Scientists Create ‘Frankenstein’ Virus That’s Deadlier Than Covid Variants

Scientists create viruses "Frankenstein" from Covid

Image: Fusion Medical Animation/Unsplash/Reproduction

Researchers at Boston University in the US caused an uproar among the scientific community after creating a Frankenstein virus from Covid-19. The team combined the Ômicron variant, considered mild, with the original Sars-CoV-2 strain, seen as more deadly. During tests, the hybrid caused the death of 80% of infected laboratory mice.

Calm down: the virus was more deadly than the Ômicron variant, which did not kill any rodents, but less deadly than the original strain, which killed all the animals tested. The aim of the study was to understand what makes Ômicron less pathogenic, which seems to be linked to changes in other proteins besides the spike – the virus’s entry key.

The study was conducted in a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory, which has sealed doors, negative air pressure cabinets, and workers in protective suits. The results were published in the prepress database bioRxiv.

The research was approved by an internal biosafety review committee and the Boston Public Health Commission. However, the scientists did not explain exactly what would be done to the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which was one of the funders.

The NIAID was not told that the experiments could create an enhanced pathogen of pandemic potential (ePPP), which would necessitate prior review of the study by a committee that would approve the project’s progress or not.

May have an ambiguity occurred: For a virus to be defined as an ePPP, it must produce potential pandemic outcomes in humans. As the study was carried out with rodents highly susceptible to the pathogen, the scientists may have considered that the results would not be replicated in society.

In any case, the scientific community questions the study: if the results do not apply to humans, what is their relevance and why do it? NIAID should continue talking to scientists to clear up the confusion.

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