Covid Likely Caused by "Research-Related Incident": Report

Covid Likely Caused by "Research-Related Incident": Report

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions interim report says that the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic likely came from a “research-related incident” rather than a “natural zoonotic spillover.”

“While precedent of previous outbreaks of human infections from contact with animals favors the hypothesis that a natural zoonotic spillover is responsible for the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 that resulted in the COVID-19 pandemic was most likely the result of a research-related incident,” the report states. “This conclusion is not intended to be dispositive,” it adds, however.

China’s reluctance to share information on the virus without state review and the country’s lack of transparency and collaboration has made the virus’s origins difficult to track. The report states that while coronaviruses are not necessarily rare, “there are a number of anomalies in the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and the early COVID-19 pandemic compared to the emergence of past natural zoonotic spillovers, most notably the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic.”

The report also adds that the virus likely originated from a bat, but that it’s unclear how it traveled from the caves of Southeast Asia to Wuhan in central China.

“Almost three years after the Covid-19 pandemic began there is still no evidence of an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2, or a closely related virus, before the first publicly reported human COVID-19 cases in Wuhan in December 2019.”

The report states that the most likely scenario “for a zoonotic origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is that SARS-CoV-2 crossed over the species barrier from an intermediate host to humans.”

However, available evidence also points to a direct bat-to-human spillover.

“Both scenarios remain plausible and, in the absence of additional information, should be considered equally valid hypotheses. However, nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, critical evidence that would prove that the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and resulting COVID-19 pandemic was caused by a natural zoonotic spillover is missing,” the report continues.

“Based on the available evidence,” the report says, “Wuhan is the only location where SARS-CoV-2 spilled over into humans,” and “The low genetic diversity of the earliest SARS-CoV-2 samples suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is most likely the result of a single successful spillover of SARS-CoV-2.”

The report also says that the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China had been doing research on coronaviruses and gathering samples from bats in Southeast Asia since the end of the SARS epidemic in 2004, and that samples were collected form areas where SARS-related coronaviruses resemble Covid-19 the most.

“Senior coronavirus researcher Shi Zhengli disclosed that in 2018-2020, her team infected civets and humanized mice that expressed human ACE2 receptors with chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses. The results of these experiments have never been published,” the report states.

“The EcoHealth Alliance NIH grants and DARPA grant proposals, in partnership with the WIV, sought to collect and conduct genetic recombination experiments on SARS-related coronaviruses with specific traits that made those viruses a ‘high-risk’ for zoonotic spillover into animals and humans. SARS-CoV-2 shares many of the traits these researchers were interested in finding in SARS-related coronaviruses or interested in engineering such traits if they were not found naturally,” they added.

“… Based on the analysis of the publicly available information, it appears reasonable to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic was, more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident. New information, made publicly available and independently verifiable, could change this assessment. However, the hypothesis of a natural zoonotic origin no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt, or the presumption of accuracy,” the report concluded.


Join the Newsletter