Shi Zhengli

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Shi Zhengli
Born (1964-05-26) 26 May 1964 (age 60)
Known forResearch into bat viruses
Scientific career
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese石正丽
Traditional Chinese石正麗

Shi Zhengli (simplified Chinese: 石正丽; traditional Chinese: 石正麗; born 26 May 1964) is a Chinese virologist who researches SARS-like coronaviruses of bat origin. Shi directs the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). In 2017, Shi and her colleague Cui Jie discovered that the SARS coronavirus likely originated in a population of cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Xiyang Yi Ethnic Township, Yunnan.[1] She came to prominence in the popular press as "Batwoman" during the COVID-19 pandemic for her work with bat coronaviruses.[2] Shi was included in Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.[3]

Early life and education

Shi was born in Xixia County, Nanyang, Henan province in 1964.[4] She graduated from Wuhan University in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in genetics.[5] She received her master's degree from the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 1990, and she received her PhD at the Montpellier 2 University in France in 2000, where she gained fluency in French.[6][7]


Shi is the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), located in Jiangxia District, Wuhan.[8] On her resume, Shi mentioned receiving grant funding from U.S. government sources totaling more than US$1.2 million, including $665,000 from the National Institutes of Health from 2014 to 2019, as well as US$559,500 over the same period from USAID.[9]


In 2005, Shi Zhengli and colleagues found that bats are the natural reservoir of SARS-like coronaviruses.[10][11][12]


In 2008, Shi led a research team which studied binding of spike proteins of both natural and chimaeric SARS-like coronaviruses to ACE2 receptors in human, civet and horseshoe bat cells, to determine the mechanism by which SARS may have spilled over into humans.[13][14]


In 2014, Shi Zhengli collaborated on additional genetic engineering experiments led by Ralph S Baric of the University of North Carolina, which showed that two critical mutations that the MERS coronavirus possesses allow it to bind to the human ACE2 receptor,[15] and that SARS had the potential to re-emerge from coronaviruses circulating in bat populations in the wild.[16] Shi and her colleague Cui Jie led a team which sampled thousands of horseshoe bats throughout China.


In 2017, they published their findings, indicating that all the genetic components of the SARS coronavirus existed in a bat population in Xiyang Yi Ethnic Township, Yunnan.[1] While no single bat harbored the exact strain of virus which caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak, genetic analysis showed that different strains often mix, suggesting that the human version likely emerged from a combination of the strains present in the bat population.[1] Shi's discoveries on the origin of SARS earned her international recognition.[17]

Also in 2017, Shi and colleagues at WIV published a paper — about an experiment in which they created new hybrid bat coronaviruses by recombining the DNA of several existing ones — including at least one that was almost able to jump to humans — to study their transmissibility and virulence in human cells.[18]


In a March 2019, Shi published an article titled "Bat Coronaviruses in China" in the journal Viruses, in which she and her co-authors warned that it is "highly likely that a future SARS or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China."[19]


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shi and other institute scientists formed an expert group to research Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).[20][21] In February 2020, researchers led by Shi Zhengli published an article in Nature titled, "A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin", finding that SARS-CoV-2 is in the same family as SARS, and that it has 96.2% genome overlap with the most closely related known coronavirus, RaTG13.[22] In February 2020, her team published a paper in Cell Research showing that remdesivir and chloroquine inhibited the virus in vitro, and applied for a patent for the drug in China on behalf of the WIV.[23][24][25] This caused conflict with an American pharmaceutical firm that had also applied for a patent.[26] Shi co-authored a paper labelling the virus as the first Disease X.[27]

In February 2020, the South China Morning Post reported that Shi's decade-long work to build up one of the world's largest databases of bat-related viruses gave the scientific community a "head start" in understanding the virus.[28] The SCMP also reported that Shi was the focus of personal attacks in Chinese social media who claimed the WIV was the source of the virus, leading Shi to strongly affirm that the outbreak "has nothing to do with the lab."[28] In a March 2020 interview with Scientific American, where she was called China's "Bat Woman",[29] Shi said "Bat-borne coronaviruses will cause more outbreaks", and "We must find them before they find us."[2]


In June 2021 the New York Times noted that her research on coronaviruses at WIV had put her at the center of a heated controversy regarding the pandemic. Shi argued to the Times that her genetic engineering experiments differed from gain-of-function work because she did not set out to make viruses more dangerous, but instead to see if she could modify them to be able to jump host species (such as from bats to humans).[18] On 31 July, Science Magazine published an interview with Shi in which she commented "to date, there is zero infection of all staff and students in our institute."[30] Asked by Science why the WIV conducts coronavirus experiments in stringent BSL-4 labs when most other scientists work with coronaviruses under less stringent BSL-2 or BSL-3 conditions, Shi explained that her group also used BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories for their coronavirus research, but that they had begun to use BSL-4 laboratories per government regulations after the pandemic.[31][32][30]

Service and honours

Shi is a member of the Virology Committee of the Chinese Society for Microbiology. She is editor-in-chief of Virologica Sinica,[33] the Chinese Journal of Virology, and the Journal of Fishery Sciences of China.

See also


  1. ^ a b c
    • For the research paper, see: Wang, Ning (2018). "Serological Evidence of Bat SARS-Related Coronavirus Infection in Humans, China" (PDF). Virologica Sinica. 33 (1): 104–107. doi:10.1007/s12250-018-0012-7. PMC 6178078. PMID 29500691.
    • For English news coverage, see: "Bat cave solves mystery of deadly SARS virus — and suggests new outbreak could occur". Nature. 1 December 2017.
    • For a more detailed news coverage in Chinese, see: "石正丽团队两年前已发现蝙蝠冠状病毒感染人现象". The Beijing News [新京报]. 26 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b Qiu, Jane (11 March 2020). "How China's "Bat Woman" Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 14 April 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Shi Zhengli: The 100 Most Influential People of 2020". Time. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  4. ^ 石正丽:与病毒相伴的女科学家. (in Chinese (China)). 10 March 2009. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019. 1964年5月,石正丽出生于河南省西峡县。
  5. ^ 中科院武汉病毒所博士生指导老师简介 (in Chinese (China)). Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan Division. 22 September 2009. Archived from the original on 10 August 2018. 石正丽, 女, 1964年出生,博士,研究员。1987年7月毕业于武汉大学生物系遗传专业,获学士学位。
  6. ^ Areddy, James T. (21 April 2020). "China Bat Expert Says Her Wuhan Lab Wasn't Source of New Coronavirus". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  7. ^ Zaugg, Julie (22 January 2021). "A Wuhan avec Bat Woman, aux origines du Covid-19". L'illustré (in French).
  8. ^ "Prof. Shi Zhengli elected a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology". 8 March 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  9. ^ "The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19's Origins". Vanity Fair. 3 June 2021.
  10. ^ Li, Wendong; Shi, Zhengli; Yu, Meng; Ren, Wuze; Smith, Craig; Epstein, Jonathan H; Wang, Hanzhong; Crameri, Gary; Hu, Zhihong; Zhang, Huajun; Zhang, Jianhong; McEachern, Jennifer; Field, Hume; Daszak, Peter; Eaton, Bryan T; Zhang, Shuyi; Wang, Lin-Fa (28 October 2005). "Bats Are Natural Reservoirs of SARS-Like Coronaviruses". Science. 310 (5748): 676–679. Bibcode:2005Sci...310..676L. doi:10.1126/science.1118391. PMID 16195424. S2CID 2971923.
  11. ^ Lu Wei (鲁伟); Liu Zheng (刘铮) (10 March 2009). 石正丽:与病毒相伴的女科学家. (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  12. ^ Ren, Wuze; Li, Wendong; Yu, Meng; Hao, Pei; Zhang, Yuan; Zhou, Peng; Zhang, Shuyi; Zhao, Guoping; Zhong, Yang; Wang, Shengyue; Wang, Lin-Fa; Shi, Zhengli (1 November 2006). "Full-length genome sequences of two SARS-like coronaviruses in horseshoe bats and genetic variation analysis" (PDF). J Gen Virol. 87 (11): 3355–3359. doi:10.1099/vir.0.82220-0. PMID 17030870.
  13. ^ Ren, Wuze; et al. (1 February 2008). "Difference in Receptor Usage between Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus and SARS-Like Coronavirus of Bat Origin". Journal of Virology. 82 (4): 1899–1907. doi:10.1128/JVI.01085-07. PMC 2258702. PMID 18077725.
  14. ^ Hou, Yuxuan; et al. (22 June 2010). "Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) proteins of different bat species confer variable susceptibility to SARS-CoV entry". Archives of Virology. 155 (10): 1563–1569. doi:10.1007/s00705-010-0729-6. PMC 7086629. PMID 20567988.
  15. ^ Yang, Yang; et al. (10 June 2015). "Two Mutations Were Critical for Bat-to-Human Transmission of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus". Journal of Virology. 89 (17): 9119–9123. doi:10.1128/JVI.01279-15. PMC 4524054. PMID 26063432.
  16. ^ Menachery, Vineet D.; Yount, Boyd L.; Debbink, Kari; Agnihothram, Sudhakar; Gralinski, Lisa E.; Plante, Jessica A.; Graham, Rachel L.; Scobey, Trevor; Ge, Xing-Yi; Donaldson, Eric F.; Randell, Scott H. (11 November 2015). "A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence". Nature Medicine. 21 (12): 1508–1513. doi:10.1038/nm.3985. ISSN 1546-170X. PMC 4797993. PMID 26552008.
  17. ^ Sudworth, John (21 December 2020). "Covid: Wuhan scientist would 'welcome' visit probing lab leak theory". BBC News. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  18. ^ a b Qin, Amy; Buckley, Chris (14 June 2021). "A Top Virologist in China, at Center of a Pandemic Storm, Speaks Out". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Fan, Y.; Zhao, K.; Shi, Z. L.; Zhou, P. (2019). "Bat Coronaviruses in China". Viruses. 11 (3): 210. doi:10.3390/v11030210. PMC 6466186. PMID 30832341.
  20. ^ Zhang Juan (张隽); Guan Xiyan (关喜艳) (24 January 2020). 石正丽等13位专家组队 攻关新型肺炎研究. People's Daily (in Chinese). Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  21. ^ Cohen, Jon (1 February 2020). "Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak's origins". Science. Archived from the original on 3 February 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2020. team led by Shi Zheng-Li, a coronavirus specialist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, reported on 23 January on bioRxiv that 2019-nCoV's sequence was 96.2% similar to a bat virus and had 79.5% similarity to the coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a disease whose initial outbreak was also in China more than 15 years ago.
  22. ^ Zhengli, Shi; Team of 29 researchers at the WIV (3 February 2020). "A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin". Nature. 579 (7798): 270–273. Bibcode:2020Natur.579..270Z. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2012-7. PMC 7095418. PMID 32015507.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Zhengli, Shi; Team of 10 researchers at the WIV (4 February 2020). "Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro". Cell Research. 30 (3): 269–271. doi:10.1038/s41422-020-0282-0. PMC 7054408. PMID 32020029.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ "China Wants to Patent Gilead's Experimental Coronavirus Drug". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  25. ^ Grady, Denise (6 February 2020). "China Begins Testing an Antiviral Drug in Coronavirus Patients". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 February 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  26. ^ Barmann J. "Bay Area-Based Gilead Sees Potential Legal Conflict With China Over Its Coronavirus Drug". SFist. Impress Media. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  27. ^ Zhengli, Shi; Shibo, Jiang (2020). "The First Disease X is Caused by a Highly Transmissible Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus". Virologica Sinica. 35 (3): 263–265. doi:10.1007/s12250-020-00206-5. PMC 7091198. PMID 32060789.
  28. ^ a b Chen, Stephen (6 February 2020). "Coronavirus: bat scientist's cave exploits offer hope to beat virus 'sneakier than Sars'". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 7 February 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  29. ^ Cohen, Jon (24 July 2020). "'Trump owes us an apology.' Chinese scientist at the center of COVID-19 origin theories speaks out". Science. doi:10.1126/science.abd9835.
  30. ^ a b "Reply to Science Magazine" (PDF). Science Magazine. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  31. ^ Cohen, Jon (31 July 2020). "Wuhan coronavirus hunter Shi Zhengli speaks out". Science Magazine. 369 (6503): 487–488. Bibcode:2020Sci...369..487C. doi:10.1126/science.369.6503.487. PMID 32732399.
  32. ^ Kessler, Glenn (25 May 2021). "Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  33. ^ "Editorial Board". Virologica Sinica. Archived from the original on 29 February 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  34. ^ 法国驻华大使亲临武汉病毒所为袁志明、石正丽研究员授勋 (in Chinese). Wuhan Institute of Virology. 20 June 2016.
  35. ^ Huang Haihua (黄海华) (24 January 2020). 新型冠状病毒可能来源于蝙蝠!"蝙蝠女侠"石正丽发现其与蝙蝠冠状病毒同源性为96% (in Chinese). Sina Corp. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  36. ^ 学界大牛!12位华人学者当选2019年美国微生物科学院院士. (in Chinese). 3 February 2019. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.

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