US experiments may have contributed to emergence of the covid-19: Scientist
US experiments may have contributed to the emergence of Covid-19, leading economist Jeffrey Sachs has warned, as he called for an independent inquiry into whether the virus leaked from a lab.
Sachs, an American economist, academic and public policy analyst has twice been named in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
He called for universities and research institutions to open up their databases for scrutiny, amid fears US labs were genetically modifying viruses.
Covid-19 first began spreading from a wet market in Wuhan, about eight miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
Writing in the journal PNAS, Prof Sachs, who is also chairman of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission, said it was clear that scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and New York-based EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) had been working with WIV to manipulate viruses.
“Research proposals make clear that the collaboration was involved in the collection of a large number of so-far undocumented Sars-like viruses and was engaged in their manipulation….raising concerns that an airborne virus might have infected a laboratory worker,” he said in a joint article with Prof Neil Harrison, of Columbia University.
The authors said that before the pandemic, work on Sars-like coronaviruses was being carried out as part of a ‘highly collaborative US–China scientific research program’ funded by the US government via the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
This project, known as PREDICT, sought to identify viruses which had the potential to leap from animals to humans.
Researchers collected bat coronaviruses from China and southeast Asia, which were sent to various labs for ‘sequencing’, ‘archiving’, ‘analysis’ and ‘manipulation’.