About 5 years before the deadly Corona virus that has killed 25 people so far, Chinese scientists set up a laboratory to study some of the world’s most dangerous viruses, in the city where the disease first appeared.
The laboratory was built in Wuhan, the birthplace of the new strain of the Coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 800 people in China and beyond its borders.
Reports indicate that the seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, is where the deadly virus originated, and is located just 20 miles from the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, which includes serious pathogens, including SARS and Ebola.
The laboratory opened in 2017, although it was established on January 31, 2015, after it took a decade to build, hoping to conduct research on the world’s most dangerous viruses, amid fears that these deadly viruses will continue to infect individuals.
It is the first ever laboratory in the country, designed to study Class IV pathogens (BSL-4), referring to the most virulent viruses, which pose a great risk of “person-to-person transmission”.
The launch of this facility after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) occurred in 2003, with joint funding from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in cooperation with the Wuhan government.
Most of the technology used in the laboratory was imported from France. The presence of the laboratory means that China is one of the elite countries that includes similar laboratories and which does not exceed 54 laboratories around the world.
Bai Chunli, president of the China Medicines Association, said the laboratory is important to China’s public health defense system. He said: “It will play a critical role in enhancing the country’s ability to prevent and control new epidemics, as well as develop related vaccines.”
He added that it was designed according to “the highest standards of biosafety” and provides a “basic platform for research and development” against highly contagious and infectious diseases.
Upon its opening, the laboratory planned to start implementing a project requiring only precautions against degree III diseases (BSL-3), similar to “Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever”, a fatal disease that kills 10 to 40% of those infected with it.
Some reports stated that in 2004, the SARS virus escaped in a “leakage” from a scientific laboratory, prompting Chinese officials to work to improve safety and expand the country’s ability to continue studying the same viruses that had leaked from the laboratory, by building more efficient and sophisticated laboratories, but they did not They reveal the locations of these laboratories and any details about them, including the Wuhan Laboratory.
In January 2018, the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory was launched to “conduct global experiments on Class IV pathogens”, such as SARS, Corona virus, and the pandemic influenza virus.
Although the laboratory is the only one in China devoted to the study of deadly pathogens such as SARS and Ebola, biosafety experts and scientists from the United States have expressed concerns since 2017 that the deadly coronavirus may escape from the laboratory, or mutate in animals. It has been tested and becomes capable of infecting humans, as happened in Wuhan seafood market recently.