Chinese researchers reupload COVID-19 data deleted from NIH database

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Chinese researchers uploaded COVID-19 genetic sequences to a scientific database more than a year after they took them off the National Institutes of Health's database, The New York Times reported July 30. 

In June, the NIH confirmed it deleted sequences of early COVID-19 cases from its scientific database called the Sequence Read Archive last year after a Chinese researcher, who submitted the data in March 2020, requested its removal. The agency said submitting investigators have the right to request their data to be withdrawn from its databases. 

After the data was removed, Jesse Bloom, PhD, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said he recovered 13 missing sequences from Google Cloud files; the missing sequences could provide more details into the origin of COVID-19, including that it may have existed in Wuhan, China, before December 2019, according to a June 23 Wall Street Journal report. 

On July 5, the deleted genetic sequences were uploaded to a database managed by the China National Center for Bioinformation by Wuhan University researcher Ben Hu, according to The Times

The Chinese researchers also published the data in 2020 in the scientific journal "Small." However, editors at the journal deleted a paragraph in the paper in which scientists described the sequences in the Sequence Read Archive. "Therefore, the researchers thought it was no longer necessary to store the data in the N.C.B.I. database," China National Health Commission Vice Minister Dr. Zeng Yixin said, referring to the Sequence Read Archive, according to the report. 

An editor at Small verified Dr. Yixin's statement and issued the following statement to the Times: "The data availability statement was mistakenly deleted," Plamena Dogandzhiyski wrote in an email. "We will issue a correction very shortly, which will clarify the error and include a link to the depository where the data is now hosted."


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