A classified study of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 conducted a year ago by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Department of Energy’s premier biodefense research institution in US suspects that the novel coronavirus may have originated in a laboratory in China, as per a news report.
Researchers at Livermore’s “Z Division,” the lab’s intelligence unit, issued the report classified as “Top Secret” during May last year. The Z Division report assessed that both the lab-origin theory and the zoonotic theory were plausible and warranted further investigation.
The existence of the report was unknown thus far but was confirmed by a correspondent of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group who communicated with the research team.
In an email to Sinclair, a Livermore spokesperson confirmed the existence of the report but declined to provide additional information.
As per the WJLA report, Avril Haines, the new director of national intelligence, testified that the U.S. intelligence community is actively investigating both theories. Haines added that Chinese leaders “have not been forthcoming through this process,” and that U.S. analysis “is not based on an assumption that what they say is true.”
The Lab-origin Theory
The lab-origin theory is predicated on the fact that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – located, like the wet markets, in the central Chinese city that was the epicentre of the outbreak – has long been at the forefront of China’s research on bat coronaviruses.
According to a “fact sheet” released by the State Department on January 15, WIV personnel work closely with the Chinese military and have conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus with the closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2 percent). The lab has also published findings from “gain-of-function” research, which is aimed at increasing the transmissibility of viruses among humans.
While some believe that SARS-CoV-2 accidentally “leaked” from WIV personnel, few attribute the accident to legitimate medical research, the others to prohibited biological-weapons research. It may be recalled that the joint WHO-Chinese report termed the lab-origin theory “extremely unlikely.”
The suspicion expressed by top scientists at Lawrence Livermore is fuelling calls for a new probe into the origin of the Coronavirus.