A review by the United States' intelligence community did not reach a firm conclusion on the origin of the coronavirus that sparked the COVID-19 pandemic, but it still may prove quite helpful moving forward.
While the report, ordered by President Biden earlier this year, determined only that both natural spillover from an infected animal and a lab leak were plausible theories as to how the pathogen jumped to humans, an unclassified summary of the report released Friday did show that there was broad agreement among the intelligence community on multiple areas, including that the virus was "not developed as a biological weapon" and that Chinese officials "did not have foreknowledge" of the virus ahead of the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, back in the fall of 2019.
Those don't provide a clear answer to the origin question, but they're still "significant," Robert Garry, a microbiologist at Tulane University School of Medicine, told NPR. He argued that if government officials didn't know about the coronavirus, then it's unlikely the Wuhan Institute of Virology — the lab most often associated with a potential lab leak — would have, either. "It's huge to mainly rule out that this is a product of engineering," Garry told Nature.
Per NPR, Garry thinks the report moves "the needle" toward "the natural origin" theory in that case. "I think you have to look at the scientific data that's out there," he said. "Follow the science, follow the animals." Read more at NPR and Nature.