Fauci NIH lab infected bats with Wuhan coronavirus, obtained from zoo near Camp David, report

Zoo's director of animal health once worked for NIH in animal research. NIH's Montana lab did the research with Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborator.

Published: October 30, 2023 2:57pm

A 15-minute drive from the Camp David presidential retreat, a low-rated zoo gave the National Institutes of Health several bats to infect with a coronavirus from the same Chinese lab that some federal agencies believe is responsible for the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, according to a new investigation and published research.

The White Coat Waste Project, which fights taxpayer funding of "wasteful government animal experiments," said Monday it's using Freedom of Information Act requests to get more details about the taxpayer-funded experiments documented in a 2018 paper in the journal Viruses.

Former National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci oversaw the NIH's Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana when it did the research with bats from Maryland's Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, whose Director of Animal Health Laurie Hahn is a former NIH "lead veterinary technician" for animal research.

The Viruses paper, authored by Montana lab researchers and Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborator Ralph Baric, of the University of North Carolina, determined that the "SARS-like WIV1-coronavirus" first isolated from Chinese rufous horseshoe bats could not cause a "robust infection" in the 12 Egyptian fruit bats from the zoo. Four were euthanized and tested.

The paper doesn't say which zoo employee signed off on the bats' transfer to NIH, but WCW suspects Hahn played an instrumental role.

WCW used screenshots of her LinkedIn profile but did not name her in a blog post on its investigation "to protect privacy and instead focus on government bureaucrats because they are ultimately the ones who should be held accountable," Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy Justin Goodman wrote in an email.

Hahn has been frequently identified as the "curator" of the zoo going back to 2017, a role that encompasses "acquiring animals, transferring animals, research, and other duties related to managing the zoo’s population of animals," Goodman said.

Her involvement is especially likely "in this case where they have a personal history with the recipient," Hahn's former employer NIH.

WCW provided Just the News an Agriculture Department of inspection report from April that shows the zoo had 241 bats, 41 of them the Egyptian fruit bats used in the NIH research.

Its blog post notes USDA fined the zoo $12,000 in 2012 for five years of violations including poor treatment of animals and failure to adequately train a zoo worker who was mauled as a result.

Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits based on several metrics, gives the zoo a 56% rating and one out of four stars due to missing "accountability metrics" among other lapses.

The zoo did not immediately respond to a query Monday to confirm what role if any Hahn played in the decision to give her former employer the 12 Egyptian fruit bats.

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