A new report released by the U.S. Senate has concluded that the COVID-19 virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, originated in a Chinese laboratory, but was leaked unintentionally.
The 301-page report, produced by a team that included Dr. Robert Kadlec, a former government health official who played a key role in developing COVID-19 vaccines, and staffers on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, was released on April 17 by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Health Committee, who chairs the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security.
The report states that the “preponderance of information supports the plausibility of an unintentional research-related incident that likely resulted from failures of biosafety containment during SARS-CoV-2 vaccine-related research.”
The researchers conducting the report started with two hypotheses: one was that the virus originated in animals before spilling over to humans, known as a natural origin, and the other was a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), located in the same city where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in late 2019.
According to the report, Kadlec’s team of consultants spent approximately 18 months investigating the COVID-19 origins and concluded that the available evidence supports a lab leak. The report suggests that there may have been an aerosol leak that caused an infection of lab personnel or that the virus may have been released to the outside environment due to biocontainment failures. One theory mentioned in the report revolves around cleaning agents causing corrosion of welded seams in the lab, as mentioned in multiple 2019 documents on upgrading the lab.
The report also highlights concerns about biosafety at the WIV that have been raised by both domestic and foreign bodies for years. A 2018 U.S. State Department cable, for instance, reported that the then-newly opened biosafety level four lab at the facility had a “serious shortage” of trained technicians to safely operate the lab. Researchers at the lab, before the pandemic, reported experimenting on mice, bats, and palm civets to find coronaviruses that were more capable of infecting humans, and sometimes experimented at sub-biosafety level four conditions.
The report also points to Chinese reports, communications, and notices as support for the lab leak theory, including an attempt in November 2019 to procure an air incinerator at the lab, which suggested “some concern about the risk of an infectious aerosol escape.” The report also noted that WIV staffers underwent a remedial biosafety training course that same month.
Furthermore, the report concludes that characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 suggest the virus was manmade, including the presence of a furin cleavage site at the same location that was proposed in a grant proposal by EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that funneled U.S. taxpayer money to scientists in Wuhan.
While the exact origin of the COVID-19 virus continues to be debated, this new Senate report adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the likely origin of SARS-CoV-2 as a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.