BETHESDA, MD – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to finally wind down, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is at the center of attention again. Reports indicate that the Chinese laboratory had been conducting experiments with monkeypox in 2021 that resulted in the creation of a “contagious pathogen,” and published their findings in February 2022; this was only months before the disease experienced an outbreak that has already encompassed multiple countries, with the most cases taking place in the United Kingdom and United States.
Previously, reports that “gain of function” research on strains of bat coronaviruses that had leaked from the WIV lab and went on to cause the global COVID-19 pandemic were initially debunked as “misinformation.” However, more recent evidence indicates that this very well could have been the case. Now, some reports are indicating that history may be repeating itself all over again at the infamous Chinese scientific facility.
WIV had published a study in February authored by nine researchers that chronicled their work to partially assemble a monkeypox virus genome; this would allow the disease to be identified via a PCR test – similar to how COVID is detected – but while utilizing a process that scientists at the lab noted could possibly create a “contagious pathogen.”
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The report, published in WIV’s quarterly scientific journal Virologica Sinica, revealed monkeypox viruses – referred to as “MPXVs” in the paper – can have extremely “pathogenic” strains that are able to infect human beings. The fragment of the monkeypox genome that was identified for testing purposes was done so by transformation-associated recombination (TAR), which researchers said was “an efficient tool for assembling large DNA fragments” and “has become essential for preparing infectious clones of large DNA/RNA viruses.”
“The primary purpose of assembling a fragment of the MPXV genome is to provide a nucleotide template for MPXV detection,” the WIV paper says. “As an efficient tool for assembling large DNA fragments up to 592 kb in length, TAR assembly has become essential for preparing infectious clones of large DNA/RNA viruses.”
The paper also noted that TAR could cause “potential security concerns” if used in conjunction with virologic research.
Just months after the WIV research paper on monkeypox was published, outbreaks of the disease have been reported in Europe, and currently over 300 cases – and growing – have been reported in the United States.
According to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 in laboratory monkeys in Denmark.