Accidental Release From a Lab or Zoonotic Spillover? Scientists Call for Investigation Into the Origins of COVID-19

Virus Lab

Understanding the origin of COVID-19 is crucial for shaping global strategies to reduce the risk of future outbreaks.

Letter From Scientists: Investigate the Origins of COVID-19

More investigation is needed to determine the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Jesse Bloom, Alina Chan, Ralph Baric, David Relman and colleagues in this Letter.

“Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” they say. “Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”

The authors highlight a joint China-World Health Organization (WHO) report into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, some results of which were released in November 2020. “WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus commented that the report’s consideration of evidence supporting a laboratory accident was insufficient,” they note. “As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general, the United States and 13 other countries, and the European Union that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve,” they say.

They call for an investigation that is “transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed.” In concluding their Letter, they write: “In this time of unfortunate anti-Asian sentiment in some countries, we note that at the beginning of the pandemic, it was Chinese doctors, scientists, journalists, and citizens who shared with the world crucial information about the spread of the virus — often at great personal cost. We should show the same determination in promoting a dispassionate science-based discourse on this difficult but important issue.”

Reference: “Investigate the origins of COVID-19” by Jesse D. Bloom, Yujia Alina Chan, Ralph S. Baric, Pamela J. Bjorkman, Sarah Cobey, Benjamin E. Deverman, David N. Fisman, Ravindra Gupta, Akiko Iwasaki, Marc Lipsitch, Ruslan Medzhitov, Richard A. Neher, Rasmus Nielsen, Nick Patterson, Tim Stearns, Erik van Nimwegen, Michael Worobey and David A. Relman, 14 May 2021, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abj0016

Authors: J.D. Bloom at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA; J.D. Bloom; A. Iwasaki; R. Medzhitov at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, MD; Y. Alina Chan; B.E. Deverman at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA; R.S. Baric at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC; P.J. Bjorkman at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA; S. Cobey at University of Chicago in Chicago, IL; D.N. Fisman at University of Toronto in Toronto, ON, Canada; R. Gupta at Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology & Infectious Disease in Cambridge, UK; A. Iwasaki; R. Medzhitov at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT; M. Lipsitch at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA; R.A. Neher; E. van Nimwegen at University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland; R.A. Neher; E. van Nimwegen at Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics in Basel, Switzerland; R. Nielsen at University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, CA; N. Patterson at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; T. Stearns; D.A. Relman at Stanford University in Stanford, CA; M. Worobey at University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ; D.A. Relman at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, CA.

6 Comments on "Accidental Release From a Lab or Zoonotic Spillover? Scientists Call for Investigation Into the Origins of COVID-19"

  1. The U.S. has had over 400 global biowarfare labs which have been engineering gain of function viruses for years. The U.S. has a documented history of releasing biological weapons on populations including its own citizens. In 2017, Dr. Fauci announced this pandemic would arrive during Trump’s presidency. Trillions have flowed upwards to the wealthiest since its beginning. The U.S. lied about its bat origin. It looks to be a deliberate U.S. plandemic.

    • No one cares about your China-loving rhetoric. The world knows what that country allowed to happen and they need to be held accountable

  2. said elkhamrihi | May 13, 2021 at 4:43 pm | Reply


  3. The responsibility lies more on the developed countries of the west than the Chinese. The objective of playing with dangerous biotics should have been limited to studying them and develop medicine for therapeutic use in case of infection.
    Sometimes intelligence fails wisdom putting an entire species to peril. Many instances of such follies has been recorded in the pages of history. Playing megalomaniac bully for power doesn’t always help. Neither it helps (the western countries specially) to keep the gun on the shoulders of developing countries (like China) to harvest the result if any, of some activity that poses risk to existence and in the event of failure point the finger of blame on a designated party (the Chinese for instance in this case).
    It will be better for the human race to stop the mad race to become global power and stop bullying weaker species by threat. It’s time for humanity to work for existence by means of peaceful ways rather than maniacal approach. Or else face total elimination someday.

  4. mark otrhalek | May 16, 2021 at 4:10 pm | Reply

    It is just extremely unlikely the covid-19 escaped from a lab. It is a naturally occurring virus with clear origins from bats, no proof it was first in the lab, no proof it could have escaped from the lab, no proof that if it did escape from the lab it was able to spread to humans Like 1/1000 x 1/1000 x 1/1000 odds. The chance is extremely small and not worth the effort to investigate. The right wing folks are just mad that China did not support Trump. Maybe the USA caused the virus, Trumps economic advisor Wilbur Ross initially said that the virus release was good for the USA because it would slow the China economy.

  5. The lack of posterior diversity in the virus indicates beyond reasonable doubt a single initial infection – whether zoonotic or lab release.

    SARS-1 and MERS jumped into the human population many times, and this was recorded by the varying ‘mutation families’ into which the various isolates fell.

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