New England Journal of Medicine | June 7, 2023Read the Publication
When health emergencies arise, scientists seek to discover the cause — such as how a pathogen emerged and spread — because this knowledge can enhance our understanding of risks and strategies for prevention, preparedness, and mitigation. Yet well into the fourth year of the Covid-19 pandemic, intense political and scientific debates about its origins continue. The two major hypotheses are a natural zoonotic spillover, most likely occurring at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, and a laboratory leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). It is worth examining the efforts to discover the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the political obstacles, and what the evidence tells us. This evidence can help clarify the virus’s evolutionary path. But regardless of the origins of the virus, there are steps the global community can take to reduce future pandemic threats.