DR Anthony Fauci admitted that the US sent $600k to the Wuhan lab at the center of the Covid "leak" theory, but defended the "modest" virus research funding.
Fauci insisted that money given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was for acollaborative study with "respectable" scientists on how coronaviruses are transmitted to humans.
The National Institutes of Health allotted $600,000 for the Wuhan lab over a five-year period to study whether bats could transmit coronaviruses to humans, which many initially believed was how the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Fauci told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday that the money was used for "a modest collaboration with very respectable Chinese scientists who were world experts on coronavirus."
He denied that any US cash went towards "gain of function" research, a practice that involves taking a virus that can infect humans and making it either more transmissible or pathogenic for humans.
Fauci maintained that funding the research was necessary, citing the SARS outbreak of the early 2000s.
"We had a big scare with SARS-CoV-1 [SARS] back in 2002, 2003 where that particular virus unquestionably went from a bat to an intermediate host to start an epidemic and a pandemic that resulted in 8,000 cases and close to 800 deaths," he said.
"It would have been almost a dereliction of our duty if we didn't study this, and the only way you can study these things is you've got to go where the action is."
Funding to the Wuhan lab was cut off last April at the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, according to the New York Post.
The funding for the lab has come under increasing scrutiny after a report came out this week alleging that three staffers at the institute became ill and had to be hospitalized in November 2019, weeks before China shared news of the virus spreading across the city.
The report, published over the weekend by the Wall Street Journal, has led to calls for a broader probe of whether the Covid-19 virus could have escaped from the lab.
Fauci admitted last week that he was "not convinced" that the virus developed naturally, and called for a more thorough investigation.
Earlier this month, Fauci clashed with Kentucky Sen Rand Paul during a Senate committee hearing about US funding to the Wuhan lab.
Paul insisted that the money was being used for the gain of function research, which Fauci said was, "entirely and completely incorrect."
"The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute," Fauci said.
Since news broke about the Wuhan lab workers falling ill before the Covid outbreak, former President Donald Trump has said that he is sure the lab is where the virus originated.
He told Newsmax on Tuesday that there is "no doubt" in his mind.
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