This website summarizes information about the origin of the CoV-SARS-2 virus that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic. It does not present original research, rather it provides a succinct summary and links to the work of others.
SARS-2 is closely related to beta coronaviruses that are found in horseshoe bats. There are four possible ways that it could have spread from bats to humans in Wuhan, namely:
It could have spread naturally, probably via an intermediate host animal. The earlier SARS-1 virus had jumped from bats to palm civets and then to humans, while the MERS virus spread via camels. However, no intermediate host has been found for SARS-2 despite an extensive search, whereas the intermediate source of SARS-1 (civets) and MERS (camels) had been discovered within a few months [Chan21]. The Chinese CDC has stated that it did not come from the Wuhan seafood (“wet”) market because no animals were found to be infected [Gao22]. The nearest known bats with SARS-CoV-2 like viruses are 1500km away, and bats are quite different from humans making direct cross infection unlikely.
It could have escaped from a laboratory that was studying the virus. Several other viruses are known to have escaped from laboratories, including 3 escapes of SARS-1 and an escape of SARS-2 Delta from a laboratory in Taiwan (it was not created there). There are two major virus laboratories in Wuhan that were known to be studying bat coronaviruses and had often visited distant bat caves.
It could have simply been studied in a lab, or it have been genetically engineered. Genetic engineering technology has greatly advanced in recent years, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology has proudly published papers that describe their engineering of other bat corona viruses. They have also submitted grant applications to continue this Gain of Function research [Drastic21] by inserting a “Furin Cleavage Site” at a specific place, and we find just that insertion in SARS-CoV-2.
It could have been deliberately engineered and released as a bio-weapon by either China or another country. There is neither evidence nor realistic motivation for this hypothesis and it is not discussed further.
This is important because knowing the source of this pandemic will help prevent the next one. In particular, if it is indeed the result of a lab leak then research into dangerous viruses requires much greater scrutiny. Covid-19 has killed over 6 million people, far more than any other recent disaster. [Bionow].
The technology has advanced incredibly, to the point where an arbitrary virus can be artificially created from just a string of letters in a small computer file [Jacobsen21]. There are now thousands of researchers around the world that can easily create viruses potentially far more dangerous than SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, Boston University recently created a chimera (mixture) of SARS-2 viruses is far more virulent than natural strains [Kaiser22].
We live in interesting times.
A concise list of the evidence is at Summary of Evidence
A discussion of the nature of the evidence for a laboratory leak can be found at Evidence vs Proof.
A more detailed analysis including rebuttals can be found at Detailed Evidence. This paper contains many detailed references.
[Chan22d] also provides a good overview of the arguments for and against a lab leak.
Reports and Studies
These are some of the more noteworthy papers concerning the Origin of Covid. More detailed discussion can be found at Detailed Evidence.
- The BBC provides an authoritative overview of some of the evidence in [BBC21a].
- Senate investigation into the origin of Covid. [Senate22].
- Good summary of the case for a lab leak, testimony for a US senate inquiry. [Quay22].
- A recently (2022) released US State Department Summary [State20b].
- Short extract of 2016 video of Peter Daszak explaining why he was funding Gain of Function work on coronaviruses in order to predict future pandemics. [Daszak16].
- In May 2021 senior researchers published a letter calling for a full investigation [Bloom21].
- A 2022 call for a full investigation, contains clear description of the Furin cleavage site [Harrison22].
- In February 2022 an unpublished preprint [Worobey22] claimed that many early cases were clustered around the seafood (“wet”) market provides “dispositive” (irrefutable) evidence against a lab leak. This was then echoed in the international press. See [Wuhan Seafood] for the obvious flaws in this argument. When finally published [Worobey22a] it merely said that there was “insufficient evidence to define upstream events”.
- The prestigious Lancet medical journal has formed a committee to investigate the Origin of Covid-19. Its chair Jeff Sachs has said that evidence of a lab leak has been actively suppressed. [Sachs22a] [Sachs22].
- In February 2020 Peter Daszak organized a letter published in the Lancet that “strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”, but without any justification. They declared no conflicting interests [Calisher20]. However, Peter Daszak is CEO of the Eco Health Alliance, which oversaw the US funding of the Wuhan Institute of Technology.
- [Andersen20] published The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2 which dismissed the laboratory leak hypothesis with weak evidence. For a rebuttal see [ProximalOrigins]. Andersen had earlier said he thought the virus was engineered [Andersen20a].
- The World Health Organization investigated the origin of SARS-2 in February 2021, but did not investigate the laboratory leak hypothesis in any detail [WHO21]. The report was severely criticized by several countries, and head of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that the investigation was “not extensive enough” and it should examine the laboratory leak hypothesis [Tedros21].
- Much of the early work was discovered by Drastic Research and here.
[Segreto21] provides a technical summary.
- US government reports prepared for US President Biden confirmed that a laboratory was a plausible source of SARS-2.
- The prestigious Lancet journal held a commission into all aspects of Covid-19, and concluded that both the lab leak and zootonic origins were possible. [Lancet22]
- An early influential summary of the evidence is [Wade21].
- British Chanel 4 also produced an excellent review of the evidence that is available on YouTube [Malone21]. Also [DWNews21].
- Fun videos [GainOfFunction] (about the 10 million dead).
Controversy and Conspiracies
This is controversial, and people that investigate the laboratory leak hypothesis have been denigrated as “conspiracy theorists”. There are several groups that have a strong conflict of interest over this issue, namely:
- The laboratories themselves, and the Chinese government which has viewed any discussion of the hypothesis as an attack on China. They have removed evidence and actively prevented any solid investigation.
- Government agencies that have funded research in those laboratories, and their agents. In particular, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) via the Eco Health alliance. Fauci was appointed by Bush to defend against bioterrorism and supported Gain of Function research.
- Virologists that have also received funding from the NIH. It is now known that discussions between the NIH and prominent virologists occurred before papers were written that condemned the laboratory leak hypothesis.
- The international community of virologists would not want the pandemic to have been caused by one of their own. Any such finding would also greatly increase the bureaucratic controls on similar research.
- Scientific journals have actively suppressed any discussion of a lab leak because their editors also are senior scientists and they receive some funding from Chinese sources [Birrell21].
- When US President Trump called SARS-2 “the China virus” for political reasons, those on the right and left argued for and against the laboratory leak hypothesis for purely political reasons.
We would like help building this site into a useful and fair minded reference for this important topic. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute.