A Chinese scientist partially funded by U.S. grants who was working in Wuhan was one of three researchers who fell sick with a mystery illness early on in the coronavirus pandemic, a former U.S. official confirmed Tuesday.
Ben Hu had been working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology when he and the other two scientists were sickened with an unspecified illness in late 2019, potentially lending credibility to the theory that the pandemic could have originated from a lab leak rather than from a wild animal market in Wuhan.
Hu had been researching coronaviruses at the lab when he became sick with a disease that mirrored the symptoms of COVID-19, U.S. intelligence reports said, the Wall Street Journal first reported.
Some of Hu’s projects were funded by U.S. grants, a Freedom of Information Act by the nonprofit White Coat Waste Project revealed, according to the Journal.
Hu’s projects included in the funding were one studying animal viruses that could transfer to humans and cause a pandemic and one researching bat coronaviruses.
Robert Kadlec, a former Health and Human Services Department official, told the Journal that Hu and the other two scientists “published on SARS-related coronavirus experiments done at inappropriately low biosafety settings that could have resulted in a laboratory infection.”
Along with Hu, the other scientists were identified as Yu Ping and Yan Zhu. All three of the researchers lived.
A Wuhan man who fell ill on Dec. 8, 2019, was previously identified by Chinese authorities as the first official case. Hu and the other two scientists became sick in November.
From the beginning of the pandemic, China has lacked transparency about the virus.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology told the Journal it had nothing new to say. Fox News Digital has reached out for comment.
Kansas Sen. Roger Mashall, a Republican, said the revelations show a need for greater scrutiny over U.S. grants.