Speed Reads

mystery solved?

Studies suggest COVID came from a Wuhan market, not a lab

The "lab-leak theory" of the origins of the COVID-19 virus has been dismissed as a conspiracy theory and seriously considered as plausible explanation, but two studies released Saturday could shed new light on the question, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Both studies show that the virus likely originated in live mammals sold at a market in Wuhan, China, in 2019. According to CNN, one study "used spatial analysis to show that the earliest known COVID-19 cases … were centered on the market" while the other showed that "the two major viral lineages were the result of at least two events in which the virus crossed species into humans."

University of Arizona evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey, who was the lead author on one study and a co-author on the other, said that in light of the studies' findings, the theory that COVID originated in a lab "no longer … makes sense."

In May 2021, Worobey signed a high-profile letter urging further study of the theory that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but by November, he said his research was beginning to point to the market rather than the lab.

Both studies are still undergoing peer review.