Chinese virologist COVID-19 Report: Li-Meng Yan Biography, Wiki, Age
Li Meng Yan is a Chinese virologist who alleges the coronavirus was cooked up in a military lab has published a report which she claims backs up her theory.
Li-Meng Yan, who alleges to be a former researcher at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, says the virus was built by merging the genetic material of two bat coronaviruses.
She claims its spike protein – a structure on the surface of the virus which it uses to bind with cells – was edited to make it easier for the virus to latch on to human cells.
But scientists have criticized her report, which she promised to publish in an interview last week, as “baseless” and said “it cannot be given any credibility.”
Research papers have already determined the origin of the virus as bats, leading leading experts to dismiss suggestions that the virus was created by humans as having ‘zero evidence’.
SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the pathogen, is the seventh coronavirus known to infect humans and jumped into people after an earlier version mutated. The previous virus is believed to have infected bats and later reached humans through another animal.
Ms. Yan’s report has not been published in a scientific journal and has not been peer-reviewed, which means that it has not been verified or approved by scientists.
But it has gained wide public attention, being viewed more than 150,000 times since it was posted yesterday on the Zenodo website, which is operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
Yan writes that her research dismisses the theory that the coronavirus evolved in nature and was later transferred to humans, stating that it “ lacks substantial support. ”
“SARS-CoV-2 displays biological characteristics that are inconsistent with a wild-type virus,” he wrote.
“The evidence shows that [the virus] should be a laboratory product created using the bat coronaviruses ZC45 and / or ZXC21 as a template and / or backbone.”
She claims that the virus “should” have been created using warehouses of these bat viruses, of which she claims the samples are kept in Hong Kong and China.
Ms Yan also alleges that her work shows the virus could be built in just six months in the report’s abstract, but she does not return to the subject later in the paper.
Dr Andrew Preston, an expert in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath, blasted her report as being ‘reminiscent of a conspiracy theory’.
‘The author’s affiliation is the Rule of Law Society and Rule of Law Foundation, New York,’ he said.
‘On their website the vision of this organisation is “to permit the people of China to live under a national system based on the rule of law, independent of the political system of the People’s Republic of China” and its mission is “to expose corruption, obstruction, illegality, brutality, false imprisonment, excessive sentencing, harassment, and inhumanity pervasive in the political, legal, business and financial systems of China”.
‘Given the unsubstantiated claims in the publication, which has not been peer reviewed, the report cannot be viewed with any credibility as it stands.’
Dr Michael Head, a global health expert at the University of Southampton, said the conspiracy theory peddled by the report has been ‘doing the rounds throughout the pandemic’.
‘Ultimately, it could be damaging to public health if reported non-critically without looking at the wider evidence,’ he said.
‘If people are exposed to and then believe conspiracy theories, this will likely have a negative impact on efforts to keep Covid-19 cases low and thus there will be more deaths and illness than there needs to be.
‘The genomics of the virus have been disentangled previously, for example a Nature peer-reviewed paper where they state “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory constructed or a purposefully manipulated virus”.
‘Other evidence also shows that this type of coronavirus has existed in bats for decades.
‘This new manuscript is not peer reviewed and does not obviously offer any data that overrides previous research.’
Her allegations have not been backed up by any scientific papers or scientists, with reports suggesting the virus was created previously condemned as conspiracy theories.