At a time the world is still suffering from the effects of COVID that devoured the earth, scientists at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) have created a new Covid-19 variant which resulted in an 80% kill rate in mice which could as well do the same damage to infected humans.
It was reported that they created the chimeric virus to study how omicron versions of the virus, which first appeared in 2021, evade immunity built up against past strains and yet cause a lower rate of severe infections.
After exposing mice either to the chimeric virus or to the naturally-occuring omicron BA.1 virus, the researchers found that the mutated spike protein of the omicron virus did enable it to dodge immunity, but that the mutated spike wasn’t responsible for making omicron less severe.
The new omicron spike-carrying virus — built by attaching the spike protein from an omicron version of the virus to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus — killed 80% of lab mice infected with it, making it more severe than the original omicron variant which didn’t kill any infected mice.
The research was conducted properly in a biosecurity level 3 laboratory and approved by an internal biosafety review committee and Boston’s Public Health Commission, controversy is rightly swirling around the study because the researchers did not clear the work with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which was one of its funders.
At the moment, the scientists are yet to divulge to NIAID if their experiments could create an enhanced pathogen of pandemic potential (ePPP). The researchers published their findings Oct. 14 on the preprint database bioRxiv, so it has yet to be peer-reviewed.
“Consistent with studies published by others, this work shows that it is not the spike protein that drives Omicron pathogenicity, but instead other viral proteins. Determination of those proteins will lead to better diagnostics and disease management strategies.” Lead author Mohsan Saeed, an assistant professor at NEIDL, said in a statement, according to STAT.
On the other hand, Emily Erbelding, director of NIAID’s division of microbiology and infectious diseases has declared that the BU team’s original grant applications did not specify that the scientists wanted to do this precise work. Nor did the group make clear that it was doing experiments that might involve enhancing a pathogen of pandemic potential in the progress reports it provided to NIAID.
This creation could be a campaign against humanity if alarming loose ends are not tightened. This research has the potential to make pathogens more dangerous and capable to cause public unrest and instill fears of things that could likely happen. Perhaps, this research work has created a more dangerous virus.