The Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that the U.S. intelligence community is investigating whether the coronavirus pandemic began after an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China. The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” a statement from the office of acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell said, Fox reported.
“As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security. The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the statement said.
There have been numerous reports that a Wuhan laboratory is the most likely source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has swept across the globe. According to a U.S. government analysis that catalogs evidence concludes that other explanations for the origin of the coronavirus are less credible, The Washington Times reported.
The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported. But “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.
“Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab,” The New York Post wrote back on Feb. 11.
The story said Chinese leader Xi Jinping “didn’t actually admit that the coronavirus now devastating large swaths of China had escaped from one of the country’s bioresearch labs. But the very next day, evidence emerged suggesting that this is exactly what happened, as the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology released a new directive titled: ‘Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.’ …
It turns out that in all of China, there is only one. And this one is located in the Chinese city of Wuhan that just happens to be … the epicenter of the epidemic. That’s right. China’s only Level 4 microbiology lab that is equipped to handle deadly coronaviruses, called the National Biosafety Laboratory, is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
But an analysis of SARS-CoV-2 by a group of researchers found evidence that the virus may have occurred naturally. They compared the genome of the new coronavirus with the seven other coronaviruses known to infect humans and drew a clear conclusion: “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” they wrote in the journal Nature Medicine.
The researchers compared SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2, HKU1, NL63, OC43 and 229E and compared the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and how it binds with receptors called ACE-2 (to be highly technical, ACE-2 is a type I transmembrane metallocarboxypeptidase with homology to ACE).
“The RBD of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution different from those previously predicted. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used. However, the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone,” the researchers wrote.
“The overall molecular structure of this virus is distinct from the known coronaviruses and instead most closely resembles viruses found in bats and pangolins that had been little studied and never known to cause humans any harm,” the researchers wrote.