Coronavirus May Have Been ‘Enhanced In The Laboratory,’ Biologist Says

Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Jane Barlow / Getty Images

During a Thursday appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, biologist Bret Weinstein claimed that the theory that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a bat-borne pathogen that was transmitted to people is looking “less and less likely.”

“The story that is looking more and more likely, what I would call the lab-leak hypothesis, is looking ever stronger,” he said.

Weinstein claimed to have spoken with others who agree on the theory. Although the biologist noted the argument is not conclusive — and that it’s still possible COVID-19 came from the wild — he said the virus has “several components” that suggest it is the “result of manipulation in the lab.”

Weinstein suggested that COVID-19 may be the result of “gain of function” research, which he explained is when researchers add specific capacity to a virus to study how it works. From here, he said, scientists conduct passaging — where they infect creatures with a virus that is then allowed to pass through other individuals of the species.

“And what happens is evolution. So there is a strong possibility that this virus was under study, that it was enhanced in the laboratory, and that we are dealing with consequences that are the result of that enhancement that make it more dangerous than it would otherwise be.”

According to Weinstein, a characteristic in the genome of the virus suggests that one possible enhancement to COVID-19 made it more transmissible. Weinstein claims this enhancement could explain why COVID-19 is affecting such a variety of tissues in people who get sick, noting the long list of symptoms. He also stated that this purported enhancement could explain why the virus is so capable of “jumping between people.”

The former Evergreen State College professor also noted research which suggests that COVID-19 is best transmitted indoors, and speculated that if the novel coronavirus did escape from a laboratory, the virus would have been most adapted to the laboratory environment. If the infection is transmitted outside frequently enough, Weinstein warned that COVID-19 could adapt, becoming more transmissible outdoors.

As reported by Forbes, a team of Norwegian scientists claimed that the novel coronavirus was genetically engineered, which led to backlash from other virologists. According to Weinstein, he and others who have suggested the same have also faced criticism. While some scientists note that COVID-19 has genetic material that mirrors other viruses in nature, others point to Wuhan lab articles that performed “gain of function” experiments on coronaviruses.

Per Forbes, the only way to understand the true origin of COVID-19 is to send an unbiased international team of researchers to China to conduct a comprehensive formal investigation.