Unraveling the origin of SARS-CoV-2 with the scientific method

Although the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus may originate from zoonosis in the wild, there is also a possibility it began with a lab accident in Wuhan. It is crucial to investigate the exact origin of this virus, in order to make all efforts for such pandemics not to happen again.


12 Oct 2021: Cracking the code of pandemic origin. (Jamie Metzl and Virginie Courtier). Institut de France, 3 rue Mazarine, 75006 Paris. Organized by TESaCo. Video

5 Oct 2021: L’origine du coronavirus (1h, en français) Video Slides

14 Sept 2021: When and where was the first infection of humans? (18 min) YouTube video Slides. This presentation was part of the webinar “What is the origin of COVID-19 pandemic? What we know, don’t know, need to know and need to do”.

26 April 2021: Controversies around SARS-CoV-2 origin (part 3 – From RaTG13 to the 2012 pneumonia COVID-19-like symptoms) Video Slides

19 April 2021: Controversies around SARS-CoV-2 origin (part 2 – First genome sequences: rush and embargo) Video Slides

12 April 2021: Controversies around SARS-CoV-2 origin (part 1 – Introduction) Video Slides

Monthly Workshop

I co-organize an international workshop entitled “Evidence-based investigation of SARS-CoV-2 proximal origin” which gathers about 30 scientists every month. If you are interested in joining this workshop, please email me.

Introduction slidesKey articles and news on COVID-19 origins

Scientific articles, Scientific comments

Courtier-Orgogozo V, Bahulikar R, Butler CD, Claverie JM, Decroly E, Dudley JP, Ebright RH, Graner F, Kakeya H, Kaina B, Leitenberg M, Morand S, Petrovsky N, Rahalkar MC, Theißen G. (2022) SARS-CoV-2 origin is still unknown. eLetter to Worobey et al. paper, 28 Oct 2022, visible on the bottom of the Science website. Research Gate PDF Featured in The Times of India

Courtier-Orgogozo V, de Ribera F. (2022) SARS-CoV-2 infection at the Huanan seafood market. Environmental research 214:113702. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2022.113702 Zenodo

Graner, François, Courtier-Orgogozo, Virginie, Decroly, Etienne, Butler, Colin D., Ebright, Richard H., Colombo, Fabien, Kaina, Bernd, Rahalkar, Monali C., Halloy, José, Bahulikar, Rahul A., Theißen, Günter, Leitenberg, Milton, Morand, Serge, Kakeya, Hideki, Claverie, Jean-Michel, & van Helden, Jacques. (2021) Comment of a critical review about the origins of SARS-CoV-2. doi:10.5281/zenodo.5630933 Zenodo CNRS-MRS

van Helden, J., Butler, C. D., Achaz, G., Canard, B., Casane, D., Claverie, J. M., … & Halloy, J. (2021) An appeal for an objective, open, and transparent scientific debate about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. The LancetFeatured in several newspapers including   il Fatto Quotidiano Daily Mail ThePrint Undark   


Press articles

Courtier V., Decroly E. Origine du SARS-CoV-2 et du Covid-19 : le point sur l’enquête en cours et les dernières hypothèses. The Conversation, septembre 2022. English Google Translation
Featured in Le Point, SudOuest and JDD

Courtier V., Decroly E. Covid : du diagnostic au contrôle de l’épidémie, la révolution du séquençage des virus. The Conversation, février 2022.

Courtier V., Decroly E. Origine de la Covid-19 : l’hypothèse de l’accident de laboratoire doit-elle être étudiée d’un point de vue scientifique ? The Conversation, mai 2021.

Courtier V., Decroly E. Covid-19: why the lab leak theory must be formally investigated. The Conversation, June 2021.


Open Letters

Open Letter 1: March 4, 2021
C.D. Butler, B. Canard, H. Cap, Jean-Michel Claverie, F. Colombo, V. Courtier, F. De Ribera, E. Decroly, R. De Maistre, G. Demaneuf, R. Ebright, A. Goffinet, J. Halloy, M. Leitenberg, F. Lentzos, R.A. McFarlane, J. Metzl, D. Morello, N. Petrovsky, S. Quay, M. Rahalkar, R. Segreto, G. Theißen, van Helden, J. Reaction to the China-WHO joint press conference on 9 Feb 2021 (2021).  https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.26695.83368/1

Open Letter 2: April 7, 2021
C.D. Butler, H. Cap, Jean-Michel Claverie, F. Colombo, F. De Ribera, R. De Maistre, G. Demaneuf, R.H. Ebright, A. Goffinet, F. Graner, J. Halloy, M. Itoh, H. Kakeya, M. Leitenberg, F. Lentzos, J. Metzl, N. Petrovsky, S. Quay, M. Rahalkar, R. Segreto, G. Theißen, J. Van Helden, R. Wiesendanger, Reaction to the China-WHO joint study team report (April 2021).  https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.25018.11206/1

Open Letter 3: April 30, 2021
C.D. Butler, H. Cap, Jean-Michel Claverie, F. Colombo, V. Courtier, E. Decroly, R. De Maistre, F. De Ribera, R. Ebright, A. Goffinet, Francois Graner, H. Kakeya, M. Leitenberg, F. Lentzos, R.A. McFarlane, J. Metzl, D. Morello, S. Quay, N. Petrovsky, M. Rahalkar, R. Segreto, G. Theißen, J. Van Helden, R. Wiesendanger, J. Halloy, G. Demaneuf, Open Letter to the World Health Organisation and the Members of its Executive Board ahead of the World Health Assembly (May 2021).  https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.18097.51041/2

Open Letter 4: June 2021
Parise Adadi, R. Bahulikar, C.D. Butler, Jean-Michel Claverie, F. Colombo, V. Courtier, F.A. De Ribera, Y. Deigin, G. Demaneuf, R.H. Ebright, A. Goffinet, F. Graner, J. Halloy, Sk Sarif Hassan, M. Itoh, B. Kaina, H. Kakeya, M. Leitenberg, K. Lundstrom, R. De Maistre, J. Metzl, K. Oyama, G. Palu, S. Quay, M. Rahalkar, R. Segreto, Á. Serrano-Aroca, K. Sumikura, G. Theißen, J. van Helden, R. Wiesendanger, Call for a Comprehensive Investigation of the Origin of SARS-CoV-2, if Possible with Chinese Government Participation (June 2021).  https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.21927.27042/1 version française sur le site de La Libre Belgique

Open Letter 5: February 2022
Allowing a Comprehensive International Investigation of Pandemic Origins would be a True Expression of Olympic Values (February 2022). 10.13140/RG.2.2.17097.62563/1 Version française sur le site du Figaro Version en mandarin
Mentioned by: abcnews, AFP, mint, RFI, RFA, France Info, Sud Ouest, The Telegraph,

Letter to the European Commision

We wrote to the European Commission on 24 February 2022 to suggest three series of actions regarding COVID-19 origin. First, the European Commission could create a commission on COVID-19 origin. Second, it could establish a transparency framework relative to documents and items of information related to the origin of the pandemic within all plausible hypotheses, including research-related and research-unrelated ones. Third, it could encourage research on the first COVID-19 patients in Europe.

The European Commission replied on 25 April 2022. Extracts of the reply: “We agree with you that there is still further work that needs to be pursued to understand the origin of SARSCoV2 and its introduction into the human population. That is why the European Commission welcomes the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens (SAGO). This group has agreed to study the emergence of novel pathogens, as well as to rapidly undertake an assessment of the current understanding of the origins of SARSCoV2.“; “We remain fully committed to working together with all countries and the international community to ensure the rapid start of origins’ studies, timely deployment of field missions and independence of the work of experts.


Letter asking for the resignation of Peter Daszak

30 Sept 2021: Call for the Board of EcoHealth Alliance to remove Dr. Peter Daszak as President of their organization. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.20447.18082 Mentioned by: The New York Post, Newsweek, Changing Times, L’Express, La Libre Belgique, etc.


Rebuttal Letters challenging the exclusive focus on the zoonosis hypothesis

Several researchers sent letters to various journals to alert that the origin of the coronavirus was not definitively proven to be zoonotic and that a laboratory accident was a plausible hypothesis that should be investigated. Some of these letters are listed in this PDF. None of them was published in a scientific journal, either because they were explicitly rejected, or because they were not considered for publication.


Correspondence to Pr. Shi Zheng-Li

On 11 June 2021, I emailed Zheng-Li Shi with a list of scientific questions. As of 28 Feb 2022, she has not replied. Mentioned by RFI (article in Chinese).