Story at a glance

  • Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Monday told CNBC the true origin of COVID-19 has yet to be discovered.
  • “I think the challenge right now is that the side of the ledger that supports the thesis that this [COVID-19] came from a zoonotic source, from an animal source, hasn’t budged and the side of the ledger that suggests this could have come out of a lab has been continuing to grow,” Gottlieb said.
  • Gottlieb said researchers were able to identify the source of other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS at this point in those outbreaks.

The former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says evidence that the coronavirus may have originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, continues to grow as researchers have yet to definitively prove the virus jumped from an animal to humans

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday reported that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care in November 2019, citing a U.S. intelligence report. 


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The report issued in the last days of the Trump administration said researchers at the lab became sick “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.” It’s not clear how all three researchers became sick. 

The report has fueled debate regarding the theory COVID-19 originated from a lab. 

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Monday told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that circumstantial evidence to suggest the lab-leak theory is increasing. 

“I think the challenge right now is that the side of the ledger that supports the thesis that this [COVID-19] came from a zoonotic source, from an animal source, hasn’t budged and the side of the ledger that suggests this could have come out of a lab has been continuing to grow,” Gottlieb said. 

“We haven’t found the intermediate host. We found no evidence of this virus in an animal anywhere,” he said. 

“We haven’t found the true source of the virus. And with MERS and SARS, at this point with those outbreaks, those epidemics, we had found the intermediate host. And it’s not for lack of trying. There’s been an exhaustive search” he added. 

Gottlieb noted, however, that it is unlikely the world will ever know for sure whether COVID-19 escaped from the lab unless there’s a whistleblower or regime change in China. 

While the World Health Organization (WHO) published findings from an investigation that the virus most likely jumped from an animal to humans, groups of several prominent scientists have called for a more thorough and truly independent investigation, arguing officials were not granted access to the necessary raw data by Chinese authorities. 


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Published on May 24, 2021