Chinese scientists appear to have deleted imperative data from the earliest confirmed patients of COVID-19, but one American professor has recovered partial samples from an archived copy uploaded to an international database.
Dozens of test samples from patients in Wuhan were wiped from an international database used to track the origins and evolution of the virus, as reported by the Daily Mail.
These critical samples could have given insight into the origins of the virus and how long it had been spreading before the seafood market outbreak in December of 2019.
An American professor discovered the missing data and managed to recover some of it. The professor said the information suggested the virus was circulating long before China’s officially-released timeline.
Professor Jesse Bloom, a virologist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle said he believed China removed the data to “obscure their existence.”
The deletion of data was highlighted in a scientific paper, Recovery of deleted deep sequencing data sheds more light on the early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 epidemic.
The total count of deleted positive samples was 45.
Bloom noted all 45 samples were pulled from the database, with “no plausible scientific reason for the deletion.” He added that the most likely explanation was to “abuse” and “obscure” the truth about the origins of the virus.
“The current study suggests…the trusting structures of science have been abused to obscure sequences relevant to the early spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan,” he wrote.
But, he defended staff at the NIH Sequence Read Archive, saying that they have to manage over 13 million samples, “making it infeasible for its staff to validate the rationale for all requests.”
— Bloom Lab (@jbloom_lab) June 22, 2021