NIH Director Appeared to Dismiss Wuhan Lab Leak Theory As 'Conspiracy'

The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, appeared to dismiss the Wuhan lab leak theory as a "conspiracy" in April 2020, newly released emails to Dr. Anthony Fauci have revealed.

In an email chain released by BuzzFeed News on Tuesday night, the NIH director sent Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a link to a Mediaite article. This report noted that the Fox News anchor Bret Baier had said "multiple sources" believed COVID-19 could have originated from a Chinese lab.

The April 16 email from Collins had "conspiracy gains momentum" in the subject line. Most of the message was redacted, aside from the link to the Mediaite article. Fauci responded to the email from Collins at 2:45 a.m. on April 17, but his response was also redacted.

Newsweek has contacted the National Institutes of Health for further comment and clarification.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, holds a model of the coronavirus as he testifies at a U.S. Senate hearing on July 2, 2020. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Fox News reported on April 15 last year that there was growing confidence that the novel coronavirus had been engineered at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China. It is believed that COVID-19 first spread in the nearby city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Unnamed sources told Fox News they believed the transmission of the virus had been bat-to-human, adding that "Patient Zero" had worked at the Wuhan laboratory.

In an interview with National Geographic in May 2020, Fauci said the Wuhan lab leak theory was a "circular argument" and the scientific evidence pointed away from the idea.

"If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated," he told the magazine.

However, Fauci told the Poynter Institute on May 11 this year that he was "not convinced" COVID-19 had developed through natural evolution, and said the matter required further investigation. He later clarified that it was still "more likely" that the virus was a natural occurrence.

An intelligence report obtained by The Wall Street Journal in May claimed that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had become sick in November 2019, around the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The three exhibited symptoms of the virus and the flu, the report said.

President Joe Biden has since instructed U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of COVID-19, a move that indicates the lab leak theory is being taken seriously.

The origins of the virus have not yet been confirmed, but many scientists believe it started naturally.

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