• The World Health Organization said at a briefing in Geneva that its evidence points to an unaltered lab being the source of the coronavirus pandemic
  • The WHO's report comes after weeks of theories about the pandemic's source, the most notable being that it was a lab-born virus
  • President Trump's administration has been investigating the theory while experts and Chinese officials have labeled it a conspiracy theory

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the evidence it has gathered thus far points to the coronavirus pandemic originated from unaltered animals in China. This comes after weeks of theories online and by some U.S. officials that the virus may have been created in a lab located in Wuhan, where the outbreak began.

“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said during a briefing in Geneva. “It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin.”

Chaib said what wasn’t clear was how the virus could have jumped from animals to humans.

“It most likely has its ecological reservoir in bats but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be seen and discovered,” Chaib said.

Reuters said Chaib was asked about the possibility of the virus escaping from a lab, but did not answer.

The WHO’s update comes almost a week after U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration would begin investigating the origins of the virus. A source told CNN that U.S. intelligence officials were reportedly looking into theories that the virus was created in a lab and was somehow released in a Wuhan market.

Other sources said intelligence officials have not been able to corroborate the theory, but are continuing to investigate.

The unsubstantiated theory seems to have taken on a life of its own and has been pushed by Trump, his administration and conservative media outlets. Fox News said its sources told the outlet the virus was created in a lab as part of China’s efforts to show it identify and fight viruses better than the U.S.

Fox News said “patient zero” was someone who worked in the lab that came into contact with a test bat and began to unknowingly spread the virus.

However, experts outside of the WHO and the U.S. government have continued to push back on the lab theory.

“All evidence so far points to the fact the COVID-19 virus is naturally derived and not man-made,” Menzies Health Institute Queensland immunologist Nigel McMillan told Scimex. “If you were going to design it in a lab the sequence changes make no sense as all previous evidence would tell you it would make the virus worse. No system exists in the lab to make some of the changes found.”

Vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology Yuan Zhiming also called it a conspiracy theory Saturday during an appearance on Chinese broadcaster CGTN.

“As people who carry out viral study, we clearly know what kind of research is going on in the institute and how the institute manages viruses and samples,” Zhiming said. “As we said early on, there is no way this virus came from us.”

The novel coronavirus originated in the animal kingdom and jumped to humans
Representational image of the novel coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Handout