Japanese study raises questions about origin of COVID-19 variants

An article discussing a recent Japanese study suggests that COVID-19 subvariants, including recent ones like EG.5.1 and BA.X, could potentially have been developed in a lab. The study claims that these variants contain mutations that are unlikely to have emerged through natural processes, raising questions about their origins and the potential for large-scale lab-based development and release. The study does not make any claims about a deliberate spreading of these subvariants. Despite this, a viral social media post is using the study to claim that COVID-19 subvariants were engineered in laboratories.

Risk level: MediumRecommendation: These types of posts perpetuate the unsubstantiated claim that COVID-19, its variants, and its subvariants were engineered in laboratories and deliberately spread. This may promote distrust in guidance from government and public health officials, which may result in negative health outcomes. While conversations about the origins of COVID-19 may not arise in a clinical setting, doctors may emphasize that staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines helps protect patients from newer variants.