ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said there is growing evidence to suggest COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.
“People a year ago who said this probably came from nature, it’s really unlikely it came from a lab, maybe a year ago that kind of a statement made a lot of sense because that was the more likely scenario,” Gottlieb said on CNBC Monday. “But we haven’t found the true source of this virus.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence document said that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized after coming down with “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness,” in November 2019.
The first cases of COVID-19 were identified in December 2019.
The Wuhan lab had been studying coronaviruses in bats and has a history of military research. Bat DNA is found in COVID-19.
The intelligence community does not know what the researchers were actually sick with. The Wall Street Journal said investigators have been attempting to get that data from Chinese authorities.
A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, said, “Through field visits and in-depth visits in China, the experts unanimously agreed that the allegation of lab leaking is extremely unlikely.”
“I’ve read it, it’s a complete lie,” Wuhan Biosafety Lab director Yuan Zhiming said to Chinese-run tabloid Global Times on Monday. “Those claims are groundless. The lab has not been aware of this situation, and I don’t even know where such information came from.”
CNN reports that the process of declassifying the intelligence fact sheet took a long time, and certain details were redacted from the released version.
The World Health Organization conducted an investigation of the virus’ origins and determined that it most likely came from an animal host, and rated the risk of accidental leak from the lab as being “extremely low.” However, the CDC has acknowledged “one possibility” that it originated in a lab.
The World Health Organization has been criticized for being overly deferential to China during the course of its investigation, the final report being co-authored by 17 Chinese scientists, several of whom work at government-run institutions.
Scientists have yet to discover definitive proof that the virus came from an animal, according to Gottlieb, adding that with other novel coronaviruses, namely SARS and MERS, researchers were able to identify the source animal for the virus by this point in those outbreaks.
“The question for a lot of people is going to be when are too many coincidences too much, when does it seem that there’s too many things suggesting that this could have come out of a lab,” he said.
Global health experts will meet soon to further investigated the virus’ origins.