A group of scientists was accused of “play with fire” after it was announced that they created a new strain of Covid-19, extremely lethal, in a laboratory. The strain was created by the team from the National Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University – one of 13 biosafety level 4 laboratories in the United States – combining the Omicron variant and the original strain from China, which during testing killed 80 percent of the mice used in one study.
The news aroused fears in many exponents of the scientific world, given that everything indicates that similar practices could have started the current pandemic in the laboratories of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (China), located a few kilometers from the food market around which the first cases of coronavirus were detected in late 2019.
“This should be totally prohibited, it’s playing with fire”reacted the Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading Israeli government scientist. “If we want to avoid the next laboratory-generated pandemic, it is imperative that enhanced research oversight of potential pandemic pathogens be strengthened,” warned the Dr. Richard Ebright, chemist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.
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According to the new research, a team of scientists from Boston and Florida extracted the spike protein from the Omicron variantthe unique structure that binds to and invades human cells, and they connected it to the original wild-type strain that first emerged in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic.
The researchers found that all mice exposed to Omicron’s standard strain survived and experienced only “mild” symptoms, while rodents exposed to “Omicron S” suffered severe illness with a mortality rate of 80 percent. As published dailymail.comthe researchers said this indicated that while the spike protein is responsible for the rate of infection, changes in other parts of its structure determine its lethality.
Scientists admit that the hybrid virus is unlikely to be as deadly in humans as it was in mice. They explain that this is because the specific strain of laboratory mice used is highly susceptible to severe disease of Covid-19. Furthermore, mice and humans also have very different immune responses to the virus.
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Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories is one of 13 biosafety level 4 laboratories in the United States that are authorized to handle the most dangerous pathogens. Experiments in these labs involve “play” with animal viruses to advance treatments and vaccines that could be used in a future outbreak.
“Given the high probability that the covid pandemic originated from the escape of a laboratory-manipulated coronavirus in Wuhan, these experiments seem profoundly reckless”said Professor David Livermore, professor of microbiology at the University of East Anglia (UK).
Richard Ebright said that “research is a clear example of gain of function research“, which was restricted in the US until 2017 due to concerns that it could lead to the inadvertent creation of a pandemic and consists of manipulating viruses to make them more deadly or infectious, in the hope of preempting a future outbreak.
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While Covid is officially believed to have been transmitted from an animal to a human, most likely from a bat, in the Wuhan wet market, some speculate otherwise. And the theory that Covid-19 spread due to a “laboratory leak” alleges that the coronavirus was created through gain-of-function research that was carried out at the Wuhan Institute.
“If we want to avoid a next laboratory-generated pandemic, it is imperative that oversight of the investigation of potential pandemic pathogens (ePPP) be strengthened,” said Ebright. “It is imperative that existing policies requiring prior risk-benefit assessment of ePPP research be followed, and it is imperative that officials from US government agencies who have repeatedly put the public at risk by repeatedly violating existing policies be accountable.”
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