CHICAGO – Scientific evidence strongly supports that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, occurred when a virus circulating in animals transferred to humans, according to a commentary publishing in the August edition of ASA Monitor, the official news publication of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
“Fallacies and misinformation about the origin of SARS-CoV-2 repeatedly appear in the popular press, even though there is ample published research, evidence, and science on the topic,” said Steven L. Shafer, M.D., editor-in-chief of ASA Monitor. “I wanted to provide our readers, who all have a basic understanding of science, with a way to educate those they may communicate with about the probable origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Science has a role to confront and correct untruths circulating in social media and the press.”
In the commentary, Dr. Shafer noted that currently there are three hypotheses regarding the virus’s origin: the “zoonotic theory” that proposes a bat coronavirus mutated or transformed into SARS-CoV-2; the “lab-leak theory” that proposes SARS-CoV-2 was in a bat or other wild animal from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and somehow escaped, possibly through infecting a lab worker; and the “engineered virus theory” which proposes that scientists intentionally created a superbug for research or perhaps to use as a biological weapon.
The commentary reviews the peer-reviewed science that identified various strains and the genetic material of coronaviruses from the SARS 2002-2004 outbreak to the present to illustrate the strong evidence that the predecessor of SARS-CoV-2 “evolved gradually over decades before jumping into humans in late 2019.”
Based on the underlying science, Dr. Shafer concluded that the SARS-CoV-2 genome “is entirely consistent with natural selection and random mutation acting on constantly mixing populations of bats and other animals (e.g., civets, pangolins, you and me).”
As he observed, “The zoonotic theory is consistent with every other emergent infectious disease in the past 100 years, including rabies, HIV, H1N1, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Makona, Hantavirus, West Niles virus, Zika virus, Lyme disease, yellow fever, avian flu, SARS, MERS and the plague.”
Regarding the lab-leak theory, he noted there is “no evidence to support” it, but that “does not rule out the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 came to Wuhan on the shoe of a researcher who visited the bat caves of Yunnan province.” For the engineered virus theory, Dr. Shafer wrote, “the available evidence rules that out.”
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS
Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 54,000 members organized to advance the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.
For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/MadeforThisMoment. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter.
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