A gaggle of high US scientists has pushed again on the World Health Organization’s conclusion that it is “extremely unlikely” COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab — insisting the theory is “viable” and deserves “a proper investigation.”
Eighteen outstanding scientists, together with a Harvard University epidemiologist and a Stanford University microbiologist, are calling for a “transparent” and “data-driven” probe into the origins of the pandemic that has killed greater than 3.34 million folks worldwide as of Friday.
“Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” the scientists wrote in a letter published Thursday within the journal Science.
“Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”
The letter comes after a joint study in March by the WHO and Chinese officers on the origins of the virus concluded that people doubtless turned contaminated by an animal that bought the virus from bats — whereas a laboratory incident was “extremely unlikely.”
But the scientists who penned Thursday’s letter say the prospect of a lab leak can’t be dominated out for the reason that theory was “not given balanced consideration” – with simply 4 pages of the 313-page report dedicated to it.
“Notably, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus commented that the report’s consideration of evidence supporting a laboratory accident was insufficient and offered to provide additional resources,” the letter reads, including that “greater clarity” is inside attain by way of extra investigation.
“We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data,” the letter continued.
“A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the highest US infectious illness skilled, acknowledged on Capitol Hill earlier this month that the virus could have originated in a Wuhan lab and mentioned the likelihood ought to be investigated additional.
“That possibility certainly exists, and I am totally in favor of a full investigation of whether that could have happened,” Fauci advised GOP Sen. Roger Marshall.
A 12 months earlier, in May 2020, Fauci mentioned the virus doubtless “evolved in nature and then jumped species” quite than being “artificially or deliberately manipulated.”
Fauci’s feedback contradicted claims by President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who mentioned there was “enormous evidence” that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, the place the outbreak first emerged in December 2019.
Pompeo, nonetheless, didn’t provide particulars on the time to assist the declare.
One of the scientists who signed Thursday’s letter, in the meantime, told the Los Angeles Times that the potential for a lab escape ought to be additional thought of.
“We believe this question deserves a fair and thorough science-based investigation, and that any subsequent judgment should be made on the data available,” mentioned Dr. David Relman, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University.
“We’re reasonable scientists with expertise in relevant areas and we don’t see the data that says this must be of natural origin.”