China's 'bat woman' Shi Zhengli edited a paper denying evidence for the lab-leak theory



Without disclosing her contributions

A top Chinese researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was consulted on and offered edits to an influential 2020 commentary that claimed there was "no credible evidence" supporting the lab-leak origin theory of COVID-19, a newly released document reveals.

The researcher, Shi Zhengli, is a prominent virologist at the Wuhan lab, which is facing international scrutiny over concerns that risky coronavirus research performed there may be linked to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commentary, published by Emerging Microbes & Infections in February 2020, was titled, "No credible evidence supporting claims of the laboratory engineering of SARS-CoV-2." The paper was written by Shan-Lu Liu, Linda J. Saif, Susan R. Weiss, and Lishan Su.

A document made public by U.S. Right to Know shows that Shi proposed three noteworthy edits to a draft of the commentary but was never credited by the authors, nor was the potential conflict of interest of having a Wuhan lab scientist contribute to a paper denying the Wuhan lab-leak theory disclosed.

U.S. Right to Know summarizes Shi's edits as follows:

Shi proposed three edits of note. First, she proposed changing the presentation of the number of nucleotides that differed between RaTG13, which was the closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 identified at that time, and SARS-CoV-2. The authors wrote this difference was "greater than 1000 nucleotides." Shi proposed deleting "1000" and replacing it with "1100" nucleotides. This edit appears to maximize the presentation of the difference between the two viruses. Second, Shi proposed deleting a paragraph discussing the mouse-adapted SARS-CoV virus, MA15 (that had been used in Ralph Baric's lab in collaboration with Shi), and how its serial passage had increased viral replication and lung pathology in mice. This appears to be an effort at distancing from the gain-of-function debate surrounding the research done together by Shi, Baric and the EcoHealth Alliance. Third, Shi edited a statement on bats as natural reservoirs, and civets as intermediate hosts, of SARS-CoV.

Shi's second edit, in which she appears to hide the connection of her work to gain-of-function research — experiments that intentionally make viruses more transmissible among mammals, and particularly among humans — is especially concerning given the controversy surrounding EcoHealth Alliance's funding for gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the early observations of scientists who studied the SARS-CoV-2 virus and thought "some of the features (potentially) look engineered."


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