Explainer: China’s Mojiang mine and its function within the origins of COVID-19


Individuals sporting face masks stroll on a road market, following an outbreak of the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 8, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Music

High U.S. infectious illness professional Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged China to launch details about six labourers who fell unwell after working in a mine in Yunnan province in 2012, and are actually seen as a key a part of efforts to search out the origins of COVID-19.

The employees, ages 30 to 63, have been scrubbing a copper seam clear of bat faeces in April 2012. Weeks later, they have been admitted to a hospital within the provincial capital of Kunming with persistent coughs, fevers, head and chest pains and respiratory difficulties. Three ultimately died.

The mine is in Mojiang in southwest China, about 1,500 kilometres from Wuhan, the place COVID-19 was first recognized.


Although the complete biographical particulars of the six staff haven’t been launched, their surnames, ages and medical data have been revealed in a 2013 thesis written by a Kunming Medical College postgraduate scholar named Li Xu.

Li’s research, nonetheless out there on China’s scientific paper archive at cnki.internet, examines every affected person’s signs and concludes they have been victims of a “SARS-like” coronavirus contracted from horseshoe bats.

Scientists returning to the mine on the finish of 2012 discovered samples of a pathogen that got here to be referred to as the “Mojiang virus”, present in rats and unrelated to SARS-CoV-2. Subsequent analysis was unable to substantiate whether or not it triggered the miners’ sickness.

In keeping with the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Shi Zhengli, China’s prime bat coronavirus researcher, the employees’ pneumonia-like signs have been attributable to a fungal an infection. Shi and her workforce additionally mentioned in analysis revealed final November that that they had retested 13 serum samples from 4 of the sufferers and located no signal that they had been contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.


Because the center of final yr, Li’s postgraduate thesis has been circulated on-line as purported proof {that a} coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 might have been infecting people as early as 2012.

Some additionally imagine the paper offers circumstantial proof for broader allegations that WIV had captured, studied and carried out “achieve of operate” experiments on viruses discovered within the mine, together with RaTG13.

First recognized in 2016, RaTG13 shares 96.2% of its genome with SARS-CoV-2, based on a paper launched by Shi and different researchers early in February 2020, simply weeks after the primary COVID-19 instances had been recognized in Wuhan.


From 2012 to 2015, WIV researchers recognized as many as 293 coronaviruses in and across the mine.

The institute in November 2020 disclosed the existence of eight different “SARS-type” coronavirus samples taken from the positioning.

In a preprint final month, Shi and different researchers mentioned not one of the eight was a more in-depth match to SARS-CoV-2 than RaTG13. Crucially, none of them possessed the important thing receptor binding area that enables SARS-CoV-2 to contaminate people so effectively.

The paper concluded that “the experimental proof can not assist” claims that SARS-CoV-2 was leaked from the lab, and referred to as for “extra systematic and longitudinal sampling of bats, pangolins or different attainable intermediate animals” to raised perceive the place the pandemic originated.

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.