Three Republican senators are seeking answers to why information on COVID patients in Wuhan, China, was deleted from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) database.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese researchers told the NIH to remove the gene sequences of some early COVID carriers in Wuhan.
The NIH confirmed to the newspaper it deleted the sequences after receiving a request from a Chinese researcher who had given them to the health organization three months earlier.
"Submitting investigators hold the rights to their data and can request withdrawal of the data," the NIH said in a statement.
Researchers say that information could have shed light on the origins of the virus and raises questions about China's transparency.
Dr. Jess Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, described the removal of the sequencing data in a new paper posted online Tuesday. His findings have not been peer-reviewed.
Bloom writes he was able to recover the deleted files from the Google Cloud and reconstructed partial sequences of 13 early epidemic virus cases.
From the information he was able to recover, Bloom theorizes the virus was moving around Wuhan before it was identified as being at the Huanan Seafood market, which scientists had claimed was the scene of the first COVID outbreak before the possible lab-escape theory was recognized by many leading researchers.
He suggests the World Health Organization (WHO) investigative team who dismissed the lab-leak theory as "unlikely" missed a piece of the data puzzle from around the time of the pathogen's origin.
As CBN News reported, Bloom is a co-author of a letter published in May in the journal Science in which 18 leading scientists said they want a new investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. They questioned the conclusions reached earlier this year by a team chosen by the WHO to look into what caused the viral outbreak in Wuhan, China that so far has taken the lives of more than three million people worldwide and more than 500,000 in the U.S.
The WHO team had concluded "a laboratory origin of the pandemic was extremely unlikely" and animal to human infection was "very likely." That conclusion has since been widely criticized.
The main entrance of Wuhan Institute of Virology located in the Jiangxia District, south of the Wuhan city, Hubei province, China. (Photo by Ureem2805/Wikimedia Commons)
Now Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Roger Marshall (R-KS) have sent a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins requesting details on who requested the deletions from the U.S. database.
The letter stated that China has "failed, from the beginning, to be open and transparent with the world with respect to its role in the pandemic."
The senators' letter urged Collins to publish the names of the collaborating partners to the NIH Sequence Read Archive, the Chinese scientists that made the original request for deletion, the personnel with the authority to delete data, and the history and record of data deletion directed by researchers affiliated with the Chinese regime, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the National Review.
"The efforts by Chinese researchers to delete the data demands additional explanation. As you are aware, the Chinese government has failed, from the beginning, to be open and transparent with the world with respect to its role in the pandemic," the letter read.
"The American people deserve to know what their government knows about the origins of this global illness," it said.
As CBN News reported last month, a previously undisclosed intelligence report revealed three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology sought treatment at a hospital in November of 2019.
Just weeks after this latest information came to light, President Biden instructed the U.S. intelligence community to take a closer look at the origins of COVID-19, calling on investigators to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion and report back to him in 90 days, which would be the end of August.
Earlier this month, intelligence services in the United Kingdom said the lab-leak theory is "feasible," even though British spies once dismissed the suspicion.
One British intelligence officer told The London Times, "There might be pockets of evidence that take us one way, and evidence that takes us another way. The Chinese will lie either way. I don't think we will ever know."