Fauci Backs Investigation into Wuhan Lab Leak, But Stands by Animal Host Theory

Because knowing the origin of COVID-19 could help prevent future outbreaks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, said he supported investigating multiple theories as to where the virus came from, and that includes speculation it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Once considered a fringe theory that appeared to put undue criticism on Chinese scientists, the possibility that a lab in Wuhan was the starting point for the pandemic is gaining traction. President Joe Biden asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their investigative efforts and the group has not eliminated the lab from a list of possible origin points.

Fauci came under criticism recently for telling National Geographic in May 2020 that the lab leak theory was a "circular argument" and the nature of the virus points to it being naturally occurring. He told SiriusXM's The Joe Madison Show he stands by the belief that it's "much more likely" that COVID-19 was natural and not the result of the Wuhan lab.

"But we can't say that for 100 percent certain," Fauci added. "For that reason, this hypothesis that it might have leaked out of a lab is something that you want to see if you can investigate that in a fair, unbiased, scientifically sound way."

Since the start of the pandemic, people have raised concerns about the world's ability to trust information coming out of China and its ability to be transparent about the outbreak. Censoring medical professionals who raised the alarm early on only magnified concerns and while the Wuhan Institute of Virology has said none of its staff have been infected, which would mean the outbreak couldn't have started in the lab, some aren't willing to take the lab at its word.

Fauci separated Chinese scientists from the government and told Madison that in his experience working with scientists in China they've been "of good faith."

anthony fauci coronavirus origin lab leak
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supports investigating the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a lab, but stands by his belief that it's naturally occurring. Fauci testified before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 11 in Washington, D.C. Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

China vehemently denies that it's been anything less than transparent and that the Wuhan lab was the source of the pandemic, often pointing to a report a team of researchers published in March. The report, co-authored by 25 scientists who visited China earlier this year as part of a World Health Organization-led mission, found the virus being naturally occurring was the most likely scenario and the lab leak theory was the least likely.

However, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, identified shortfalls in their ability to conduct their research and advocated for additional investigations. While the team was leaning toward the belief that the virus jumped from an animal to a human, Ghebreyesus said they didn't make a definitive conclusion about the source of the pandemic.

Some scientists feel the world may never know the true source of the pandemic, but identifying how it began could be beneficial in preventing future outbreaks. If an animal is the source of the outbreak, it would be advisable to invest financially in tracking people who work in close proximity to animals to identify pathogens with pandemic potential before they spread.

"We should be doing better surveillance in animal populations that pose a risk of being the origin of a new pathogen. Our next crisis is already on the planet, but the pathogen has yet to make the jump," Jon Andrus, professor of global health at George Washington University, previously told Newsweek.

Fauci stressed to Madison that it's important there are "lessons learned" from the current pandemic, including how it began.