The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that current evidence points to the novel coronavirus originating in bats in China late last year, adding that it was likely not made in a lab or elsewhere.
“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said at a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
“It is probable, likely that the virus is of animal origin,” Chaib said.
She added that it is not clear how the virus was transmitted from animals to humans, but said there was “certainly” an intermediate animal host for the virus.
President Trump announced last week that his administration is trying to determine the origins of the novel coronavirus. Reports emerged earlier in the week that U.S. officials were investigating the unverified theory that the coronavirus began in a Chinese laboratory.
A top official from the Wuhan laboratory, which has faced accusations that its employees manufactured the virus, also denied the claim last week. Yuan Zhiming, vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, called the accusations a “conspiracy theory” during an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.
“As people who carry out viral study, we clearly know what kind of research is going on in the institute and how the institute manages viruses and samples. As we said early on, there is no way this virus came from us,” said Yuan, a microbiology and biotechnology expert.
Trump announced last week that he would suspend funding to the WHO after repeatedly criticizing the organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been over 2.4 million documented cases of coronavirus around the world and over 165,655 deaths.