Virologist: Lab leakage claims pure fabrication

China Daily
Chen Zhuo
2020-05-26 21:42:29
Wuhan Institute of Virology. [Photo from the internet]

P4 lab well managed

As for speculation that the virus had escaped from the lab, Yuan said the notion is equally absurd because they did not have the virus before the outbreak, and the possibility of a leak is next to impossible given how the P4 lab was "designed, constructed and managed in accordance with strict international requirements."

The Wuhan P4 lab was one of the big scientific cooperation programs under the Sino-French Cooperation Framework Agreement, and it took officials and scientists from both countries nearly two decades to bring it to fruition, he said.

The Chinese lab is modeled after the "box within a box" plan from the renowned P4 Jean Merieux-Inserm Laboratory in Lyon, France, Yuan said. Moreover, the Chinese P4 lab is a member of the Group of High-Containment Laboratory Directors, an international network of high-security biolabs.

"We have constantly conducted international exchanges and experience sharing in laboratory operations and maintenance to improve our operating capability," Yuan said.

Last year, the institute had held two international conferences and hosted over 70 foreign academics from around the world, he said, adding that the institute has engaged in frequent collaboration with France, the US, Germany, Kenya and many other countries.

In terms of infrastructure, Yuan said the core facility of the P4 lab is completely sealed off with stainless steel enclosure walls and pressurized environments to ensure no virus can escape from the "box within a box" confinement.

All exhaust from the rest of the lab must go through two powerful filters, and all wastewater must be boiled and properly treated. Every piece of contaminated waste must be sterilized in high temperature pressure chambers before delivery to authorized institutions for disposal.

All researchers and supporting technicians entering the P4 lab must receive systematic and rigorous training at home and abroad, Yuan said, adding the first group of lab personnel were trained in P4 labs in France and the US.

"All experiments are conducted in strict accordance with regulations and the entire process is video recorded and stored for the long term," he said. Every year, the lab's facilities and equipment must be tested by a third-party institution authorized by the government, and "only after passing the test can the lab continue to operate".

"The P4 lab has always operated in a safe and stable way. To date, no pathogen leaks or personnel infection accidents have ever occurred," he said.

There has also not been a single case of COVID-19 infection among the hundreds of staff and students at the institute since the outbreak, he added.

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