The lab-leak theory lives! Or better put: It never dies. In response to new but unspecified intelligence, the U.S. Department of Energy has changed its assessment of COVID-19’s origins: The agency, which was previously undecided on the matter, now rates a laboratory mishap ahead of a natural spillover event as the suspected starting point.
There are more and more high-containment labs being built around the world — and no universal agreement on how to regulate or monitor them.
The problem, says Ayelet Berman, who leads the Global Health Law and Governance Program at National University of Singapore’s Center for International Law, is that in the existing political climate, China has nothing to gain from being more transparent. And that sets a dangerous precedent. Berman says that inquiries and research on future outbreaks may be similarly hampered by origin countries’ fears of facing economic and social backlash.
For some lab-leak theorists, the fact that so many prominent experts converged so rapidly on a declaration of natural origin so soon after expressing their doubts is proof of a “zoonotic conspiracy” — a coordinated effort to suppress discussion of the possible lab origins of SARS-CoV-2.
We’re only human, and we’re as susceptible as everybody else to cognitive biases and self-interest.
Once the theory was dismissed and derided. Now it is back and gaining currency.
Talk of ‘gain-of-function’ research, a muddy category at best, brings up deep questions about how scientists should study viruses and other pathogens.
We know enough to acknowledge that the scenario is possible, and we should therefore act as though it’s true.
Yes, the Department of Energy says the virus most likely came from a lab. No, the DOE isn’t very sure at all—and other agencies disagree.
A new report from the top medical journal says it’s “feasible.” But critics have a few concerns.
The take-home message is the COVID pandemic probably did begin where the first cases were detected – at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
At the same time this lays to rest the idea that the virus escaped from a laboratory.
The messy public debate about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is the endpoint of over a year of failures on the part of science communicators.
From a scientific perspective alone, it is important to investigate the lab-leak hypothesis because, if true, we have to tighten safety procedures to prevent future leaks.
We don’t need to know how this pandemic started to begin to prevent the next one.
We may never know for sure if the virus that causes Covid-19 leaked from a lab. But that won’t stop the debate.
Both pandemic-origin arguments depend on coincidence.
Throughout 2020, the notion that the novel coronavirus leaked from a lab was off-limits. Those who dared to push for transparency say toxic politics and hidden agendas kept us in the dark.
Before COVID-19, few scientists would have pegged the city of Wuhan, in temperate central China, as a likely starting point for a global coronavirus pandemic. Its climate and fauna don't fit the bill. But the city of 11 million straddling the Yangtze River is home to some of China's most advanced biological research laboratories. And one of the secretive, state-run institutions, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, is known to conduct experiments on the kind of virus that has killed nearly 3 million people worldwide so far since late 2019.
U.S. spy agencies are about to report on COVID-19’s origins, but don’t hold your breath.
Each new revelation is a reminder of how little is actually known.
... 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.