Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), made the comments in an interview with National Geographic.
While answering a question regarding evidence that the virus was made in or accidentally released from a lab in China, Fauci said, “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what’s out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this (virus) could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated — the way the mutations have naturally evolved,” reported Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.
“A number of very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that it evolved in nature and then jumped species,” he said.
Asked about the possibility that the virus was found outside the lab, then brought back and escaped, Fauci said, “That means it (virus) was in the wild to begin with.”
“That’s why I don’t get what they’re talking about (and) why I don’t spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument,” he said.
According to the National Geographic report, Fauci is most concerned that the United States will be put to the test this fall and winter by a second wave of COVID-19 if the country does not blunt the infection rate by the summer.
The United States needs to have not only an adequate supply of tests available before a second wave hits, but also a system for getting those tests to the people who most need them, Fauci said.
“I don’t think there’s a chance that this virus is just going to disappear,” Fauci said. “It’s going to be around, and if given the opportunity, it will resurge.”
The United States should also focus this summer on properly reinforcing the nation’s health care system, ensuring the availability of hospital beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment for health care workers, Fauci was quoted by National Geographic as saying.
He also stressed the importance of continuing social distancing everywhere until the case counts start to fall in cities and states.
As countries around the globe are stepping up efforts for a vaccine to treat COVID-19, Fauci said there is better chance of quickly getting a vaccine for the novel coronavirus than for HIV based on his years of experience, because for some reason human bodies make more adequate immune response to coronavirus than HIV.
The experimental vaccines are inducing, at least in animal models, really rather substantial immune responses, particularly the mRNA vaccine, according to Fauci.
He said the NIAID is developing and supporting multiple vaccine candidates.
“You want a lot of shots on goal. We want four or five candidates that we put out there all within a reasonable time,” Fauci said.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said that “we don’t know” where the coronavirus originated.
“Did it come out of the virology lab in Wuhan, did it occur in the wet market there in Wuhan or did it occur somewhere else? And the answer to that is we don’t know,” the top US military officer told reporters on Tuesday in a Pentagon briefing when asked about the origin of COVID-19, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Various agencies both civilian and US government are looking at that,” he added.
Milley said that the weight of evidence indicated the coronavirus was “natural and not manmade” and was “probably not intentional.”