Boston University scientists have created a lethal new Covid-19 strain in a biolaboratory that boasts an 80% kill rate, according to reports.
The scientists were condemned for ‘playing with fire’ after it emerged they had created the deadly new Covid strain using gain of function research.
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DailyMail.com revealed the team had made a hybrid virus — combining Omicron and the original Wuhan strain — that killed 80 per cent of mice in a study.
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The revelation exposes how dangerous virus manipulation research continues to go on even in the US, despite fears similar practices may have started the pandemic.
Daily Mail report: Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading scientist in the Israeli Government, said: ‘This should be totally forbidden, it’s playing with fire.’
Gain of function research – when viruses are purposefully manipulated to be more infectious or deadly – is thought to be at the center of Covid’s origin.
A Chinese laboratory located just miles from the first cluster of cases carried out similar research on bat coronaviruses.
But the practice has been largely restricted in the US since 2017.
Dr Richard Ebright, a chemist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said: ‘The research is a clear example of gain of function research.
He added: ‘If we are to avoid a next lab-generated pandemic, it is imperative that oversight of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research be strengthened.’
It has always been present in the virus but has become more evolved over time. Omicron has dozens of mutations on its spike protein that made it so infectious.
Researchers attached Omicron’s spike to the original wildtype strain that first emerged in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic.
The researchers looked at how mice fared against the new hybrid strain compared to the original Omicron variant.
When a similar group of rodents were exposed to the standard Omicron strain, however, they all survived and only experienced ‘mild’ symptoms.
Writing in the paper, they said: ‘In…mice, while Omicron causes mild, non-fatal infection, the Omicron S-carrying virus inflicts severe disease with a mortality rate of 80 percent.’
The researchers said it signaled that while the spike protein is responsible for infectivity, changes to other parts of its structure determine its deadliness.
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