China's 'bat woman' Shi Zhengli goes missing

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India May 06, 2020, 09.33 PM(IST)

China's bat woman Shi Zhengli.  Photograph:( AFP )

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Did this virus escape from Shi's lab? Only Shi has the answer. But she is missing. But on February 2, 2020, the virologist re-appeared online on WeChat. 

She is a renowned virologist. She is an expert on coronavirus in bats. She is the supposed director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Shi Zhengli may have the answer to the question the world is asking. Did the coronavirus originate in her lab? But Shi Zhengli is missing.

This is just one of the many things that's mysterious about her. Shi Zhengli is called China's bat woman. Shi began her studies on bats in 2004. She has studied all kinds of bats. The ones picked from caves. The ones from the subtropical regions in the south. Her research was aimed at understanding the SARS outbreak.

She made a breakthrough in 2013. Shi Zhengli found bat faeces with the virus 96.2 per cent identical to the SARS COV-2. Yes, this is the same virus that caused COVID-19. In 2013, Shi began altering parts of the coronavirus. She wanted to study whether coronavirus can be transmitted from one species to another.

In 2015, she concluded that the SARS-like virus can jump from bats to human. On December 30, 2020, Shi received some samples from healthcare workers in Wuhan. The samples were from patients in Wuhan who were showing atypical pneumonia.This was a new coronavirus. The Wuhan coronavirus. By the time Shi Zhengli started analyzing the samples. It was too late. The virus had spread to the rest of China and within months, it had crossed borders.

Did this virus escape from Shi's lab? Only Shi has the answer. But she is missing. But on February 2, 2020, the virologist re-appeared online on WeChat. 

She said- “I promise with my life that the virus has nothing to do with the lab'. A m

onth later, she reportedly admitted to having several sleepless nights. “Could they have come from our lab?” The bat expert was asking herself this question. Soon rumours surfaced on social media. Some claimed she defected to the West. And she took along with her years of confidential research on bat coronavirus. Word was that the Wuhan lab director was taking asylum at the US Embassy in Paris. Shi quashed these rumours. Again, on Wechat. “No matter how difficult things are, it [defecting] shall never happen,” 

 “We’ve done nothing wrong. With a strong belief in science, we will see the day when the clouds disperse and the sun shines.” She also posted nine pictures. Not of her lab, or herself, but evidence of being in Wuhan. Some said the Chinese had muzzled her. This sparked another set of questions.

Is Shi safe? Another clarification on Wechat.  'Everything is alright for my family and me, dear friends'.

If that is the case then where is China's bat woman. Why has she not been seen in public in months?

Can China say it has nothing to do with this disappearance?