China built a lab to study SARS and Ebola in Wuhan – and US biosafety experts warned in 2017 that a virus could ‘escape’ the facility that’s become key in fighting the outbreak

Posted on Friday, 24th January 2020 @ 04:53 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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Scientists warned in 2017 that a SARS-like virus could escape a lab set up that year in Wuhan, China, to study some of the most dangerous pathogens in the world. 

Now, a SARS-like coronavirus has infected more than 800 there, spread to at least 10 other countries and killed 25 in Wuhan and nearby provinces. 

China installed the first of a planned five to seven biolabs designed for maximum safety in Wuhan in 2017, for the purpose of studying the most high-risk pathogens, including the Ebola and the SARS viruses. 

Tim Trevan, a Maryland biosafety consultant, told Nature that year, when the lab was on the cusp of opening, that he worried that China’s culture could make the institute unsafe because ‘structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important.’  

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