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Drosten Wuhan

Christian Drosten and the “Bat Woman” of Wuhan


Thanks to an observant Twitter user (hat-tip @lissnup), I now know much more about the curious photo of German virologist Christian Drosten included in my previous article on “The Other Lab in Wuhan.” 

It is not a photo of a Tongji Medical College event, but rather of a “Sino-German Symposium on Infectious Diseases” that was held in Berlin in 2015. And the woman with the glasses next to Drosten appears to be none other than the “Bat Woman” Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology!

The full group photo of the participants is reproduced below.

It is taken from a University of Duisburg-Essen webpage, which is no longer available online, but has been archived by the Wayback Machine here. The Essen University Hospital cosponsored the event with the German Ministry of Health.

As discussed in my previous article, Essen University Hospital runs a joint German-Chinese virology laboratory in Wuhan in partnership with University Hospital, Tongji Medical College. Unlike Shi Zhengli’s more famous Wuhan Institute of Virology, the German-Chinese or “Essen-Wuhan” lab is located on the same side of the Yangtze River as the initial cluster of Covid-19 cases in the city. Indeed, it is located right in the area of the cluster.

Ulf Dittmer, chair of the virology department at Essen University Hospital and co-director of the Essen-Wuhan lab, can be seen in the middle of the photo. He is the bald man with the striped shirt. The lab would be founded two years after the symposium, but the Essen hospital already had a longstanding relationship with the Chinese host institution.

The full program of the symposium in German and Chinese is available from the Wayback Machine here. An excerpt is shown below. 

Drosten at Wuhan

Drosten gave a talk on the “Evolution of Pathogenic RNA Viruses: Studies of Animal Reservoirs;” Shi Zhengli spoke on “Newly Emergent Viral Zoonoses in China;” Dittmer spoke about research conducted as part of a prior Essen-Wuhan research project on “Chronic Viruses…with Special Emphasis on HIV Research and Treatment Possibilities in Germany.”

Participants also included Yang Dongliang, chair of the infectious diseases department at Union Hospital of Tongji Medical College.

When asked about the possibility of a lab leak in a November 2021 interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Drosten insisted that “I have no personal connection to the people in Wuhan and have never been at the [Wuhan] Institute [of Virology].”

The above photo makes clear that he and Shi are not perfect strangers at any rate.

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