Washington | Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has called on China to release the medical records of nine people whose ailments might provide vital clues into whether COVID-19 first emerged as the result of a lab leak, the Financial Times reported.
“I would like to see the medical records of the three people who are reported to have got sick in 2019. Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?” the Financial Times quoted Dr Fauci as saying.
Dr Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the records could help resolve the debate over the origins of a disease that has killed more than 3.5 million people worldwide.
The records in question concern three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology who reportedly became sick in November 2019, and six miners who fell ill after entering a bat cave in 2012.
Scientists from the Wuhan institute subsequently visited the cave to take samples from the bats. Three of the miners died.
Shi Zhengli, the institute’s leading expert on coronaviruses, has previously denied there were any infections at the lab – a claim Dr Fauci did not dispute, but said should be investigated further.
“The same with the miners who got ill years ago ... What do the medical records of those people say?” Dr Fauci said. “Was there [a] virus in those people? What was it? It is entirely conceivable that the origins of Sars-Cov-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab.”
US President Joe Biden last week ordered US intelligence services to come to a conclusion within 90 days about what started the pandemic.
The origin of the virus is hotly contested, with US intelligence agencies still examining reports that researchers at a Chinese virology laboratory in Wuhan were seriously ill in 2019, a month before the first COVID-19 cases were reported.