Former FDA chief: Growing circumstantial evidence that COVID 'could have come out of a lab'

Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said Monday that there is growing circumstantial evidence suggesting that COVID-19 may have originated in a lab and not in nature.

CNBC’s “Squawk Box” co-host Rebecca Quick asked Gottlieb what he made of a Wall Street Journal article published Sunday that said three employees at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had sought hospital treatment for flu-like symptoms around the same time COVID-19 began to emerge in China.

“I think the challenge right now is that the side of the ledger that supports the thesis that this 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 continued to grow,” said Gottlieb, who left the FDA in April 2019 and now sits on the board of Pfizer.

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“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 added.

He said the source of COVID-19 has yet to be identified and noted that the origins of related diseases were usually identified at this point following the initial outbreak. 

“It’s not for lack of trying. There has been an exhaustive search,” Gottlieb said of COVID-19.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to get to the bottom of this,” he added. “Because unless we have a whistleblower — assuming it did come out of a lab, and I’m not saying it did, but assuming it did — unless we have a whistleblower or a regime change in China, you’re not going to truly find out.”

“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?” Gottlieb said. "And right now there's more and more circumstantial evidence, certainly."

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Anthony FauciAnthony FauciCNN: Every county in Florida, Arkansas rated 'high transmission' for community spread Rising case count reignites debate over COVID-19 restrictions Trump surgeon general: 'Pandemic is spiraling out of control' MORE, chief medical adviser to President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football MORE and the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said during an event earlier this month that he was "not convinced" that COVID-19 originated in nature.

“I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened," Fauci said.

"Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals. But it could have been something else, and we need to find that out," Fauci added. "So, you know, that's the reason why I said I'm perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus."