The Contested Origin of SARS-CoV-2

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article describes what is known about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, with implications for policy, biological research and public-health surveillance. Theories about the origin include a natural emergence; a laboratory accident with a naturally harvested strain; an accident with a naturally harvested strain modified in a laboratory; and the deliberate creation of a biological weapon. While available scientific evidence points to a natural zoonotic event as the origin of SARS-CoV-2, this paper recommends specific steps governments and scientific institutions should take to address uncertainties about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to make all potential causes for a pandemic less likely to produce one in the future. Immediate steps include promoting international scientific collaboration, addressing scientific misinformation and disinformation, fully implementing ‘One Health’ and reining in the illegal wildlife trade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-36
Number of pages30
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • China
  • One Health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • World Health Organization
  • Wuhan
  • coronavirus
  • illegal wildlife trade
  • pandemic
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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