A US lab has been accused of "playing with fire" after it created a hybrid super-covid that killed 80% of the mice it was tested on.
Boston University scientists combined Omicron and the original Wuhan strain, despite the fact that sort of research is what is thought to be behind the Covid pandemic.
Gain-of-function research improves the ability of a pathogen to cause disease in a bid to inform public health and preparedness efforts, but it can also expose people to the virus inadvertently.
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Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading scientist in the Israeli Government, said: "This should be totally forbidden, it's playing with fire."
Dr Richard Ebright, a chemist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, told DailyMail.com that: "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."
The title stated that researchers from Boston and Florida combined Omicron's most dangerous element, its spike protein, and combined it with that of the original Wuhan strain.
The virus uses the spike protein to latch on to and enter the cells it infects. Omicron's spike has dozens of mutations, making it particularly infectious.
When a group of mice were exposed to standard Omicron, they all survived and only experienced 'mild' symptoms. However, 80% of those exposed to the hybrid strain perished.
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"In…mice, while Omicron causes mild, non-fatal infection, the Omicron S-carrying virus inflicts severe disease with a mortality rate of 80 percent," researchers said.
While the spike protein is responsible for infectivity, changes to other parts of its structure determine its ability to iflict mortality, researchers said.
Dr Ebright told DailyMail.com: "The research is a clear example of gain of function research of concern and enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research.
"It is especially concerning that this new US-government ePPP research – like the previous US-government ePPP research on chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses at Wuhan Institute of Virology that may have caused the pandemic – appears not to have undergone the prior risk-benefit review mandated under US-government policies.
"If we are to avoid a next lab-generated pandemic, it is imperative that oversight of ePPP research be strengthened.
"It is imperative that the existing polices mandating prior risk-benefit assessment of ePPP research be followed, and it is imperative that officials at US-government agencies who repeatedly have placed the public at risk by repeatedly violating the existing policies be held accountable."
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