The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the novel coronavirus originated in animals in China, dismissing theories that it was produced in a high-security laboratory, Reuters reported.

Several conspiracy theories have linked a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the coronavirus pandemic. The United States, which has repeatedly accused China of concealing the origin and seriousness of the pandemic, is investigating whether the coronavirus actually originated in the institute. President Donald Trump had said last week that he wants to send expert teams inside China to investigate the source of the outbreak.

“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed virus in a lab or somewhere else,” WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said at a press briefing, according to Reuters.

Chaib added that it remained unclear how the virus had been transmitted to the humans but there had “certainly” been an intermediate animal host. The spokesperson, however, did not respond to a request to elaborate on the possibility that the virus may have escaped the lab.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has already dismissed theories that it produced the virus and let it escape. The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in China’s Wuhan city late last year. Bats are believed to be the source of the infection.

Since then, the outbreak has amplified into a pandemic. It has spread to 185 countries, infecting more than 25 lakh people and killing over 1.7 lakh patients. With 8,25,041 Covid-19 cases and more than 44,000 deaths, the United States is the worst-hit country in the world. India’s Covid-19 tally has gone up to 19,984 with a toll of 640 as of Wednesday morning.

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