WASHINGTON (Xinhua) — Anthony Fauci, the top expert on infectious disease in the United States, has rejected a conspiracy theory claiming that the novel coronavirus was made in a lab.
“A group of highly-qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences in bats as they evolve,” Fauci said on Friday during a press briefing at the White House. “The mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”
The remarks of Fauci, directer of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, came as some U.S. politicians and media outlets are pushing the conspiracy theory that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab despite lack of hard evidence.
Fauci underscored in his remarks that studies of the virus’ genome have strongly indicated that it was transmitted from an animal to a human rather than created or enhanced in a laboratory setting, as a review in a scientific journal found.
Fauci was referring to a study published in Nature Medicine in March, in which researchers said “they do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”
The study entitled “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2”, led by computational biologist Kristian Andersen at Scripps Research in California, compared the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, to the six other coronaviruses known to infect humans.
“Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” the study said.
According to Politico, a website ran by American political opinion company, scientists are largely skeptical of the idea of lab-made coronavirus.
“But it has given the president’s supporters an alluring new talking point as they seek to deflect blame for the pandemic’s brutal toll on the United States.”
So far, there is no hard evidence that exists to support the idea, Politico said citing multiple sources familiar with the matter. A former senior intelligence official said the lab theory “is not at all conclusive.”
Business Insider, U.S. financial and business news website, reported that strong criticism came from Democratic lawmakers and public health experts over Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.
Some Democrats and former US officials have accused Trump of using China and the WHO “as a scapegoat to deflect from his own failures in handling coronavirus,” John Haltiwanger said in the article published Sunday.