About this episode
As COVID-19 spread throughout the world in the spring of 2020, most scientists accepted the pandemic origin story as told by China and supported by the WHO: the virus jumped from an animal to a human in a Wuhan wet market. Yet after examining how COVID-19 spread among humans and infected its hosts, a few scientists began to question the role of nature in its creation. They found evidence which pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab where pathogenic viruses were being studied, and enhanced, in their capacity to infect people. In the fall of 2019, they argue, one of these research subject viruses infected a lab worker and escaped, spreading to the nearby population and beyond. After many months of being dismissed as a conspiracy theory, a growing number of scientists and government agencies have begun to warm to this hypothesis, calling for further investigations into the Wuhan lab and more transparency from the Chinese government. Some scientists, however, are not persuaded.
A number of virologists who studied the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genome sequence are steadfast in their belief that the virus is nature borne. Not only do its genetic sequences and protein structures mimic a bat virus, the way it infects humans does not suggest any biological engineering. The suggestion that COVID-19 leaked from a lab is a dangerous conspiracy theory not supported by the facts which could affect the study of other coronaviruses and harm our preparedness for future pandemics.