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Shi Zhengli on the Virus

Shi Zhengli from the Wuhan Institute of Virology dismisses conspiracy theories that her institute and lab were involved in the release of SARS-CoV-2, Science reports.

Shi tells it that her lab first discovered the virus in late 2019 when examining samples from patients with unknown pneumonia. As Science writes, conspiracy theories about the virus' origin arose soon after its identification, though analyses showed the virus was unlikely to have been engineered in a lab and that it was only distantly related to viruses Shi and her colleagues worked with. Shi adds that her lab follows strict biosafety rules.

In April, a grant awarded to EcoHealth Alliance to study how coronaviruses may spread from bats to people, was pulled, apparently because of its WIV connections, a move that raised concerns among researchers.

"US President Trump's claim that SARS-CoV-2 was leaked from our institute totally contradicts the facts," she tells Science. "It jeopardizes and affects our academic work and personal life. He owes us an apology." Science notes that her responses were coordinated with public information staffers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and took nearly two months to receive.

Shi additionally calls for international cooperation to study the source of emerging viruses.