The team of World Health Organization researchers that has been in China over the past few weeks trying to determine how the novel coronavirus started in that country says the disease is unlikely to have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and more likely jumped from an animal to a human.
The conclusion was announced Tuesday as the team concluded its investigation.
The Chinese government said when first reporting the virus outbreak in late-2019 that it started when a woman bought and ate a bat at an exotic, outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan. However, U.S. lawmakers and others have since raised concerns about whether it was leaked from the lab.
In addition, world leaders have raised concerns about the Chinese Communist Party's transparency about the start of virus and its early response. And they have raised similar concerns about the WHO.
One of the WHO researchers was British zoologist Peter Daszak, who helped channel federal funding grants in 2019 to the Wuhan lab.
He also is the president of New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that bills itself as "a global environmental health nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease," as reported by Just the News.
The central China lab having collected extensive virus samples led to the allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community.
The WHO team is considering several theories for how the disease first ended up in humans, leading to a pandemic that has now killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the Associated Press.
"Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research," WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said at a news conference Tuesday.
"However, the findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population" and will not be suggested as an avenue of future study, Embarek also said, according to the wire service.