• Senate Republicans Release COVID Origins Report

    Senate Republicans have released their report exploring the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, building on the short interim report released in October 2022. Critics note that as was the case with the interim report, this fuller version relies on circumstantial evidence, not scientific facts, and that it contains many factual errors, in addition to poor understanding of the Chinese language.

  • Warning: Prospecting for Unknown Viruses Risks a Deadly Outbreak

    The coronavirus pandemic which swept the globe offered a scary case study in how a single virus of uncertain origin can spread exponentially. The pandemic has also challenged conventional thinking about biosafety and risks, casting a critical light on widely accepted practices such as prospecting for unknown viruses.

  • Fighting Biological Threats

    Modeling the emergence and spread of biological threats isn’t as routine as forecasting the weather, but scientists in two of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories were awarded funding to try to make it so. The scientists will work together to advance computational tools and solutions for known and unknown diseases.

  • COVID Omicron Variant Infection Deadlier Than Flu: Studies

    Two new studies suggest that COVID-19 Omicron variant infection is deadlier than influenza, with one finding that US veterans hospitalized with Omicron in fall and winter 2022-23 died at a 61% higher rate than hospitalized flu patients.

  • The Origin of SARS-CoV-2: Animal Transmission or Lab Leak?

    The origin of the virus that causes COVID-19, which spread from China to the rest of the world and has killed millions of people, is a scientific mystery, the answer to which has strong political implications. Gigi Kwik Gronvall writes that “by comparison to past deadly epidemics, what we know about the early days of SARS-CoV-2 is less obscure. Though the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is now the focus of hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives and headlines focused on whether the virus emerged from nature or a laboratory, the most likely origin of SARS-CoV-2 is animal-to-human transmission, like most emerging diseases.”

  • What Makes a Global Killer

    Larry Brilliant, doctor who helped vanquish smallpox, assesses COVID response and warns of rising threats, including lack of trust. “The first lesson is that we live in a cause-and-effect world. Truth matters and communicating that truth in as transparent and honest a way as you possibly can matters” Brilliant says.

  • mRNA Vaccine Beats Infection for Key Defense against COVID-19: Stanford Scientists

    The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine directed at COVID-19 is much better than natural infection at revving up key immune cells called killer T cells to fight future infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • COVID-19 Origins: New Evidence, and More Politics

    Last week, researchers released a report linking SARS-CoV-2 to six near-complete samples of raccoon-dog mitochondrial DNA sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The report says that “These results provide potential leads to identifying intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2 and potential sources of human infections in the market.”

  • Report Describes SARS-CoV-2 Market Sequences, Biden Signs COVID Intel Declassification Bill

    In two major developments regarding investigations into the source of SARS-CoV-2, an international research group that examined genetic sequences from the animal market detailed their findings in a new report, and President Joe Biden signed a bill to declassify US intelligence on virus origins.

  • A Major Clue to COVID’s Origins Is Just Out of Reach

    Last week, the ongoing debate about COVID-19’s origins had yet another plot twist added to it. A French evolutionary biologist stumbled across a trove of genetic sequences extracted from swabs collected from surfaces at a wet market in Wuhan, China, shortly after the pandemic began. Katherine J. Wu writes that the sequences bolster the case for the pandemic having purely natural roots. “But what might otherwise have been a straightforward story on new evidence has rapidly morphed into a mystery centered on the origins debate’s data gaps.” Wu says that public access to the sequences was locked, and, as a result, a key set of data which could have shored up the case for a purely animal origin became unavailable to scientists.

  • COVID Pandemic “Likely” Caused by Wuhan Lab Accident: FBI

    FBI Director Christopher Wray has accused China of obstructing US efforts to find the cause of the coronavirus pandemic. He said his agency believes COVID-19 spread due to a lab accident in the city of Wuhan.

  • What Is Spillover? Bird Flu Outbreak Underscores Need for Early Detection to Prevent the Next Big Pandemic

    While not all animal viruses or other pathogens are capable of spilling over into people, up to three-quarters of all new human infectious diseases have originated from animals. The current epidemic of avian influenza has killed over 58 million birds in the U.S. as of February 2023. Following on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, large outbreaks of viruses like bird flu raise the specter of another disease jumping from animals into humans. This process is called spillover.

  • American Democracy and Pandemic Security

    Covid-19 cost the nation and the world millions of lives and trillions of dollars in economic losses and caused major societal deficits in learning, health, and well-being. The United States faced specific challenges in how its national pandemic response, rooted in its culture and federated system of public health, was organized and executed. National crises have historically brought the country together. Yet, the United States was unable to organize cohesive leadership at the national, state, local, and tribal levels, and it failed to rapidly unify its citizens to act in solidarity to suppress the emerging pandemic.

  • Could Bird Flu in Mink Signal Threat of a Human Pandemic?

    A bird flu outbreak on a Spanish mink farm has alarmed scientists. The virus may be spreading for the first time from mammal to mammal — and could become a danger for humans.

  • Disease X: How to End Pandemics

    A new book tracks how the world can stop future pandemics. It offers a perspective on the COVID-19 response and lays out a roadmap to prepare to beat the next Disease X. The book challenges us to understand continual and growing infectious disease threats, but also offers hope and looks ahead to a pandemic-free future.