Journal article Open Access

Outlines of a probabilistic evaluation of possible SARS-CoV-2 origins

Demaneuf, Gilles; De Maistre, Rodolphe


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    <subfield code="a">&lt;p&gt;We explore the relative probabilities of a lab-related accident against a non-lab-related zoonotic event being at the root of the current COVID-19 pandemic. We show that, based on present knowledge, the relative probability of a lab-related accident against a non-lab related zoonotic event is not negligible across a wide range of defensible input probabilities.&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;p&gt;For instance, under a reference set of input probabilities, the relative probabilities are at least 55% for a lab-related event against 45% at most for a non-lab-related zoonotic event. Even under a particularly conservative set of assumptions the relative probability of the lab-related accident is still 6% (to 94% for the non-lab related zoonotic event).&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;p&gt;Through a review of the Chinese specialised literature, we further show that our underlying estimate for the probability of lab-acquired infection is consistent with risk assessments from Chinese authorities and specialists. As part of this study, we list 112 individual&amp;nbsp;BSL-3 labs in China, across 62 lab complexes.&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;p&gt;We then review a list of common probabilistic misunderstandings that are often associated with discussions about COVID-19 origins and conclude by discussing how such a probabilistic treatment can also offer a way to properly guide an investigation into the causes of the pandemic while being able to embrace different estimates of the underlying probabilities.&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;p&gt;&lt;br&gt;
&lt;strong&gt;Note: This paper is produced by the authors strictly in their personal capacity, and&amp;nbsp;should not be constructed as representing in any way the opinion of any of the institutions the authors are employed or associated to.&amp;nbsp;&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;/p&gt;</subfield>
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