Zhengli Shi Edits to Widely-Cited EMI Commentary

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A new document shows Zhengli Shi’s edits to a draft of the Emerging Microbes & Infections commentary, “No credible evidence supporting the claims of the laboratory engineering of SARS-CoV-2.” Zhengli Shi is a leading Chinese virologist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Shi proposed three edits of note. First, she proposed changing the presentation of the number of nucleotides that differed between RaTG13, which was the closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 identified at that time, and SARS-CoV-2. The authors wrote this difference was “greater than 1000 nucleotides.”  Shi proposed deleting “1000” and replacing it with “1100” nucleotides. This edit appears to maximize the presentation of the difference between the two viruses.

Second, Shi proposed deleting a paragraph discussing the mouse-adapted SARS-CoV virus, MA15 (that had been used in Ralph Baric’s lab in collaboration with Shi), and how its serial passage had increased viral replication and lung pathology in mice. This appears to be an effort at distancing from the gain-of-function debate surrounding the research done together by Shi, Baric and the EcoHealth Alliance.

Third, Shi edited a statement on bats as natural reservoirs, and civets as intermediate hosts, of SARS-CoV.

Since the publication of the EM&I commentary, a bat coronavirus with greater similarity to SARS-CoV-2 than RaTG13 has been identified in bats in Laos. Three of the viruses identified, called BANAL-52, BANAL-103 and BANAL-236, have receptor binding domains (RBDs) that can bind to human ACE2 with greater affinity, and can infect human cells more readily, than RaTG13.

The Zhengli Shi attachment had been referred to in emails between Shan-Lu Liu, Lishan Su, and editor Shan Lu. U.S. Right to Know obtained the attachment through a Ohio Public Records Act request.