc, the director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), believes it is possible that an accident in the Wuhan lab could have led to the global virus outbreak.
“Accidents happen,” Le Duc, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, told the Chronicle.
“You do your best to prevent it, and you prepare for an eventuality if it should happen. So all I can say is (the Wuhan lab) was built comparable to ours, with a whole series of redundant safety measures in place.” he added.
“We did our best to share best practices so that they knew how to drive it and keep it safe. But it would be foolish to say there’s no risk, because there’s risk in everything.” Le Duc added.
Le Duc, who was part of a team that helped train staff from the Wuhan lab, also noted that China has a lack of experience in establishing high-security biocontainment labs, compared to the US.
“I can say that this was a brand-new laboratory that was working at a level of biocontainment that they had not worked at in the past, so it’s not surprising that they don’t have a whole lot of people with experience in it,” said Le Duc.
With regards to the ongoing investigations into the potential lab origin of the virus, Le Duc described it as “speculation”, but urged that “I think it’s very appropriate that people look into this because that’s where some of the work is done.”
“I think the Chinese government has done themselves and the global community a big disservice by not being more transparent as to what’s going on, but that’s a whole different set of issues.” Le Duc added.
The scientists comments come after a world renowned Russian microbiologist said that the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic was the result of Wuhan scientists doing “absolutely crazy things” in their laboratory.
Dr. Peter Chumakov of the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology and Russian Academy of Sciences has claimed that while the Wuhan scientists’ goal in creating the coronavirus was not malicious, they added “inserts in the genome, which gave the virus the ability to infect human cells.”
“There are several inserts, that is, substitutions of the natural sequence of the genome, which gave it special properties,” Chumakov noted, suggesting that the Wuhan lab was workeignon a vaccine for HIV.
“I think that an investigation will nevertheless be initiated, as a result of which new rules will be developed that regulate the work with the genomes of such dangerous viruses.” he concluded.
Cornelius Rupert T.
Cornelius Rupert T.