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U.S. intelligence eyes RaTG13 virus as lab-generated ‘backbone’ behind Covid

In this Feb. 23, 2017 file photo, Shi Zhengli works in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China’s Hubei province.
FPI / June 10, 2021


U.S. intelligence agencies have identified what they believe is a potential “backbone” for Covid-19 which was lab-generated.

The agencies have zeroed in on a bat coronavirus modified during experiments inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

The virus in question is called RaTG13 and was first mentioned in a State Department fact sheet on the Wuhan lab in January.

A leading virologist who was forced to flee China said she believes Covid-19 was developed in a Chinese military lab and released purposefully as a bioweapon.

RaTG13 is not regarded as the immediate precursor of the virus behind SAR-CoV-2, the formal name for the coronavirus, security correspondent Bill Gertz reported on June 2, citing officials familiar with the intelligence.

“RaTG13 is significant for other reasons having to do with its potential as a backbone for the creation of a parthenogenic chimeric virus,” one official said according to the Washington Times. “It is also significant given the suspect behavior of PRC scientists regarding disclosure of information about this virus and the clouded and questionable nature of previous disclosures about its origin, genomic structure and laboratory experimentation.”

According to the State Department, WIV officials altered and then removed online records of the lab work on RaTG13.

Steven C. Quay, a prominent virologist who took part in a State Department study of the virus, revealed in a scientific analysis made public in January that RaTG13 “is not a pristine biological entity but shows evidence of genetic manipulation in the laboratory.”

According to the fact sheet, WIV researchers began conducting experiments with the RaTG13 virus in 2016, and there was no sign the experiments were halted prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan in December 2019.

Chinese virologist Yan Li-meng, who fled China over fears of arrest, said she does not believe RaTG13 is the backbone virus for the COVID-19 virus, Gertz’s report noted.

Instead, Yan, who has conducted extensive research on the virus, identified a virus called ZC45/ZXC21 as the backbone of the COVID-19 virus, one that she believes was developed in a Chinese military lab on the other side of the country from a southern Yunnan cave.

Yan believes the COVID-19 virus was developed as a biological warfare agent and released intentionally by the Chinese.

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