A group of scientists urged the World Health Organization to order further investigations into the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Nearly 18 scientists have published a letter in a top scientific journal stating for more investigation to determine the origin of COVID-19 as there is not enough evidence to decide whether the virus originated from nature or a laboratory leak. 

The letter asks for evidence of proper, transparent, objective, data-driven investigation about both the natural and laboratory spillovers until we have sufficient data.  

According to The New York Times, scientists are not the ones in the scientific community to ask for more investigation regarding the COVID-19 origin. Previous statements have favored one theory, though the scientists tried to remain neutral, the current theory is not strong enough to decide the origin. 

The authors of the letter include Dr. David Relman, professor of microbiology at Stanford University. Ralph Bri, professor of epidemiology who has spent decades studying coronaviruses and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of Center of Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard, uses mathematical modeling to study infectious disease transmission.  

Most of the discussion about the virus comes from the relatively small number of people who feel certain about their views, says Jesse Bloom, lead author of the letter and associate professor. He also added, “ Anybody who’s making this statement with a high level of certainty about this is just outstripping the availability evidence.” 

The first outbreak of COVID-19 origin was identified in Wuhan, China, and this place is also home to a high-security virus lab. This triggers the suspicion of the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan lab. The origin of the virus is still in debate and experts say we still do know where the virus originated.

In March 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its first report of a two-long months investigation about the virus’s origin. WHO partnered with the global health body and Chinese scientists to release this report. In the report, they declared that the virus spillover from wildlife through an intermediate host and declared that the virus didn’t spread from the Chinese lab. 

Many countries including the U.S and 13 others criticized the report for lack of transparency and incomplete data and released a statement expressing their concerns. Some experts who are not involved in the letter said they support the need for further investigation on the virus’s origin but there is more evidence that the virus origin was the result of the zoonotic emergence rather than a laboratory accident.