The American Society for Microbiology issued the following statement calling for an objective evaluation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether through the pathway of natural emergence or laboratory escape, the question of how the COVID-19 pandemic started, leading to infection of 180 million people and the deaths of nearly 4 million, is a complex one that includes a spectrum of possibilities. Unraveling the origins of the pandemic is necessary to prepare for future pandemics. In order to achieve the most complete and accurate understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic originated, it is essential to lead with the scientific method to conduct a free and open inquiry.
Sound scientific principles led to the rapid development of effective vaccines to protect against the worst outcomes of COVID-19 infection. These same principles of free and open inquiry, global collaboration, objectivity and data-sharing must guide investigations into the origin of the pandemic. We support continued curiosity-driven, peer-reviewed fundamental research on viral pathogens.
Regardless of how the pandemic emerged, continued support for research and countermeasure development is essential to combatting emerging infectious diseases and preventing the next pandemic. As importantly, assumptions about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic should not result in decisions about the future direction of pandemic-related research and policies that could have unintended consequences for potentially lifesaving research. Such decisions should be rooted in sound scientific principles, with appropriate precautions to protect public health.
Questions about key clinical and virus sequence data from the earliest cases of COVID-19 remain unanswered. It is essential for scientists with appropriate expertise to be free to explore these questions objectively regardless of where the scientific discoveries may lead, without fear of political retribution.
We call on governments, international agencies and scientists to work together and share their findings publicly in an honest, transparent effort to provide greater certainty about the earliest relevant events that preceded the pandemic. Uncovering the answers to critical questions surrounding the pandemic origins will allow stakeholders to craft appropriate and effective strategies to prevent future pandemics.