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Since 2019, COVID-19 has impacted the entire world. While we were searching for a solution to the pandemic, some were creating and planting conspiracy theories about COVID’s origin, complicating the process, and even worsening the health of others.

There are several COVID-origin conspiracy theories that provide manufactured, yet compelling, narratives to their believers.

The lab leak theory: Proponents of this theory believe that the virus was first created inside a lab in Wuhan, China, funded by the U.S. government, then escaped it.

What gave this theory the power to exist is that some consider it worthy of investigation. In August 2021, President Joe Biden instructed his intelligence agencies to probe the origins of COVID, including the possibility of lab leakage. Facebook also decided it would no longer remove posts that claim the virus is artificial. Two recent scientific studies proved that the virus started in a Wuhan wet market and described the leak from a lab as not plausible. Despite all this evidence, nearly three in ten Americans believe that COVID was made in a lab.

Snake venom causes COVID: Advocates of this theory claim that COVID isn’t a virus but cobra venom and is contracted through drinking water. A documentary film called Watch the Water was responsible for spreading this theory. This theory has been debunked by the scientific community about the origins of COVID.

A bioweapon created by China: During the first days of the pandemic, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton explained the origins of COVID and some even defended it publicly. Another advocate of this theory is Jeff Zink, a one-time church deacon, who believes that COVID is a bioweapon to convert the U.S. to socialism.

It was created to rob Trump of the presidency: In an interview with Infowars, the well-known disinformation outlet, former General Michael Flynn, who served briefly as National Security Advisor to then-President Donald Trump, claimed that COVID was created by the WHO, the UN, and influential persons such as Bill gates and George Soros to steal the election from Trump, but he provided no proof to back up his claims.

COVID conspiracy theories don’t just impact our information ecosystem, they also harm individuals. A recent study found that these theories impact the mental health of those suffering from depression and anxiety.

There are reasons for creating these theories; some are ideological, but the political agendas behind these conspiracy theories are very obvious. Politicians who endorse these theories use them to delegitimize their opponents or foreign governments.

Scientists should play their role in explaining and communicating to the public their findings and the fundamental knowledge gap wherever it exists.

Mohamed Suliman is a senior researcher at Northeastern University and also holds a degree in Engineering form the University of Khartoum.