London, Sep 24 (IANS) Scientists at Wuhan -- the Chinese city where Covid-19 emerged -- planned to alter coronaviruses and release them into bat caves in 2018, nearly two years before the pandemic kicked off, according to new leaked documents.
The documents were reportedly accessed by a group of amateur sleuths called 'DRASTIC', who, with few resources, are working to reveal the "dark secrets" of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). DRASTIC stands for "decentralised radical autonomous search team investigating Covid-19" and it has set itself the mission of exploring the origins of SARS-CoV-2.
According to the group, a project named DEFUSE headed by Dr Peter Daszak, president of US-based non-profit EcoHealth Alliance, proposed to reduce the threat of bat-borne coronaviruses by genetically enhancing them and releasing them among bats in Yunnan around 2,000km south west of Wuhan in 2018, the Daily Mail reported. The project aimed to stop new viruses jumping from bats into humans.
They also wanted to create a genetically-enhanced virus that could infect humans easier, according to the leaked documents.
DRASTIC revealed that the research proposal would have involved "advanced and dangerous" research into bat coronaviruses in cooperation with the WIV and other facilities. Moreover, the research would qualify as Gain of Function (GoF) -- a process that can be used to make viruses more dangerous so that humans can investigate them and improve understanding, the Newsweek reported.
However, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) refused to fund the $14.2million project over concerns it would put the "local communities at risk", the report showed.
The leaked documents add to the lab-leak theory that coronavirus may have accidentally leaked from the WIV lab in Wuhan.
The documents come after a whistleblower sensationally claimed China deliberately spread Covid at a military tournament two months before the rest of the world knew about the deadly virus.
But, China has on its repeatedly insisted the virus spilled naturally into humans from bats.
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