The Washington PostThe Washington Post

Research with exotic viruses risks a deadly outbreak, scientists warn

By David Willman and Joby Warrick

10 Apr 2023 · 21 min read

Editor's Note

The source of the pandemic remains uncertain. But a Post examination found that a global expansion of risky research has outpaced measures to ensure the safety of the work.

BANGKOK - When the U.S. government was looking for help to scour Southeast Asia's rainforests for exotic viruses, scientists from Thailand's Chulalongkorn University accepted the assignment and the funding that came with it, giving little thought to the risks.

Beginning in 2011, Thai researchers made repeated treks every year to remote caves and forests inhabited by millions of bats, including species known to carry diseases deadly to humans. The scientists collected saliva, blood and excrement from the wriggling, razor-fanged animals, and the specimens were placed in foam coolers and driven to one of the university's labs in Bangkok, a metropolis of more than 8 million people.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content