Evidence that Covid-19 originally leaked from a Wuhan, China, virology lab is growing, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday, pointing to reports that three researchers from the lab sought hospital care with a Covid-like illness in November 2019.
“People a year ago who said this probably came from nature, it’s really unlikely it came from a lab, maybe a year ago that kind of a statement made a lot of sense because that was the more likely scenario,” Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said on “Squawk Box.” “But we haven’t found the true source of this virus.”
Scientists still haven’t discovered definitive proof that the virus came from an animal, he said. With other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, researchers were able to identify the animal those diseases emerged from at this point in those outbreaks.
“It’s not for lack of trying, there has been an exhaustive search,” Gottlieb said.
A previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report found that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care after falling ill “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness,” The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, quoting from the report.
Gottlieb said the growing number of reports provide an increasing amount of circumstantial evidence supporting the theory that the virus could have escaped from a lab.
“The question for a lot of people is going to be when are too many coincidences too much, when does it seem that there’s too many things suggesting that this could have come out of a lab,” he said.
Gottlieb said it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure. Unless there is a whistleblower or regime change in China, he said any evidence supporting the lab leak hypothesis won’t likely surface.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly said the virus most likely came from an animal host.
But last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that it could have originated in a lab as “one possibility.”
Most coronaviruses, however, “generally come from an animal origin,” Walensky said in Senate testimony after saying she had not seen enough data to give her opinion on how the current pandemic originated.
Global health officials will meet soon to further investigate the origins of the virus.