Dr Anthony Fauci still believes Covid emerged naturally — despite mounting indirect evidence of a lab accident.
The former White House doctor told DailyMail.com that while he is keeping ‘an open mind’ about the origin of the pandemic, the ‘data seem to weigh toward it being natural.’
His assessment directly opposes the view of the FBI and other government bodies, which say the virus likely spilled from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a top coronavirus research facility in the epicenter of the original outbreak.
‘I think it’s still an open question,’ said Dr Fauci, 82, speaking to DailyMail.com at a health conference in New York City last week.
‘You have to keep an open mind and look at the data. I think the data that has evolved seem to weigh toward it [Covid] being natural.
His comments came just days after it was revealed that one of China’s earliest suspected Covid patients was a WIV scientist funded by Dr Fauci’s old department.
Dr Anthony Fauci (speaking to DailyMail.com last week) still believes Covid emerged naturally despite mounting indirect evidence of a lab accident
Virologist Shi Zheng-li – nicknamed the ‘Bat Lady’ – is pictured in the lab. She hunted down dozens of deadly Covid-like viruses in bat caves and studied them at the WIV
Dr Fauci claimed that while ‘nothing is definitive’ when it comes to how Covid emerged, ‘there is no real data [that] there was a lab leak.’
He added: ‘But there is data that it likely would be natural. But since you don’t know for sure, you have to keep an open mind.’
Last month, US intelligence reports found that one of the first suspected Covid patients was a WIV scientist who’d received funding from the National Institutes for Health (NIH), which was headed by Dr Fauci until 2022.
Ben Hu was one of three WIV staff who became ill with symptoms consistent with Covid in November 2019 – a month before the official cases began to emerge.
Dr Hu’s work included studying how coronaviruses infect humans, which proponents of the lab leak theory said was more indirect evidence of a research accident.
But Dr Fauci was not convinced. When asked if the revelation made him question the natural origin, he said bluntly: ‘No.’
Dr Fauci spoke to DailyMail.com at the the 2023 Public Health Solutions gala in Tribeca, Manhattan.
Dr Fauci has slowly eased his position on the idea of a lab leak over the past few years after being a vocal critic early in the pandemic.
Leaked emails show that in early 2020, he commissioned a paper denouncing the theory as a conspiracy, then publicized the study at a White House news conference weeks later without disclosing his involvement.
He and other public health experts also publicly dismissed the lab leak – with Dr Fauci saying in June 2021 that it was ‘a very, very, very, very remote possibility.’
It later emerged that, as the head of the NIH, he presided over the allocation of taxpayer-funded grants for virus-enhancing research at the WIV years before the pandemic began.
A federal watchdog found the NIH ‘did not effectively monitor’ those experiments or check whether they involved pathogens with pandemic risk.
Dr Fauci was honored at an event in his home city of NYC last week by the nonprofit Public Health Solutions (shown)
The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic
But there has still been no direct evidence for a natural or synthetic origin, which has left officials divided over the issue.
The Energy Department, FBI and several government committees believe the virus leaked from a lab, pointing to a number of coincidences and indirect evidence.
The WIV – one of the top bat virus hubs in the world – is located at the epicenter of the original Covid outbreak and suffered several security and infection control breaches before the pandemic.
The lab housed viruses considered Covid’s closest known relatives, and its research involved genetically engineering different strains to see how they would infect humans.
However, several other intelligence agencies maintain that the virus was transferred from animals to humans in a natural spillover event.
Advocates of the natural origin point to an early cluster of cases at an animal slaughter market just eight miles from the WIV, where animals known to harbor Covid, such as raccoon dogs, hedgehogs and rats, were kept in squalid conditions.