U.S.-funded scientist among three Chinese researchers infected during initial COVID-19 outbreak

The identification of these scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology raises suspicions that the disease was due to a leak in a laboratory.

U.S. Intelligence reports have identified scientist Ben Hu of the Wuhan Institute of Virology as one of three researchers who fell ill in November 2019 and had symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The project that Hu and two other colleagues were working on about how coronaviruses infect humans was funded by the United States. None of the three died. More than three years after the start of the pandemic, and with nearly 7 million deaths worldwide, the origins of the virus remain a matter of debate, with implications for U.S.-China relations, global biosecurity and international research practices.

The identity and role of the researchers is one of the pieces of information cited by proponents of the theory that the pandemic originated from a laboratory, although the nature of their illness has not been conclusively established.

Intelligence agencies are hesitant

The international community remains divided over the origins of this terrible pandemic. There are those who think the virus originated from a laboratory leak and, on the other hand, those who think it was transmitted to humans from an infected animal, as the U.S. Intelligence community believes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has considered, with a moderate level of confidence, that a laboratory leak was the most likely source of the virus, and the Department of Energy reached a similar conclusion, albeit with a low level of confidence. Four other U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed with low confidence that the virus arose naturally, while the Central Intelligence Agency has not stated a theory outright.