Lab Leaks Happen ‘All the Time,’ Virus Origins Need Investigation, Former FDA Commissioner Says

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
May 31, 2021 Updated: May 31, 2021

Dr. Chris Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said on May 30 that uncovering the true origins of the CCP virus is key to helping identify potential gaps in safety protocols and reduce the risk of future pandemics.

Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb said that lab leaks happen frequently and that accurately pinpointing how the pathogen came to infect humans has important implications for safety measures that could prevent another outbreak.

“These kinds of lab leaks happen all the time, actually,” Gottlieb told the outlet. “Even here in the United States, we’ve had mishaps. And in China, the last six known outbreaks of SARS-1 have been out of labs, including the last known outbreak, which was a pretty extensive outbreak that China initially wouldn’t disclose that it came out of a lab.”

Gottlieb said the theory that the CCP virus leaked from a lab, rather than making a natural jump from animal to human, has been building steam.

“We’ve done an exhaustive search for the so-called intermediate host, the animal that could have been a host to this virus before it spread to humans. We have not found such an animal,” Gottlieb said, adding that the theory that the virus emerged at a food market in Wuhan, China, has also been “fully disproven.”

The case for the lab leak theory is further buoyed by circumstantial evidence pointing to known issues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the facility at the heart of the controversy, he said.

“We know that that lab was poorly constructed, had poor controls,” Gottlieb said. “We know the lab was engaging in very high-risk research, including infecting transgenic animals, animals with fully human immune systems.”

CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, on April 17, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

“We know they were working with SARS-like viruses that have never been disclosed before. And now we have new evidence that some lab workers became infected right at the time that this virus was believed to be first introduced.”

A recent report in The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed U.S. government sources familiar with a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report indicating that three researchers at the Wuhan institute were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with seasonal flu and COVID-19.

The CCP has denied any connection between the virus’s origins and the Wuhan lab, and has pushed the “natural zoonotic” hypothesis—that the virus was transmitted to humans from an animal host, though, as Gottlieb noted, no intermediate host has been found.

In addition, the Chinese regime has claimed that the virus originated outside of China. At a May 24 press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the United States of releasing the virus from the Fort Detrick military base in Maryland.

Amid questions about the origins of the CCP virus, the WIV has refused to share its raw data, safety logs, and lab records about its work on coronaviruses in bats.

“China could provide evidence that would be exculpatory here,” Gottlieb said.

That evidence would include giving access to blood samples from the Wuhan lab staff, as well as other lab records, including some of the original viral source strains.

“They’ve refused to do that,” Gottlieb said.

He also said the COVID-19 outbreak speaks to the need for viewing “public health through the lens of national security,” and urged U.S. intelligence services to become more involved.

“Traditionally … we’ve relied on international conventions and scientists working together, multilateral agreements to try to assess the risks and try to uncover these kinds of outbreaks. I think we also need to get better surveillance in place and use our tools of national security to help engage in that mission as well,” Gottlieb said.

His remarks come amid mounting calls for a “phase two” probe into the virus origins that would be authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), after the health agency’s first report into the matter was met with widespread criticism. The United States and more than a dozen other nations raised concerns about the phase one WHO study, pointing to the study’s significant delay and China’s refusal to share crucial raw data.

President Joe Biden announced on May 26 that he has ordered a closer intelligence review of what he characterized as two equally plausible scenarios regarding the origins of the CCP virus—one natural, the other a lab leak.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'