Science, not speculation, is essential to determine how SARS-CoV-2 reached humans

Charles H. Calisher, Dennis Carroll, Rita Colwell, Ronald B. Corley, Peter Daszak, Christian Drosten, Luis Enjuanes, Jeremy Farrar, Hume Field, Josie Golding, Alexander E. Gorbalenya, Bart Haagmans, James M. Hughes, Gerald T. Keusch*, Sai Kit Lam, Juan Lubroth, John S. Mackenzie, Larry Madoff, Jonna Keener Mazet, Stanley M. PerlmanLeo Poon, Linda Saif, Kanta Subbarao, Michael Turner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-211
Number of pages3
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number10296
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
PD's remuneration is paid solely in the form of a salary from EcoHealth Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation. EcoHealth Alliance's mission is to develop science-based solutions to prevent pandemics and promote conservation. Funding for this work comes from a range of US Government funding agencies and non-governmental sources. All past and current funders are listed publicly, and full financial accounts are filed annually and published. EcoHealth Alliance's work in China was previously funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Neither PD nor EcoHealth Alliance have received funding from the People's Republic of China. PD joined the WHO–China joint global study on the animal origins of SARS-CoV-2 towards the end of 2020 and is currently a member. As per WHO rules, this work is undertaken as an independent expert in a private capacity, not as an EcoHealth Alliance staff member. The work conducted by this study was published in March, 2021. EcoHealth Alliance's work in China includes collaboration with a range of universities and governmental health and environmental science organisations, all of which are listed in prior publications, three of which received funding from US federal agencies as part of EcoHealth Alliance grants or cooperative agreements, as publicly reported by NIH. EcoHealth Alliance's work in China is currently unfunded. All federally funded subcontractees are assessed and approved by the respective US federal agencies in advance and all funding sources are acknowledged in scientific publications as appropriate. EcoHealth Alliance's work in China involves assessing the risk of viral spillover across the wildlife–livestock–human interface, and includes behavioural and serological surveys of people, and ecological and virological analyses of animals. This work includes the identification of viral sequences in bat samples, and has resulted in the isolation of three bat SARS-related coronaviruses that are now used as reagents to test therapeutics and vaccines. It also includes the production of a small number of recombinant bat coronaviruses to analyse cell entry and other characteristics of bat coronaviruses for which only the genetic sequences are available. NIH reviewed the planned recombinant virus work and deemed it does not meet the criteria that would warrant further specific review by its Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight (P3CO) committee. All of EcoHealth Alliance's work is reviewed and approved by appropriate research ethics committees, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, institutional review boards for biomedical research involving human subjects, P3CO oversight administrators, and biosafety committees, as listed on all relevant publications. JMH is a member of the board of directors of EcoHealth Alliance. JL is a former Chief Veterinary Officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. JSM is a member of the WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for COVID-19, a member of the One Health High Level Expert Panel that advises the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the World Organisation for Animal Health, the United Nations Environment Programme, and WHO, and a past member of the scientific advisory committee for the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (2008–11). JKM receives funding from USAID to the University of California at Davis, where she is a Principle Investigator, for the PREDICT Project, which funded viral detection and discovery capacity strengthening, One Health education, and global health capability strengthening around the world, including China and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. JKM is also a voluntary board member, with no compensation or financial interest, for the following not-for-profit collaborative consortia advocating for social and environmental equity, conservation, and global viral discovery in order to mitigate risks from viral spillover and pandemics: Global Virome Project, Gorilla Doctors, Bay Area Global Health Alliance, and UC Global Health Institute. JKM has reviewed for and consulted with numerous US state and federal agencies, including the NIH, Department of Defence, USAID, Food and Drug Administration, as well as non-governmental organisation such as the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine and the American Association of Academic Medical Centers. JKM has ongoing collaborations with organisations, scientists, and other professionals in at least 40 countries, including China and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. JKM declares that her spouse owns and operates BHM Construction and A&J Investments, is an investor in VSP, and is a board member for San Francisco Achievers. SMP receives funding from an NIH grant for a project about SARS-CoV and host cell interactions and vaccine development. LE, HF, AEG, JKM, JSM, SMP, and LP have past or ongoing academic and scientific collaborations on coronavirus biology with colleagues in China and several other countries. LP directs a WHO COVID-19 Reference Laboratory. PD, HF, GTK, SKL, SMP, and LS are members of the Lancet Task Force on the Origins and Early Spread of COVID-19 & One Health Solutions to Future Pandemic Threats. JL is a member of the Lancet One Health Commission. All authors contributed to the 2020 Correspondence in The Lancet in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19.

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