Fact check: The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 emerged in late 2019, not 2008

A post has been shared on Facebook that purportedly provides evidence that scientists discussed SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in a 2008 study. However, the study referred to a different virus.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The upload included an image of a journal article from 2008 that used the terms SARS-CoV1, SARS-CoV2 and SARS-CoV3 (here). The accompanying caption read: “Who can answer this? If SARS-CoV2 is "novel" why were they talking about it in 2008? And what's SARS-CoV3? Is that pandemic 2 [Bill] Gates was talking about?”

The study was also referenced on Twitter (here , here and here), with users asking: “Why’s this been kept from public view?” (here).

However, the journal article was unrelated to COVID-19. According to a team of global health scientists and infection preventionists at the Meedan Digital Health Lab, the 2008 study used the terms SARS-CoV1, SARS-CoV2, and SARS-CoV3 to refer to gene fragments of SARS-CoV-1, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, shortened to SARS (here).

SARs-CoV-1, which caused the SARS epidemic in 2003 and killed 774 people (here), is different from the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in 2019 and was originally named 2019-nCoV (

The Meeden scientists explain: “SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, while related, are different viruses and just two of many coronaviruses (named for crown-like spikes on the surfaces) in the RNA virus family of Coronaviridae” (here).

“There has been no virus identified as SARS-CoV-3 as of early 2021”, they add.

More details on the 2008 study can be found here .


False. A study from 2008 did not reference the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 or the existence of another virus that will cause ‘pandemic two’. The journal article used the terms SARS-Cov2 and SARS-CoV3 to identify gene fragments of SARS-CoV1, the virus that causes SARS. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was first recorded in 2019 and, at the time of publication, there is no virus called SARS-CoV-3.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .