Origin of coronavirus divides US intelligence services

Some scientists accept the Labourique theory, but some believe the virus originated in animals, mutated, and then infected humans.

WASHINGTON — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and health organizations around the world have been unable to resolve a crucial question: Did the virus come from animals or did it escape from a Chinese lab?

The U.S. Department of Energy now rates the report as “low confidence” that it started with a leak in a laboratory, according to a person familiar with the report who was not authorized to discuss it. increase. The report has not been published.

But others in the U.S. intelligence community disagree.

“There is currently no consensus in the U.S. government as to exactly how COVID started. There is no intelligence agency consensus,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

The DOE’s conclusions, first reported in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend, were based on new intelligence and were listed in a 2021 update to the document. DOE oversees a national network of laboratories.

A White House official Monday declined to confirm press reports about the valuation.

For 2021, the agency has released a summary of information reports that include: Four members of the U.S. Intelligence Service There was low confidence that the virus was first transmitted from animals to humans, and one-fifth believed with medium confidence that initial human transmission was linked to the laboratory.

While some scientists accept the Labourique theory, others continue to believe that the virus originated in animals, mutated, and made its way to humans. As with previous viruses. Experts say the true origins of the pandemic may not have been known for years.


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment for the report. All 18 US intelligence agencies had access to the information the DOE used to arrive at its assessment.

Alina Zhang, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, said she didn’t know what new information the authorities had, but it was activity at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. He said it was “reasonable to speculate” that it was related to She said a 2018 research proposal co-authored by scientists there and their US collaborators “essentially describes the blueprint for a virus like COVID.”

“Less than two years later, a virus like this hit the city,” she said.

The Wuhan Institute has been studying coronaviruses for years because of widespread concerns (dating back to SARS) that they could be the cause of the next pandemic.

No intelligence agency has said it believes the coronavirus that caused COVID-19 was intentionally released. The 2021 Unclassified Abstract is clear on this point, stating that it “determines that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon.”

“Lab accidents happen with alarming frequency. Chan, who co-authored a book on Accidents like this “underscore the need for more transparency and accountability in working with highly dangerous pathogens.”

last year, Recommended by the World Health Organization Investigate possible lab accidents in greater depth. Chan said he hopes the latest reports will spark further investigations in the United States.

China has called the suggestion that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory “baseless.”

support for the animal theory

many scientists believe The animal-to-human theory of the coronavirus remains far more plausible. They theorize that it emerged in the wild and jumped from bats to humans, either directly or through another animal.

In a 2021 research paper in the journal Cell, scientists said the COVID-19 virus is the ninth recorded coronavirus to infect humans, all previous ones originating in animals.

Two studies published last year by the journal Science supported the animal origin theory. That investigation found that Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was likely the initial epicenter. Scientists concluded he could have shed the virus from animals to humans on two occasions.

“The scientific literature contains only original research papers that support the natural origin of this viral pandemic,” said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who has extensively studied the origins of COVID-19.

He said the fact that others in the intelligence community saw the same information as the DOE and “apparently didn’t move the needle” speaks volumes. He takes such intelligence assessments with a grain of salt because the people who create them “have no scientific expertise…really understand the most important evidence they need to understand.” I don’t think I will.

The US needs to be more transparent and release new information that has clearly upset the DOE, Worobey said.

Reactions to reports

The DOE’s conclusion is that House Republicans are using their new majority powers to investigate all aspects of the pandemic, including its origins, in an effort by officials to cover up the fact that it leaked from a Wuhan lab. It is clear from what they claim that . Earlier this month, Republicans sent a letter Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes, Secretary of Health Xavier Bessera and others as part of their investigative efforts.

Fauci, now retired, who has served as the country’s top infectious disease expert under both Republican and Democratic presidents, called the Republican criticism nonsense.

Texas Rep. Mike McCall, who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, called on the Biden administration to provide Congress with a “complete and thorough” briefing on the report and the evidence behind it.

Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, stressed that he believes it’s important for President Joe Biden to know what happened to the rest of the world. “

Contributed by AP reporters Farnoush Amiri, Nomaan Merchant and Seung Min Kim. Ungar reported from Louisville, Kentucky

https://www.wtol.com/article/news/nation-world/coronavirus-origins-intelligence-community-divided-lab-leak-or-animal/507-b880eea0-f488-4d29-8847-136ffb00690a Origin of coronavirus divides US intelligence services

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