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Deleted genetic fingerprints raise questions amid search for COVID-19 origins

USA TODAY
June 2021

A respected U.S. scientist researching the evolution of the COVID-19 virus has uncovered an intriguing mystery with potentially troubling implications: Some of the virus’ earliest genetic fingerprints were quietly deleted last year from an important international database at the request of Chinese scientists.

The deleted data raises questions about whether efforts have been made to “obscure” information in scientific databases that hold clues to knowing where the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated – and whether the pandemic started with a chance human encounter with an infected animal, or through a laboratory accident in Wuhan.

Amid the slow acceptance that the “lab leak” theory is worthy of legitimate investigation, this finding shows that it may still be possible to unearth new evidence about how the pandemic began even if the Chinese government and the Wuhan Institute of Virology won’t open their records to independent investigators.

Now that people are finally looking, what else might be found in forgotten troves of archived emails, obscure databases, funding application materials and other records that have zipped back and forth over the internet between scientists in China and individuals and organizations in the United States and other countries?

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