WHO Nixes “Lab Created” COVID-19 Theory

Image: CDC

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

World Health Organization expert Dr. Peter Ben Embarek revealed this week that the organization’s team of researchers have found two scenarios that could have transferred COVID-19 to humans. He acknowledges that COVID-19 could have been transmitted through frozen products at the Wuhan fish market, but the most likely scenario was that an intermediary host species transmitted the diseases to humans. 

Why This Matters: Early in the pandemic, some speculated that a lab-related incident introduced COVID-19 to humans, but this new evidence undermines this theory — the WHO said it was the least likely of the theories they were considering. This finally puts to rest this speculation that was endorsed by former President Donald Trump that the virus was either manufactured at or accidentally leaked from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Findings suggest that the laboratory hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” Embarek said.

Moreover, an introduction through an intermediary host prompts ideas for new studies that could bring us closer to the origins of the coronavirus. One hypothesis, in this vein, is a “direct zoonotic spillover” — a direct transmission from an animal reservoir to a human. This also indicates that global leaders must act quickly to protect at least 30% of nature by 2030 in order to limit the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans and prevent the next pandemic. 

Finding the Origins of the Coronavirus: Experts believe that the first COVID-19 cases transmitted from the Huanan seafood market were in early December or late November 2019. The WHO team also found evidence that the virus circulated outside the market, even in late 2019.  

However, we’re still far from understanding exactly how COVID-19 spread to humans. Dr. Peter Daszak, a zoologist who is part of the WHO team in Wuhan, China, said to CNN that it may take “a couple of years” to get “a really clear pictureof the origins of COVID-19. Finding a “patient zero” for the coronavirus is much more difficult than for other diseases, because there are so many asymptomatic carriers.

This new information from WHO paints a clearer, though not full, picture of how the novel coronavirus came to be. As Embarek put it:Did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don’t think so. Did we add details? Absolutely.”


Up Next

PFAS in Protective Gear Put Firefighters at Risk of Cancer 

PFAS in Protective Gear Put Firefighters at Risk of Cancer 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has required PFAS, cancer-causing chemicals used in manufacturing, in firefighting gear for years despite cancer being the leading killer of firefighters. An extensive investigative two-part story by E&E News’ Ariel Wittenberg reveals not only the dangers of current equipment standards but the lengths the NFPA has gone to hide them.

Why This Matters: A study of 30,000 firefighters from 2010 to 2015 found that firefighters have an increased risk of many different cancers including: leukemia, malignant mesothelioma, bladder and prostate cancers, lung cancer, brain cancer, and digestive and oral cancers.

Continue Reading 451 words
Allergy Season is Getting Longer, and Communities of Color Will Suffer the Most

Allergy Season is Getting Longer, and Communities of Color Will Suffer the Most

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer A new study published Monday has found that a second, sneezier plague is ramping up. Allergy seasons have increased in duration by an average of 20 days since 1990. Why? Rising temperatures and an abundance of atmospheric carbon are increasing the amount of pollen in the air, and researchers say the […]

Continue Reading 444 words
Top Ten Stories of 2020:  The Pandemic and Its Links To Pollution and Biodiversity Loss

Top Ten Stories of 2020: The Pandemic and Its Links To Pollution and Biodiversity Loss

This year has been indelibly shaped by the COVID pandemic — it literally changed everything.  What has become clear as a result is that environmental injustice was exacerbated by the pandemic, and if we don’t repair our relationship with the natural world we are going to face more deadly pandemics in the future.  For the […]

Continue Reading 350 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.