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Wall Street Journal Leaves Out Crucial Detail In Report On China’s ‘Bat Woman’

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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The Wall Street Journal left out a critical detail in its report Tuesday about China’s top virologist on bat-borne viruses saying her lab in Wuhan has no connection to the coronavirus outbreak.

TheWSJ did not include in its report that the virologist told the Scientific American in March she lost sleep worrying about the possibility that her Wuhan lab, which studies coronaviruses, could have been responsible for the release of the novel coronavirus when she first learned of the outbreak in late December 2019.

Shi Zhengli, known by her colleagues as the “bat woman,” told the Scientific American that she frantically searched for any evidence that laboratory records from her lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology could have been mishandled when she first learned of the spread of viral pneumonia in Wuhan.

“I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China,” Shi said, adding that she remembered thinking if coronavirus was responsible for the pneumonia outbreak, “could they have come from our lab?”

The Wuhan Institute of Virology is situated a handful of miles away from the wet market originally suspected to be the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.

Shi contributed to a study published in February reporting that the novel coronavirus is 96.2% identical to a viral strain that her team detected in 2013 from horseshoe bats in China’s Yunnan province, some 800 miles away from Wuhan.

The virologist told the Scientific American she was able to breathe a sigh of relief when results came back showing that the sequences for the novel coronavirus did not match any of the strains her team had sampled from bat caves.

Shi now aggressively denies her lab in Wuhan is connected to the release of the novel coronavirus. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Coronavirus Expert Says Virus Could Have Leaked From Wuhan Lab)

This photo taken on March 17, 2020 shows laboratory technicians working on testing samples from people to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a laboratory in Changzhou in China's eastern Jiangsu province. - China on March 19 marked a major milestone in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic as it recorded zero domestic infections for the first time since the outbreak emerged, but a spike in imported cases threatened its progress. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Laboratory technicians working on testing samples from people to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a laboratory in Changzhou in China’s eastern Jiangsu province on March 17, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The virologist wrote on Chinese social media in early February that she could “guarantee on my life” that her lab has no connection to the outbreak, adding: “I advise those who believe and spread rumors from harmful media sources … to shut their stinking mouths.”

Shi’s boss, a senior official at the Wuhan lab, told Chinese state television in April that “there’s no way this virus came from us,” according to TheWSJ.

U.S. Embassy officials issued two warnings in January 2018 about inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. One of the cables mentioned Shi directly and her research into SARS-like coronaviruses.

Fox News reported earlier in April that the United States is conducting a full-scale investigation into whether the novel coronavirus could have entered the population due to a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Neither TheWSJ nor James Areddy, the reporter who wrote the article, immediately responded to a request for comment.

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