In the latest volley of the debate over the origins of the coronavirus, a group of scientists this week presented a review of scientific findings that they argue shows a natural spillover from animal to human is a far more likely cause of the pandemic than a laboratory incident.
Among other things, the scientists point to a recent report showing that markets in Wuhan, China, had sold live animals susceptible to the virus, including palm civets and raccoon dogs, in the two years before the pandemic began. They observed the striking similarity that Covid-19’s emergence had to other viral diseases that arose through natural spillovers, and pointed to a variety of newly discovered viruses in animals that are closely related to the one that caused the new pandemic.
The back and forth among scientists is taking place while intelligence agencies are working with an end-of-summer deadline to provide President Biden with an assessment of the origin of the pandemic. There is now a division among intelligence officials as to which scenario for viral origin is more likely.
The new paper, which was posted online on Wednesday but has yet to be published in a scientific journal, was written by a team of 21 virologists. Four of them also collaborated on a 2020 paper in Nature Medicine that largely dismissed the possibility that the virus became a human pathogen through laboratory manipulation.