(p. A3) Chinese researchers directed the U.S. National Institutes of Health to delete gene sequences of early Covid-19 cases from a key scientific database, raising concerns that scientists studying the origin of the pandemic may lack access to key pieces of information.
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The removal of the sequencing data is described in a new paper posted online Tuesday by Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The paper, which hasn’t been peer reviewed, says the missing data include sequences from virus samples collected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January and February of 2020 from patients hospitalized with or suspected of having Covid-19.
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. . . Dr. Bloom said their removal sows doubts about China’s transparency in the continuing investigation into the origin of the pandemic.
Some other scientists agreed.
“It makes us wonder if there are other sequences like these that have been purged,” said Vaughn S. Cooper, a University of Pittsburgh evolutionary biologist who wasn’t involved in the new paper and said he hasn’t studied the deleted sequences himself.
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated June 23, 2021, and has the title “Chinese Covid-19 Gene Data That Could Have Aided Pandemic Research Removed From NIH Database.”)