After it was revealed that the Boston University researchers had developed a deadly new strain of Covid in a lab, they were criticized for “playing with fire.” Combining the original Wuhan strain with the highly contagious Omicron variant, the team created a lethal hybrid virus that has killed 80% of lab mice.
The scientists were attempting to determine whether the Omicron spike protein, which made it highly transmissible, also made it less deadly. However, they discovered that the lab-created variant was still extremely deadly, and it could wreak havoc if accidentally released into the wild.
An Israeli government scientist, Professor Shmuel Shapira, criticized the Boston University researchers, stating that they were “playing with fire,” and that this type of research should be “totally forbidden.” Conspiracy theorists have claimed that the virus originated from a lab, which has been disproven. Nevertheless, when Donald Trump was president, the gain of function research has been highly restricted in the United States since 2017.
Dr. Richard Ebright, a chemist at Rutgers University, warned that this research could be dangerous and that oversight of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research should be strengthened. The Boston University scientists worked with Florida scientists to explore how dangerous they could make a COVID-19 strain using the Omicron spike protein. Compared to the Wuhan strain, the Omicron mutation was less deadly, killing only 80 percent of lab mice compared to the original strain’s 100 percent mortality rate.
The scientists wrote that “while Omicron causes mild, non-fatal infection, the Omicron S-carrying virus inflicts severe disease with a mortality rate of 80 percent” in mice. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed. Dr. Ebright expressed concern that this research was an example of gain of function research of concern and enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research. He noted that the previous US-government research on chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology may have caused the pandemic and did not undergo the prior risk-benefit review mandated under US-government policies.
Boston University scientists have created a lethal strain of COVID-19 by combining the Wuhan strain with the Omicron variant. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and experts have criticized the research, stating that it could be dangerous and calling for stronger oversight of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research.