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May 23, 2024

China Engineers New Lethal COVID Strain in Lab Experiments

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Jan 19, 2024

Chinese scientists have sparked outrage after revelations they created a new COVID strain in lab experiments that killed 100% of infected humanized mice. The mutant virus specifically targets lung and brain tissues, raising alarms over the risky nature of the research.

Engineered Virus Displays Extreme Lethality in Animal Models

Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology genetically engineered a new COVID strain by merging Omicron and Delta variants with a bat coronavirus. This novel coronavirusdisplayed startling lethality when tested in humanized mice models in the lab.

As summarized in this table, the key facts around the development and testing of this new viral strain are:

Feature Description
Developed By Scientists at Wuhan Institute of Virology
Gene Segments Omicron variant, Delta variant, bat coronavirus
Test Subjects Humanized mice with human ACE2 receptors
Lethality Rate 100% fatality rate in infected mice
Targeted Tissues Significant replication in lungs and brain

The humanized mouse models were genetically engineered to carry human ACE2 receptors, which the COVID virus leverages to infect host cells. By targeting these mice, the scientists could evaluate the new mutant strain’s ability to infect human-like tissue.

The results were alarming – the new strain achieved 100% lethality, meaning all infected mice died. Autopsies further revealed high viral loads in lung and brain tissues.

This extreme virulence and targeted multi-organ damage evokes troubling similarities with the original COVID-19 virus, which also displays affinity for infecting the lungs and neurological tissue in the brain.

China Defends Controversial Gain-of-Function Research

Gain-of-function experiments that enhance pathogens have long sparked intense debate globally. Critics argue this type of research is too hazardous when working with viruses that pose significant health risks.

China, however, has firmly defended gain-of-function studies as crucial for anticipating new viral threats. The recent creation of this lethal COVID strain forms part of China’s ongoing gain-of-function efforts to identify risks from potential spillover events.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Mao Ning:

This type of study is extremely important in preventing and responding to future emerging infectious diseases, and is conducted in strictly enclosed lab environments with stringent protective measures to avoid leaks.

Despite assertions around safety protocols and oversight, China has a concerning track record with lab leaks. The original COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan raises suspicions the virus may have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology itself. This lab was known to be studying bat coronaviruses prior to the pandemic emerging.

Critics globally have now renewed calls for restricting or halting gain-of-function studies given the intrinsic dangers. But China remains defiant it will continue conducting these experiments regardless of international opinions.

Global Health Experts Sound the Alarm on “Madness”

The revelation of this new mutant strain and its shocking lethality in mice has ignited uproar among global health experts. Prominent voices within the healthcare community are vehemently denouncing China’s actions as reckless and “madness”.

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist who advocated for early COVID masking and member of the World Health Network, condemned the research:

This is dangerously crazy…engineering COVID strains more pathogenic than current dominant variants and viruses is medically and socially IRRESPONSIBLE!

Other scientific leaders joined the fiery criticism, including Dutch virologist Professor Marion Koopmans who serves on the WHO’s advisory committee on COVID-19. She urged WHO intervention to restrict further gain-of-function experiments, stating:

This type of research should not happen without public health necessity and oversight, as well as transparent risk-benefit evaluation. @WHO should have policies against this kind of research.

So far the World Health Organization (WHO) has avoided directly rebuking China, only commenting it is gathering details around the virus strain development. But pressure is clearly mounting for a strong stance against further risky tinkering with potential pandemic pathogens.

Fears Grow Over Next Spillover Event in China

Amidst the furor around this new COVID strain, anxieties are also escalating over the possibility of accidental exposure beyond lab environments. China’s apparent lack of transparency and oversight fuel nagging doubts that current biosafety protocols are adequate enough.

The nation at the epicenter of COVID-19 is also a hotspot for new zoonotic viruses emerging from its wild meat trade. Lax regulation sees exotic animal markets operating with little disease control, creating viral melting pots prime for spillover events.

As liason fellow for Chatham House Agrifood, Dr. Angela Rasmussen critiqued:

Working on SARSr-CoVs when there is an ongoing spillover risk…seems like an unnecessary risk when there are pathogens that need additional study as well without the same potential for accidentally causing an outbreak.

If leaked from Wuhan laboratories, this latest engineered COVID strain could have devastating consequences given its extreme virulence in lung and neurological tissues. The global trauma from recurring lockdowns and millions of lives lost already serve as a chilling reminder of how easily pandemics can rage out of control.

Calls for International Security Council Action

In light of the current revelations and associated biosafety hazards, experts argue the issue warrants escalation to the highest global security levels. There are now calls for formal review by the United Nations Security Council regarding restrictions on certain types of virology studies.

Adding weight to this position, German health minister Professor Karl Lauterbach asserted:

We need stricter global oversight and regulation covering these types of dangerous experiments that create new pathogens. The United Nations Security Council should address this matter given the immense risk to global health security.

Any meaningful international restrictions face obstacles, however, given China’s defensive stance that it has sovereign rights to determine research activities within its borders. Potential Chinese resistance raises complex challenges around enforcing universal biosecurity standards.

Nevertheless, a unified outcry from international leaders may still influence China’s stance. Continued pressure could provoke policy changes to avoid further damage to China’s global standing.

Bracing for The Next Laboratory Frankenstein

As China shows no signs of curtailing its gain-of-function studies, viral experts warn more disturbing revelations likely lie ahead. This recent engineered super-strain may simply be the tip of the iceberg in terms of risky lab experiments generating dangerous human-made pathogens.

Prominent figures argue now is the time to act decisively before science fiction becomes reality through accidental releases of lab-brewed viruses. Australian MP Craig Kelly forcefully asserted:

This latest disturbing news out of Wuhan shows how completely out of control this type of risky virology research has become. World leaders cannot remain complacent – before another highly fatal organism like the original COVID19 escapes containment, we need to definitively slam shut this Pandora’s box of mad scientists tinkering where they shouldn’t be.

Ongoing tensions are guaranteed as China remains entrenched defending its research autonomy against outside interference. But the fallout from these Wuhan lab revelations may spark meaningful debate on developing binding global biosecurity standards. With the world still reeling from COVID-19’s impacts, there are hopes renewed attention on gain-of-function hazards could usher positive reforms before calamity strikes again.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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