We deserve to know about Covid's origins. Three researchers at a laboratory in Wuhan, China, who had fallen ill in November 2019 had been experimenting with SARS-like coronaviruses under inadequate biosafety conditions, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

The journal had reported in 2021 that some researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had sought hospital care that November, around the time the evidence suggests Covid first began to spread among people.

It was not publicly known, though, that those scientists had been experimenting with SARS-like coronaviruses - that is, pathogens related to the ones that cause SARS and Covid.

Their role in that work is not proof that the virus initially leaked out of a lab rather than spreading from animals at a market in the city, the other theory into how the pandemic started.

There is no proof of that path, either, since the known cases from the market outbreak were too late to have been the origin, and no infected animal has been found there.

But this is yet another demonstration that almost all of the most significant information we've had about Covid's possible relationship to scientific research in Wuhan has come out in dribs and drabs from the hardwork of independent researchers, journalists, open records advocates and others, not directly from U.S. government choosing to act with transparency.

The names of the researchers who reportedly fell ill, which have not been publicly confirmed by the U.S. government and therefore remain unverified, and the nature of their work, were disclosed last week by the news site Public.

One of those named researchers, Ben Hu, is a leading scientist who has worked on bat coronaviruses related to SARS.

Some of HU's work was funded by by the U.S. government, a fact that was unearthed through Freedom of Information Act requests by the nonprofit group White Coat Waste Project, which opposes taxpayer funded research on animals, as well as by The Intercept, which uncovered broader US funding for potentially dangerous lab work in Wuhan.

The World Students Society thanks author Zeynep Tufekci.


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