Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory shipped Ebola and Henipah viruses to Beijing on March 31, raising suspicions from experts in biochemical warfare, who say they think China may use the pathogens to develop offensive biological agents.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report that the incident has not introduced any known risk to public health, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
The same lab is the focus of an ongoing investigation by the RCMP. The inquiry began following the recent dismissal of the head of the National Microbiology Laboratory’s (NML) Vaccine Development and Antiviral Therapies section in the Special Pathogens Program, virologist Xiangguo Qiu. Qiu, her colleague and husband Keding Cheng, and a number of her international students lost security clearance to their lab on July 5.
In 2018, Govenor General Julie Payette presented Qiu with an innovation award for her helping to lead the development of the Ebola vaccine ZMapp, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. There are no reports as to whether she was involved in the March shipment.
Ebola and Henipah viruses—classified as Category A and C bioterrorism agents by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, respectively—pose a threat to national security because of their potential to be easily disseminated, cause high morbidity and mortality rates, and deliver lasting blows to public health. They are also categorized as Risk Group 4 pathogens, meaning they can only be handled in a lab with the highest level of biosafety control, according to CBC News.