SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus that is the cause of the disease COVID-19.

Some people have questioned the origins of the virus.

  • RadioFreeEurope reported on March 5, 2020 on a claim by an Iranian Commander:

    Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), suggested on March 5 that the coronavirus might be an American biological weapon -- contradicting experts who say there's no evidence it could be man-made.

  • The Asia Times reported on March 17, 2020 on a claim by the Chinese Foreign Ministry:

    When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon signaliing that the gloves were finally off. Zhao Lijian made a direct connection with the Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019, which included a delegation of 300 US military.

  • An anonymous Pakistani poster shared a similar view on March 13, 2020.

  • PressTV published an OpEd with a similar view on March 13, 2020

Part of the evidence for these conjectures is:

Did SARS-CoV-2 originate as a US bioweapon?

Related Question:

Did SARS-CoV-2 originate from ‘People letting animal blood drip on their food’?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 20, 2020 at 17:45
  • Not a proof so I'm making it a comment: Coronaviruses are RNA viruses--single strand, there's no error checking. The result is they mutate like crazy. Nobody sane would use one on a population because they couldn't trust they could control it. Mar 29, 2020 at 5:39

3 Answers 3


Let's start by saying that all available evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) is not made (and not even modified) in a lab. There's a very good Bio SE question on this, which I see no point in rehashing here.

So, that leaves us with a reduced theory that US has found a novel naturally occuring coronavirus and has weaponized it (to some extent) before using it in China and/or Iran. (There's a long history of [attempts to] weaponize anthrax for example, which is naturally occurring. But there's also a list of conspiracy theories that the US has developed new viral diseases like Ebola or HIV as weapons, none of which have had any real proof in support.)

But to stick with COVID-19, consider who else was seriously affected by it, namely Europe. Since Trump took power, the US-EU relationship has sank to a historical low. Going along with the conspiracy theory, you could even say that Trump planned to hit Europe too with COVID-19. (Although the sources you quote don't say that.) But then, why is nobody [serious] in Europe complaining about this alleged new US maleficence? It's not like they love Trump. Could it be that there's no evidence for Trump or the US being behind this pandemic? And that unlike China and/or Iran, spewing propaganda not backed by any facts is something that the EU and European national officials would rather not do? (Because compared to China and Iran, there's more democratic accountability in Europe, and press that's not just a government mouthpiece, so it could call into question unfounded claims.)

Another angle to consider is how sensible is it for a much more open country like the US to launch a biological attack that could backfire (via travellers) in its own territory. It is harder for more open countries to impose drastic, practically authoritarian measures to stem an infectious disease that causes relatively few casualties, but massive economic disruption. Insofar it looks like China has brought the epidemic under control better than some other countries have managed. So if the main target was China, that didn't work out so well.

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But if you go even further in the conspiracy vein, Trump planned this in order to impose his own (even more) authoritarian/fascist rule in the US, while blaming China for the virus (the US administration basically did do the latter, at least it emphasized the foreign/Chinese origin of the virus). However, the "grand master plan" of infecting the US via China could have failed in quite a number of ways before having its effects in the US. Also consider that Trump was banking on a good US economy (which he often Tweeted about) to get him re-elected. And since insofar there's no real change in the power structure in the US compared to before the outbreak, Trump hasn't really gained anything obvious in terms of extra powers, but looks like he has lost his booming economy trump card... and he still needs to win an election this fall. (Another side effect of the COVID-19 crisis has been the plunging oil price, which hardly benefits US producers, with their higher production costs.) The health emergency doesn't seem to have caused any change in Trump's approval rating yet, either way. So you could say it was much ado for nothing if somehow "rallying the country behind the flag" was Trump's plan (to get re-elected). (Minor correction on that [March 28]: there's now a minor uptick in Trump's job approval rating. Still it's nothing like what Bush had on 9/11 etc.)

I'm sure one can come up with even more complicated scenarios, like a rogue operation I vaguely recall was included in an earlier iteration of the question, but ultimately one needs to invoke Occam's razor for these, as well as Hitchens's razor, i.e. ask where's the concrete evidence that the US is behind COVID-19 and what did the US (or Trump) gain from it in concrete terms?

And if you want an additional argument, China's most famous researcher in this SARS/coronaviruses domain, "bat woman" Shi Zheng-Li (credited with identifying, after ~10 years or [re]search the natural reservoir of SARS' most probable relative in the bats of the Shitou Cave) is not accusing the US for the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, as far as I could find out. Also of interest:

Near Shitou Cave, for example, many villages sprawl among the lush hillsides in a region known for its roses, oranges, walnuts and hawthorn berries. In October 2015 Shi’s team collected blood samples from more than 200 residents in four of those villages. It found that six people, or nearly 3 percent, carried antibodies against SARS-like coronaviruses from bats—even though none of them had handled wildlife or reported SARS-like or other pneumonia-like symptoms. Only one had travelled outside of Yunnan prior to sampling, and all said they had seen bats flying in their village.

In fact

By January 7 the Wuhan team determined that the new virus had indeed caused the disease those patients suffered—a conclusion based on results from polymerase chain reaction analysis, full genome sequencing, antibody tests of blood samples and the virus’s ability to infect human lung cells in a petri dish. The genomic sequence of the virus—now officially called SARS-CoV-2 because it is related to the SARS pathogen—was 96 percent identical to that of a coronavirus the researchers had identified in horseshoe bats in Yunnan, they reported in a paper published last month in Nature. “It’s crystal clear that bats, once again, are the natural reservoir,” says Daszak, who was not involved in the study.

Shi is in fact the corresponding author of that paper. So basically the top Chinese scientists don't really back up the claims of their foreign ministry.

Also worth reading about in this context, the 2016 SADS-CoV in which another bat coronavirus jumped to pigs in China, killing tens of thousands. (Shi's group was also involved in the research on identifying this virus.)

After more search, I see there is an ambigous/reserved statement on this matter made by another Chinese (high-level) scientist:

On February 27, renowned Chinese infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan also questioned where the coronavirus had come from.

"The infection was first spotted in China but the virus may not have originated in China," Zhong said at a press conference.

There was no further elaboration in the snippet reproduced by China Global Television Network. But the Guardian wrote that:

Zhong later clarified his statement, saying that the first place where a disease is discovered does not “equate to it being the source”. He told reporters: “But neither can we conclude that the virus came from abroad. Only through investigation and tracing can we answer that question.”

It's worth pointing out here that Nanshan is mainly an epidemiologist and pulmonologist, while Shi is a virologist. Nanshan also held positions like the presidency of the Chinese Medical Association, which probably require more political acumen/sensitivity.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 22, 2020 at 5:31

COVID-19 Likely came from a live animal transmitting it to a human

I've seen others covering this, but it bears repeating. China has a large underground market for freshly slaughtered meat (as in they kill the animal right in front of you). Smithsonian Magazine reported on this in 2017

Officially, the live-bird markets in Beijing have been shuttered for years. In reality, guerrilla vendors run furtive slaughterhouses throughout this national capital of wide avenues, gleaming architecture and more than 20 million residents—despite warnings that their businesses could be spreading deadly new strains of the flu.

Many Chinese people, even city dwellers, insist that freshly slaughtered poultry is tastier and more healthful than refrigerated or frozen meat. This is one of the major reasons China has been such a hot spot for new influenza viruses: Nowhere else on earth do so many people have such close contact with so many birds.

This is consistent with previous outbreaks like

The US has been hit hard by this

Right now, the US stock market is off by about 10,000 points, largely because the country (and most of the world) is mostly shut down (source from Google)

DOW Jones down

And the US is likely facing a recession

“We are officially declaring that the economy has fallen into a recession ... joining the rest of the world, and it is a deep plunge,” Bank of America U.S. economist Michelle Meyer wrote in a note. “Jobs will be lost, wealth will be destroyed and confidence depressed.”

The firm expects the economy to “collapse” in the second quarter, shrinking by 12%. GDP for the full year will contract by 0.8%, it said

This is disastrous news for President Trump, who was planning to run on the strong economy

"When you have the best economy probably that we've ever had – I don't know. How the hell do you lose this election, right?" Trump asked a crowd of supporters during a rally in northeastern Pennsylvania last year.

In 2008, the "Great Recession" hit and swept Democrats into power at every level of government. Assuming that there's any truth to this, one would have to believe President Trump would do something that would knowingly damage the world economy. And for what gain? Hobbling China might prove to be a net boon for the US, but the short term losses are staggering.

The world’s 500 richest people collectively lost US$331 billion on Thursday, the biggest one-day drop in the eight-year history of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That pushed the group’s year-to-date losses to US$950 billion.

This week’s collapse marks the end of a decade of soaring markets and cheap money that helped the planet’s wealthiest people amass a record US$6.1 trillion less than two months ago. Those gains were obliterated over the past four days as pandemic fears and plunging oil prices sent markets into a nosedive.

And the middle class has been hit hard as well

"The increase in initial [unemployment] claims are clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus," the labor department said in its report. "A number of states specifically cited COVID-19 related layoffs, while many states reported increased layoffs in service related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries specifically, as well as in the transportation and warehousing industry, whether COVID-19 was identified directly or not."

While nobody has accused the US of being smart, you'd have to believe that the US would

  1. Believe its own bioweapon would not spread back to the US without strict quarantines in place
  2. Harm its own economy
  3. Jeopardize the re-election chances of its current leader

That's a tall order to believe.


Q: Is SARS-CoV-2 a biological weapon released by the US military?

The probability of this being true approaches effectively zero.

What is known so far: It's genetics only point into one direction: that it evolved naturally, in the wild.

Neither is it presently more probable to be 'engineered' in any kind of lab, nor is it likely 'released intentionally by the US military'.

Note that the neither the paraphrase above nor the article the quote below is from can definitively rule out an 'escape from a lab' scenario for a naturally evolved virus. But even that scenario is still quite unlikely, though.

It doesn't look like a bioweapon. It doesn't look like it's engineered. It doesn't look like 'released on purpose'. And if it were, it seems to not work very well for the US.

It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. As noted above, the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution different from those previously predicted7,11. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used19. However, the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone20. Instead, we propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: (i) natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer; and (ii) natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer. We also discuss whether selection during passage could have given rise to SARS-CoV-2.

— Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes & Robert F. Garry: "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2", Nature Medicine, March 17, 2020.

Quite similar in conclusion is

— Yong-Zhen Zhang & Edward C. Holmes: "A Genomic Perspective on The Origin and Emergence of SARS- CoV-2", Cell, (pre-print), DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.03.035 (PDF)

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    @JohnSlegers Only if those soldiers are all vaccinated against this or get another simple but very effective protection that 'sheeple' don't get, does this make a plausible argument (Full hazmat is very uncomfortable, trust you me on that). What sense does it make to blackfriday the world economy and install exactly an orange idiot as leader of the reptilian-dominated dick-tater-ship? A more realistic speculation from a scientific src. Mar 21, 2020 at 19:27
  • 1
    @JohnSlegers a number of troops about the same as Belgium's? Good luck taking over Europe with them.
    – Lag
    Mar 22, 2020 at 13:03

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