BERLIN, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- The origins of the coronavirus in a laboratory are unlikely, German biologist and veterinarian Fabian Leendertz told German newspaper Welt in an interview on Sunday.
"There are simply so many more occasions when people come into contact with animals than in the laboratory," said Leendertz, citing "caves in Cambodia from which people scoop out bat droppings to use as fertilizer -- without any protective equipment or masks."
The laboratories at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were characterized by "high safety standards to avoid infecting employees," sad Leendertz, a specialist in pathogens that can transmit from animals to humans and who was part of a World Health Organization (WHO) mission in mid-March to examine the origins of COVID-19.
On the geographic proximity of labs and the pandemic outbreak, he said that he would be "very cautious about drawing too many conclusions from the geographical proximity to the first patients diagnosed in Wuhan."
The coronavirus would spread "unnoticed and quickly," Leendertz explained, adding that it "may well be that Wuhan is just the place where it was first detected -- since there are good hospitals and diagnostics there -- and not the place where patient zero lives or has lived."
He referred also to human immunodeficiency viruses, or HIV, which was first described in the United States but originated in Africa.
"As far as we know, the scientists in Wuhan used genetic methods, i.e. PCR-based, to search for relevant coronaviruses so that we can better prepare for possible future epidemics or pandemics," he stressed. Enditem