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Almost 2 years later, experts still can't agree on the origins of COVID-19

As the world approaches two years since the first case of COVID-19 appeared in a Wuhan, China, market, scientists still cannot say where the coronavirus originated.

Science magazine recently  convened four experts to hash out the leading hypotheses.

Whether experts believe SARS-CoV-2 stemmed from a natural source, sprang from a lab leak or spawned from something in between hinges on what’s considered plausible based on inadequate evidence.

Meanwhile, unproven assertions can do harm.

UA’s Michael Worobey, co-author of a May letter in Science calling for further investigation, says he regrets the letter’s role in boosting interest in lab origins and darker conspiracy theories.

“And now, the lab leak idea is actually getting much more press interest and coverage. And to me, it's just out of balance with what the science is saying.”

A lack of data and transparency continue to hinder efforts to understand the virus’s origins.

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Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.