Gottlieb: COVID-19 origins may never be known

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview released on Sunday that the origins of COVID-19 may never be discovered.

"Either we find the intermediate host -- the animal that spread COVID -- or there's a whistleblower inside China. Or someone close to this, who knows that this came out of a lab, comes forward, defects, goes overseas, or we intercept some communication that we shouldn't have had access to. Absent something like that, we're not going to be able to answer this question," Gottlieb said while appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"This is going to be a battle of competing narratives," he added.

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In August, a group of researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in the Nature science journal warning that the window for ascertaining the origins of COVID-19 was closing.

"SARS-CoV-2 antibodies wane, so collecting further samples and testing people who might have been exposed before December 2019 will yield diminishing returns," the researchers wrote at the time.

In his new interview with CBS, Gottlieb blasted the WHO for what he called its unwillingness to confront China during its mission to find COVID-19's origins.

"I think the WHO really did believe China was behaving in sort of an appropriate way and was providing cover for them as they were getting criticized by other parts of the world. Clearly, they weren't, and I think that that was knowable at the time in China didn't share the source strains," Gottlieb said to CBS's Margaret Brennan.

"The head of the WHO didn't want to push China on sharing the source strains publicly because he said, well, they have no commitment to do it, and he's right," he added, noting that there are no international laws that require countries to share virus samples.

"So clearly, the spirit of the International Health Regulations was that this should be shared. But because it wasn't the letter of the law, the W.H.O. didn't want to push China publicly to do it, even though that would have been very helpful for other nations," said Gottlieb.

--Updated at 9:34 a.m.