At the laboratory Boston University, US researchers have now created a new fatal Covid strain, replicating the type of experimentation that many believe launched the epidemic in Wuhan China.
At Boston University, the mutant strain, which is a cross between Omicron and the original Wuhan virus, has now been shown to kill 80 percent of mice exposed to it.
When a comparable group of rats was exposed to the typical Omicron strain, they all survived with only ‘mild’ symptoms.
The hybrid strain was also discovered to be five times more infectious than Omicron when scientists infected human cells with it.
Covid originally appeared in a wet market in Wuhan, China, around eight kilometers from a comparable high-security virology facility that worked with bat coronaviruses.
Gain-of-function research entailed experimenting with viruses to make them more dangerous or contagious in the hopes of preventing a future epidemic.
A team of researchers from Boston and Florida isolated Omicron’s spike protein — the distinctive structure that attaches to and invades human cells — for the current study, which has not been peer-reviewed.
It was always there in the virus, but it has developed through time.
Omicron’s spike protein has hundreds of mutations that make it highly contagious.
Omicron’s spike was linked to the initial wild strain that appeared in Wuhan at the outset of the pandemic.
The researchers compared the performance of mice against the novel hybrid strain to that of the original Omicron type and found that they suffered a 80 percent mortality rate when exposed to the new strain.
It indicated, according to the researchers, that while the spike protein is crucial for infectivity, modifications to other elements of its structure dictate its deadliness.
The researchers also investigated the effects of the various strains on human lung cells generated in the lab.
They discovered that the hybrid strain generated five times as many virus particles as the original Omicron.
At the outset of the pandemic, the ‘lab leak’ origin idea for Covid was discarded as a conspiracy theory in favor of a theory of natural emergence.
However, the notion has gained traction after a succession of exposes and cover-ups related to the Wuhan lab has given the notion renewed credence.