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New Details Emerge About Origins of SARS-CoV-2, Questioning Whether Pandemic Was Caused by a Laboratory Accident

Clinical laboratories and meta-analysis recently published casts doubts on serology test performance, Abbott antigen test

Shifting narrative and emerging evidence renews interest in the possibility that a laboratory accident released SARS-CoV-2 into human circulation

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of how the virus originated has been an area of interest for researchers. Understanding the origins of the pandemic is not just a matter of satisfying curiosity but could be crucial to helping prevent another pandemic in the future.

There have been two conflicting theories about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus became infectious to humans. The first theory posits that the virus was transmitted to humans from animals that were sold in a wet market in Wuhan China. This theory holds that an animal, most likely a bat, served as a vector for a coronavirus that mutated to allow human transmission. This theory has been exclusively accepted by most mainstream sources—until recently.

The second theory holds that SARS-CoV-2 was a modified coronavirus that developed in a research laboratory and escaped from the lab. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is about five miles from the Wuhan wet market, and its close proximity makes this concept a feasible idea.

If Clinical Laboratory Accident Caused SARS-CoV-2, Then What?

There is also a variation of the second theory that suggests instead of being accidentally released from the laboratory, SARS-CoV-2 was deliberately designed as a weapon, then released intentionally. This variation is not seriously entertained as a possibility by most people, and it should not be confused with the more serious theory that a clinical laboratory accident resulted in the unintentional release of the virus.

While the idea that a laboratory accident resulted in the COVID-19 pandemic has been dismissed by most people over the course of the pandemic, interest in this possibility has been renewed recently, and this theory has been seriously entertained by mainstream sources.

Two Influential Statements Sparked Renewed Interest in Laboratory Accident Theory

The beginning of this shift in perspective started with an article published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Nicholas Wade, a respected scientific writer who has worked for Nature, Science, and the New York Times. Wade conducted an in-depth analysis of existing research and suggested that the foundational concepts for a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 were not as conclusive as they appeared.

Wade explains how the concept of natural origin was heavily influenced by strongly worded statements from two scientific groups. The first statement, published in The Lancet, was later found to be organized and drafted by the president of an organization that funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, says Wade. Wade explains that this conflict of interest was not disclosed when the statement was published in The Lancet.

The second influential statement that Wade discusses is an opinion piece published in the journal Nature Medicine. In this piece, the authors give two reasons that SARS-CoV-2 must have arisen naturally. Wade breaks down these two reasons and shows that both of them are not based on sound arguments—that there are many possible explanations the authors failed to consider.

Wade then went on to discuss several of the inadequacies of the natural emergence theory and to show that there were many reasons that a laboratory accident could be a reasonable explanation. Wade also explores publicly available records outlining grants that describe the intentions of researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to perform coronavirus research that investigated cross-species infection and would have potentially increased the infectivity of coronaviruses in humans.

Wuhan Lab Researchers Reportedly Became Ill

Wade’s extensive research was met with varying degrees of skepticism and support; however, events since his article was initially published have renewed an interest in the idea that the virus was accidentally released from a laboratory. The first event that helped to push this idea back into mainstream conversation was a report by The Wall Street Journal discussing previously unreleased US intelligence findings. These finding showed that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care for symptoms of seasonal illnesses that were also consistent with COVID-19.

The day after The Wall Street Journal released this report, President Biden announced a closer intelligence review into the virus’s origins, specifically noting that both theories of the pandemic’s origins were considered “likely scenarios.” Anthony Fauci, MD, one of the most prominent voices in national messaging on COVID-19 has also recently asserted that he is “not convinced” that COVID-19 developed naturally, and Fauci has called for a more thorough investigation into the pandemic’s origin.

Facebook Now Allows Spreading COVID-19 Origins Ideas

Adding to the discussion about the virus’s origins, Facebook has recently announced that it will allow its users to share posts and discuss the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 could be a man-made virus. Until this announcement, Facebook was prohibiting discussion on this topic to prevent the spread of what was perceived as misinformation and to reduce speculations that fact-checkers viewed as conspiratorial thought. This policy revision by Facebook indicates a change in the mainstream perspective on the possibility of the laboratory accident theory.

While the laboratory accident theory explaining the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is gaining mainstream consideration, it is by no means proven to be true. There is still no conclusive evidence about the virus’s origins. The good news is that the shift in national perspective and increased openness to both possibilities will improve the chances that the truth is eventually discovered.

—By Caleb Williams, Editor, STAT Intelligence Briefings

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