Chinese researchers appear to have deleted important data from a global database operated by the National Institutes of Health that could provide key insights into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, a preprint study claims.
An American scientist recovered the deleted data from cloud storage and published his analysis Tuesday. The paper, “Recovery of deleted deep sequencing data sheds more light on the early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 epidemic,” suggests that early virus samples from the Wuhan seafood market that until now have been the focus of most studies on the origins of the pandemic “are not fully representative of the viruses actually present in Wuhan at that time.”
The paper is not yet peer-reviewed, and its findings should not yet be considered conclusive. The recovered virus samples do not support either the “lab leak” hypothesis or the “natural origins” hypothesis of the origins of SARS-CoV-2, according to scientists who have examined the paper. But these scientists say it does suggest the virus was spreading in Wuhan earlier than the Chinese government claimed, and the paper’s author, Dr. Jesse Bloom, says his findings should reinforce skepticism that China has fully shared all relevant data on COVID-19.