Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
By Marisa Schultz | Fox News
Origin of COVID-19 has not been determined two years into the deadly pandemic, but lab-leak theory is no longer widely dismissed
Shortly after the coronavirus outbreak, influential leaders in the science community huddled to say the deadly virus most likely originated naturally from an animal transfer to humans.
New reporting from Fox News’ “Special Report” showed there was an effort by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, then-National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, and other scientists to not mention the possibility of the virus originating in a lab. The consensus was reached on a call in early 2020 that the lab leak theory should be left out of an early paper on COVID-19 origins because it will add “fuel to the conspiracists.”
Two years later, there is no definitive proof that the virus started in nature or that it leaked from a lab. But the theory that the virus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which studies coronaviruses, is no longer shunned as a conspiracy and is gaining more traction among scientific communities calling for further inquiry.
Fox News talked to several scientists and investigators who have studied COVID-19 origins, and here are some reasons – science-based and circumstantial – why they believe the evidence points to the global pandemic originating from a Wuhan lab, possibly from a researcher accidentally getting infected during an experiment with coronaviruses and spreading it into the community.
“When you evaluate the two theories, it is so overwhelmingly in favor of the lab leak that everything else is just incidental evidence about the details of what happened,” said Richard Muller, emeritus professor of physics at the University of California Berkeley, who has been a strong advocate for the lab-leak theory.
Scientists are not in agreement on the origins of the virus, while the U.S. intelligence community also could not draw conclusions on what started the global pandemic that has killed more than 5.7 million people worldwide.
1) No animals have been found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2
Under the natural origin theory, the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, would have originated in an animal and traveled to humans either directly or through an intermediate host animal.
This natural spillover has precedent. For example, researchers traced the first Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 back to bat caves in China’s Yunnan province, and the likely intermediary host animals were masked palm civets that tested positive for the virus.
The trouble with drawing the same conclusion for COVID-19 is that no one has identified an animal that has tested positive for the novel coronavirus that caused the global pandemic.
It’s not for a lack of trying. Investigators tested more than 80,000 animals in China, including hundreds linked to the Huanan seafood market associated with the early cases of COVID-19, but “no positive result was identified for SARS-CoV-2,” the World Health Organization (WHO) study on the origins of COVID-19 says.
“They tested an unprecedented 80,000 animals covering 209 species, including wild, domestic and market animals … and they found no infections in animals,” Muller, the professor emeritus, told Fox News Digital.
“They found nothing. But instead of drawing a scientific conclusion from that, the World Health Organization came up with excuses.”
The controversial World Health Organization (WHO) study on the origins of COVID-19 says the most likely scenario was a transmission from bats to an unknown host animal to humans, while the lab leak is “extremely unlikely.” But even the WHO has backtracked and admitted it was too quick to rule out the lab theory and has revived its investigation.