Covid-19 Origins: Experts Debate Natural vs. Lab Leak Theory
The origin of the COVID-19 virus has been a topic of controversy since the start of the pandemic. While researchers are trying to find out where the virus came from, there are two competing theories: that it came from animals or escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
US officials are divided on the origins of the virus, with some believing that it leaked from a Chinese lab. Meanwhile, China denies the lab leak theory and maintains that the virus originated in animals in the wild.
The Wall Street Journal reported in late February that the US Department of Energy had changed its position and now supports the lab leak theory. Christopher Wray, the director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), also publicly endorsed the theory in an interview with Fox News.
However, experts view the lab leak theory with moderate-to-low confidence. The Department of Energy ranked its own confidence in the theory as “low,” while the FBI ranked its confidence as “moderate.” Four other US departments, including the country’s national intelligence panel, maintained their positions that the virus spread via a natural transmission from animals to humans.
The lab leak theory contains two other theories: that the virus was leaked from a lab by accident due to substandard security measures or that the virus was developed and released on purpose as a form of biological weapon. US intelligence officials have debunked claims that China created SARS-CoV-2 as a biological weapon.
On the other hand, a number of scientists refute the claim that the coronavirus originated in a laboratory. They point to evidence published in several high-profile scientific journals that the virus originated in nature and passed from animals to humans. Investigations suggest that a Wuhan market, where live animals were sold, is likely to have been the epicenter of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization undertook the first phase of investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and filed a report in 2021. Their preliminary conclusions supported the zoonotic theory, suggesting the virus had emerged and spread naturally. However, the WHO has “quietly shelved” plans for the second phase of its investigation, according to the journal Nature. But the WHO said that it would do everything possible “until we get the answer” on COVID’s origins.
Many scientists say there is still little evidence of a direct ancestor of the virus in nature, and more research is needed to determine its true origin.