Boston University scientists were condemned for “playing with fire” after it emerged they had created a lethal new Covid strain in a laboratory.
Researchers at Boston University say they have developed a new COVID strain that has an 80% kill rate following a series of similar experiments first thought to have started the global pandemic that began in China.
The ones that are dominant across the world such as the sub-variants of Omicron are said to be mild when it comes to their severity. To develop the most lethal Covid strain, the researchers, according to a report, extracted the spike protein from Omicron and genetically engineered it into the strain of Covid-19 which was first detected in China’s Wuhan, and tried it on mice.
The researchers said in their research paper: “In…mice, while Omicron causes mild, non-fatal infection, the Omicron S-carrying virus inflicts severe disease with a mortality rate of 80 per cent.”
While 80 per cent of mice died from the new man-made Covid strain, none faced a similar fate from a milder Omicron variant, the researchers found.
The researchers at Boston University said the new strain has five times more infectious virus particles than the Omicron. With this, many have suspected that even the first Covid-19 virus was also a laboratory-made mistake.
Scientists conducted this study, but it has not gone down well with medical experts and scientists. Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading scientist with the Israeli government, warned the scientists at Boston University not to play with fire and indulge in manipulated virus research that peers haven’t monitored.
Dr. Richard Ebright, a chemist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, spoke to the Daily Mail about the occurrence and explained that this type of research could be very dangerous.
“The research is a clear example of gain of function research,” Dr. Ebright told the British publication. “If we are to avoid a next lab-generated pandemic, it is imperative that oversight of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research be strengthened.”
“The research is a clear example of gain of function research of concern and enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research. It is especially concerning that this new US-government ePPP research – like the previous US-government ePPP research on chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses at Wuhan Institute of Virology that may have caused the pandemic – appears not to have undergone the prior risk-benefit review mandated under US-government policies,” Dr. Ebright told DailyMail.com.
COVID-19 was first found to have come from a wet market in Wuhan, though many believe the virus was engineered at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The World Health Organization continues to face criticism for its handling of the crisis in its early, most pivotal days.
The Omicron variant is highly transmissible, even in those who are fully vaccinated. The spike protein is responsible for rates of infectivity, according to researchers, while other changes to the virus’s structure determine its deadliness.
One limitation of the study was the breed of mice used, as other types are more similar to humans.