The US government confirmed that Chinese researchers erased early COVID-19 data from a shared international database — after an American scientist discovered the quiet removal and sounded the alarm on a potential plot by China to cover up the virus’ origins.
The data, which detailed the genetic makeup of early samples of the virus found in Wuhan, were logged into the Sequence Read Archive last March but were “requested to be withdrawn” by scientists in China that June, the National Institute of Health said Wednesday, according to Bloomberg.
The Chinese scientists who logged the data, and then requested it be removed, said the sequence information had been updated and was being moved to another database and they wanted “to avoid version control issues,” the federal agency said.
“Submitting investigators hold the rights to their data and can request withdrawal of the data,” NIH officials told the outlet.
The data, which detailed the genetic makeup of early samples of the virus found in Wuhan, were logged into the Sequence Read Archive last March.Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images
“NIH can’t speculate on motive beyond the investigator’s stated intentions.”
The revelation about the data’s removal and the confirmation from US officials now raises new suspicions about the virus’ origins and what else Chinese officials know but haven’t disclosed.
Jesse Bloom, the American virologist who originally revealed the data had been deleted, wrote in his report the early samples were a “gold mine for anyone seeking to understand the spread of the virus.”
Jesse Bloom wrote in his report the early samples were a “gold mine for anyone seeking to understand the spread of the virus.” Robert Hood/Fred Hutch News Service
“The fact that such an informative data set was deleted has implications beyond those gleaned directly from the recovered sequences,” Bloom wrote in the research report titled “Recovery of Deleted Deep Sequencing Data Sheds More Light on the Early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 Epidemic.”
“There is no plausible scientific reason for the deletion … It therefore seems likely the sequences were deleted to obscure their existence.”
Bloom managed to recover the deleted files and while they didn’t provide any definitive details about where or how the virus originated, Bloom is concerned more information could be out there that’s being shielded by Chinese officials.
“There is no plausible scientific reason for the deletion…”
Jesse Bloom, American virologist
The communist nation has repeatedly hampered probes into the virus’ origins as more and more scientists and politicians rally behind the idea that a lab leak could be responsible for the global pandemic.
An expert team from the World Health Organization visited China earlier this year to probe the origins of COVID-19 but they weren’t permitted to access the country’s raw data.
The communist nation has repeatedly hampered probes into the virus’ origins as more and more scientists and politicians rally behind the idea that a lab leak could be responsible for the global pandemic.EPA
President Biden has also gotten behind the lab leak theory and has ordered US intelligence agencies to investigate the outbreak — as China continues to adamantly assert the virus crossed over from animals to humans.
Bloom, who has been outspoken in his debate over the virus’ origins, isn’t totally sure about what it all means yet but he said his findings “remind us of how little we know.”