Mounting evidence regarding the origins of COVID-19 indicates that China has gone out of its way to obscure vital information.
It now appears that those efforts might have included pressure on the U.S. National Institutes of Health to delete gene sequencing data involving early cases of the pandemic virus.
“Request withdrawal of the data”
According to the Washington Examiner, such pressure appears to have come indirectly through researchers in China.
Although there could be a legitimate reason for granting the request to delete key information, the latest development contributes to the perception that the NIH was doing China’s bidding by keeping the data under wraps despite its potential usefulness in further understanding COVID-19 and the way it spread around the globe.
As for what happened to the data, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the NIH confirmed it was deleted from the agency’s database.
The request by Chinese researchers reportedly pertained to gene sequencing performed on patients in January and February of last year and came about three months after that information was shared with the NIH. The decision to delete those studies potentially deprived U.S. researchers of useful information that could have sped up their own studies of the virus.
Of course, the NIH maintains a policy whereby researchers who submit information retain all rights to the property and “can request withdrawal of the data” at any time and for any reason.
Scientist uncovers deleted data
As the Journal explained, virologist Jesse Bloom first discovered that the sequencing data had been removed, sharing his findings in a paper that has been published but not yet peer-reviewed.
He was subsequently able to recover the data by scouring other papers published before the information vanished.
Nevertheless, the Examiner described the request for deletion as just the latest example of China’s communist government imposing its will on other nations and entities that are not under its direct control.
Another prominent example involved the World Health Organization, which essentially repeated talking points emanating out of Beijing early on in the pandemic, arguably costing the rest of the world valuable time in preparing for the global public health crisis.
The NIH also has its own problematic COVID-19 history involving foreign influence. As the journal Science reportedly last year, an internal probe found that dozens of American scientists and researchers at the institute failed to disclose financial support secretly received from China and other foreign governments.