New Delhi, June 15: The origin of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19 infection, has been a mystery. There are theories that suggest the deadly virus leaked from a laboratory in China's Wuhan where the first case of COVID-19 infection was detected. One of the labs in question is the Wuhan Virology Institute and its head Dr Shi Zhengli has been dubbed as "Bat Woman". However, Dr Shi Zhengli has recently denied that her institution is behind the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus Is of Natural Origin, Not Invention of Man, Says Russian Vaccine Maker.

"How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?" Dr Zhengli told the New York Times in rare comments to the media. "I don’t know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist," she told the US daily. In Wuhan, where the first cases of the coronavirus emerged in late 2019, at least two labs studied coronaviruses that originate in bats; the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (WHCDC).

Dr Zhengli's WIV has a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory, considered the most secure where researchers wear protective suits. Some scientists believe, Dr Zhengli, an expert in bat coronaviruses, could have been leading so-called "gain-of-function" (GOF) experiments in which scientists increase the strength of a virus to better study its effects on hosts. However, she denied conducting such experiment. Coronavirus Leaked Accidentally From a Lab in August or September 2019, Claims Norwegian Virologist.

"My lab has never conducted or cooperated in conducting GOF experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses," she was quoted as saying. While a section of experts believe the COVID-19 originated as a natural infection leaping from animals to humans, various studies have hinted at COVID-19 as a result of the Wuhan lab-leak.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 15, 2021 09:33 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website