by Eleanor Bartow
A group of scientists called for a more objective investigation into the source of COVID-19 in an open letter in Science magazine on Thursday.
“A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest,” the 18 scientists wrote, many of whom have conducted extensive research in microbiology and are from top U.S. universities.
A World Health Organization-led team released a report on COVID-19’s origins in March, and the WHO’s director general, the White House, the U.S. State Department and 13 other countries expressed concern that the report was compromised, particularly as China blocked the team’s access to key data.
Public health agencies and research laboratories need to open their records for investigation, the scientists say in their open letter.
“If it wasn’t already clear, this essential @aaas Science letter shld make it 100% obvious that ANY credible examination of #pandemic origins MUST include a comprehensive investigation into whether #COVID19 stems from an accidental lab incident & cover up,” wrote WHO advisor Jamie Metzl on Thursday.
Ralph Baric, professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, is “the US scientist with the greatest knowledge of chimeric coronaviruses & the strongest working relationship” with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to Metzl. If he thinks a lab leak could be the source of COVID-19, “how could anyone legitimately claim otherwise?” Metzl said.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is considered a possible source of COVID-19.
“Baric and Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the two top experts on the genetic interplay between bat and human coronaviruses, began collaborating in 2015,” according to New York magazine in January 2021.
Baric also developed a method for cloning a SARS virus that leaves no trace of human intervention, the magazine reported.
If #RalphBaric, the US scientist with the greatest knowledge of chimeric coronaviruses & the strongest working relationship with the #Wuhan lab thinks a lab incident #pandemic origin is possible, how could anyone legitimately claim otherwise? @Baric_Lab https://t.co/ShyGjKPZHr
— Jamie Metzl (@JamieMetzl) May 13, 2021
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers and other GOP committee members commended the scientists’ letter in a press release: “We are grateful these scientific leaders are speaking out on this matter and hope that others, including experts within the National Institutes of Health, will begin researching the virus’ origins.”
The WHO report did not give the two leading theories of origin balanced consideration, according to the scientists.
“Although there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or a lab accident, the team assessed a zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host as ‘likely to very likely,’ and a laboratory incident as ‘extremely unlikely,’” the scientists wrote.
Discerning COVID-19’s origins is critical in reducing the risk of future outbreaks, the letter says.
“It was Chinese doctors, scientists, journalists, and citizens who shared with the world crucial information about the spread of the virus—often at great personal cost,” the scientists said.
A different group of international scientists had sent a similar letter in April saying the next phase of the WHO investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic must be more scientific and data-driven.
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Eleanor Bartow is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.