Arms Watch: The Lugar Center, a $161 million Pentagon-funded biolaboratory in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, discovered coronaviruses in bats with presumably pandemic potential as early as 2014, documents have revealed.
In 2014 the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched a second project “Emerging zoonotic pathogens in Georgian bats” along with Georgian scientists at the Lugar Center. The project was funded by the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC).
The Lugar Center discovered coronaviruses, similar to the epidemic SARS and MERS coronaviruses, according to the ISTC project manager and Lugar Center virologist Lela Urushadze. These results were published by Urushadze in her dissertation submitted to the Ilia State University in 2018.
Both SARS and MERS CoV have a pandemic potential and already caused global epidemics in 2003 and 2013 respectively.
According to the study, three samples tested positive for beta coronaviruses and were closely related to the MERS-beta coronavirus isolated in an infected patient in Saudi Arabia who died, as well as to MERS coronaviruses in camels in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.