Four problems with the lab origin hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 and the WHO-China study

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By Daniel R. Lucey MD, MPH, FIDSA

Today the Joint WHO-China Study 14 January-10 February 2021 for the “WHO-convened Global Study of origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part” was posted on the World Health Organization’s website.  Zero patients with COVID were reported before December 8, 2021, yet 174 patients were found between Dec. 8 to 31, 2019. This means the virus was already spreading from person-to-person.  It is not plausible that there were no infected patients before this COVID-19 surge Dec. 8-31.

Zero infected animals were found or reported in Wuhan or elsewhere in China. The joint team assessment that the most likely origin was a farmed animal in a province in southern China (e.g., Yunnan) where bats have been reported to have (non-SARS-CoV-2) coronaviruses is surely one that China already recognized back in Jan-Feb. 2020. It is not plausible to believe otherwise. Why would China not have recognized and investigated thoroughly this hypothesis over a year ago?

Also disconcerting in this report are four major problems with regard to the lab origin hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 as related to this Joint WHO-China Study.

  • 1st: The 9-page “Terms of References (ToRs) for the China Part” agreed to between China and WHO last July never even mentions the lab origin hypothesis. Accordingly, there was no mandate and no protocol to assess the lab origin hypothesis.
  • 2nd: Despite having no mandate, someone authorized the WHO team to visit four laboratories in Wuhan (Wuhan CDC, Hubei CDC, Hubei Animal CDC, and Wuhan Institute of Virology from February 1 to 3, 2021 (see annexes D5-D7, pages 124-133).
  • 3rd:  Despite no having mandate, and despite not performing any forensic investigation at any of these four laboratories, the conclusion was reached by the joint team that “ . . . a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely” (page 123).
  • 4th:  Immediately after this assessment the question was asked “what would be needed to increase knowledge?” The answer was: “Regular administrative and internal review of high-level biosafety laboratories worldwide. Follow-up of new evidence supplied around possible laboratory leaks.”

For these four reasons, the way the laboratory origins hypothesis was assessed in this joint WHO-China Study could be interpreted as a coup for China.

Dr. Daniel Lucey

Daniel Lucey, M.D. MPH, FIDSA, FACP, is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Infectious Disease adjunct Professor at Georgetown Medical Center, senior scholar at Georgetown Law, Anthropology Research Associate at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee. He served as a volunteer to outbreaks overseas including hands-on Ebola patient care in Sierra Leone and Liberia (Doctors without Borders) 2014, MERS 2013, SARS 2003, as well as HIV, H5N1, Zika, yellow Fever, and pneumonic plague 2017 (with WHO/USAID/CDC).  Since Jan. 6, 2020 he has contributed over 75 posts to Science Speaks on COVID-19 and traveled to China in February 2020. He initially proposed, then fundraised and helped design the content for 2018-2022 Smithsonian Exhibition on Epidemics due to zoonotic viruses. From 1982-1988 he trained at University of California San Francisco and Harvard and was an attending physician at the NIH (NIAID) in the 1990s while in the US Public Health Service.



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