COVID-19 Data From Early on in Pandemic Removed From NIH Database at Chinese Scientist’s Request

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Senior Reporter
Jack Phillips is a reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
June 23, 2021 Updated: June 23, 2021

A leading American expert in influenza viruses discovered that early sequences of the novel coronavirus (CCP virus) genome were deleted at the request of researchers in China, which was confirmed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH, which hasn’t yet responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comment, told the Wall Street Journal that it deleted the sequences after a Chinese researcher requested the U.S. agency to do so, explaining that the researcher had submitted the sequences three months earlier. The statement said the scientist wanted the data removed in June 2020 because an updated version of the sequences was uploaded to another unspecified database.

“Submitting investigators hold the rights to their data and can request withdrawal of the data,” the NIH said in a statement to the paper.

Professor Jesse Bloom, a COVID-19 researcher from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, wrote in a non-peer-reviewed paper that the missing data entailed sequences of virus samples that were obtained in Wuhan, China, from patients who were hospitalized or were suspected of having COVID-19.

Bloom wrote in an abstract posted online Tuesday that he identified a data set containing sequences of SARS-CoV-2, another name for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, that was taken early on in the Wuhan epidemic and deleted from NIH’s database.

According to his abstract, Bloom recovered “the deleted files from the Google Cloud, and reconstruct[ed] partial sequences of 13 early epidemic viruses.”

Then, after a phylogenetic analysis of these sequences, the “data suggests that the Huanan Seafood Market sequences that are the focus of the joint WHO-China report are not fully representative of the viruses in Wuhan early in the epidemic,” he wrote, referring to the widely criticized report from the World Health Organization earlier this year that blamed animals—rather than a laboratory leak—for the origin of the pandemic.

“Instead,” Bloom wrote, “the progenitor of known SARS-CoV-2 sequences likely contained three mutations relative to the market viruses that made it more similar to SARS-CoV-2’s bat coronavirus relatives.”

Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, appears before a Senate hearing to discuss vaccines, in Washington, on Sept. 9, 2020. (Greg Nash- Pool/Getty Images)

Elaborating on the discovery, the researcher said he found a Wuhan University project that sequenced 34 positive COVID-19 cases from January 2020 along with 16 cases in February.

“But when I went to Sequence Read Archive,” Bloom tweeted, “I found [the] entire project was gone!” He said that it doesn’t indicate that the NIH engaged in alleged malfeasance or tried to cover the findings up, noting that the “Sequence Read Archive policy allows submitters to delete by e-mail request.”

However, whether the NIH acted ethically or not, his finding is sure to further cast doubt on the origins of the CCP virus. There has been growing speculation, including by the U.S. Intelligence Community, that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institue of Virology, a top-level security research facility just miles from a wet market that the Chinese regime blamed for the initial outbreak. Meanwhile, the CCP has also been accused of working to cover up the origins of the virus by moving to silence researchers and doctors in early 2020.

“Although events that led to emergence of #SARSCoV2 in Wuhan are unclear (zoonosis vs lab accident), everyone agrees deep ancestors are coronaviruses from bats,” Bloom wrote on Twitter this week. “Therefore, we’d expect the first #SARSCoV2 sequences would be more similar to bat coronaviruses, and as #SARSCoV2 continued to evolve it would become more divergent from these ancestors.”

Bloom, however, emphasized that it’s “not the case” and instead, the seafood market COVID-19 viruses are “more different from coronaviruses than #SARSCoV2 viruses collected later in China and even other countries.”

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, some of the deleted information from the NIH database was published in a paper in a small journal, but Bloom said researchers tend to look for gene sequences in large databases like the one operated by the U.S. health agency.

Separately, the deletion of the sequences at the behest of a Chinese scientist casts yet another shadow over the Chinese regime’s transparency on the origins of the virus and how the regime handled the early days of the pandemic, Bloom told the paper. The Epoch Times has reached out to him for comment.

“It makes us wonder if there are other sequences like these that have been purged,” said Dr. Vaughn Cooper, a University of Pittsburgh biologist, in a comment to the paper. “If more sequences came to light, especially from early time points, or archival samples elsewhere, everything could change once again,” Sergei Pond, a Temple University biology professor, added while suggesting that more data sourced early on the pandemic will “likely” emerge in the future.

Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Senior Reporter
Jack Phillips is a reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.