The acrimonious debate over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic flared up again this week with a report from an expert panel.

The evidence towards zoonosis is overwhelming according to co-author Danielle Anderson. The report, which includes an analysis that found the peer-reviewed literature overwhelmingly supports the zoonotic hypotheses, was published in the PNAS on October 10.

The history of the panel shows how intense the debate was. A wide-reaching effort to derive lessons from the Pandemic was dismantled by the commission's chair. Several members had conflicts of interests that would make them against the lab-origin hypothesis.

The scientific community has been blithely dismissing the lab leak possibility. The literature analysis done by the task force was a good idea according to Jesse Bloom, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. The zoonosis proponents haven't given much new data. Reanalysis and reinterpretation of evidence is what we have seen.

The task force report doesn't adequately address the origins of the epidemic. He says there was a rush to judgment by the National Institutes of Health and a small group of virologists. A report from his commission gave equal weight to both hypotheses.

Peter Daszak was appointed to lead the task force. The EcoHealth Alliance has funded research on bat coronaviruses at the WIV. The first COVID-19 cases were reported in China, and some scientists suspect that research done at WIV may have led to the spread of the disease. Daszak and other members of the task force who had ties to the EcoHealth Alliance should step down, according to Sachs. The task force was brought to an end in September 2021.

The members kept meeting. Gerald Keusch, an infectious disease specialist at Boston University, said that they had something to offer even if they weren't part of the commission.

The task force interviewed people who had different opinions on the origin of the epidemic. It looked at the history of the viruses that have made zoonotic jumps, like the one that caused the outbreak of CoV-2. Papers about COVID-19's origins were combed through by it.

The report overlaps with the final one. Both stress the need to address the causes of the increased risk of viral spillovers. Both emphasize the risks of carelessness in labs and field studies.

When it comes to the origin of the epidemic, the two report different things.

According to the PNAS authors, their literature search revealed "considerable scientific peer-reviewed evidence" that the outbreak of the disease was caused by people in the wildlife industry. The lab-leak idea is supported by relatively few peer-reviewed studies and much of the argument has been advanced through opinion pieces. The most plausible hypothesis is that the epidemic came from the animal market system. The evidence is pretty good.

The question of how the epidemic started has yet to be answered. No one has audited the way viruses are handled. There are no reports of scientists testing mammals in China that were used in the Huanan market. There are two critical pieces of data that are missing. The weight and quality of the evidence is higher on the natural origin idea.

The PNAS perspective does not agree on how to improve warnings about a possible outbreak of a disease. In a section called "looking forward," the authors promote "smart surveillance" that would focus on transmission hot spots where humans and wild animals frequently come in contact, using cutting-edge technologies to look for novelviruses. Evidence of infections that occurred in the past can be found by measuring the antibodies to a wide range of Viruses. Wastewater sampling could use new methods to find new diseases. Researchers could look at the air quality on farms.

"For nearly 3 years we've been running in circles about different lab-leak scenarios and nothing has really added to this hypothesis." What can we do better in the future?

Linda Saif is a swine coronaviruses researcher at Ohio State University. There isn't a source of funding for those at the moment.

The PNAS and Lancet commission reports are not at all conflicting with each other, according to David Relman. The need to better prepare for a new Pandemic was highlighted in an interview by Relman. He says that at the end of the day, it's true that spills, outbreaks, and Pandemics are the result of human activities.