Researchers at Boston University have developed a new strain of COVID-19 that has an 80% kill rate on mice infected with it.
The mutant variant, which was developed as a hybrid of Omicron and the original strain from Wuhan, was exposed to rodents in a laboratory at Boston University. According to the researchers, when a similar group of rodents were exposed to the standard Omicron strain, every mouse survived and experienced only “mild” symptoms.
Researchers also infected human cells with the deadly variant, finding it five times more infectious than Omicron.
Many blasted the research, as the world struggled to cope with the milder variants currently circulating the globe.
The researchers have not performed any human trials for obvious reasons, but speculate that the variant might not be as deadly in humans as it is in rodents.
“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 in The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail reported:
In the new research, which has not been peer-reviewed, a team of researchers from Boston and Florida extracted Omicron's spike protein — the unique structure that binds to and invades human cells.
The researchers looked at how mice fared under the new hybrid strain compared to the original Omicron variant.
They said it signaled that while the spike protein is responsible for infectivity, changes to other parts of its structure determine its deadliness.
The scientists also looked at the different strains' effect on human lung cells that were grown in the lab.
They found that the original COVID strain produced high levels of infectious virus particles, and the new hybrid strain produced five times more infectious particles than Omicron. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia in England, said he was concerned about what the biolabs are capable of producing.
“The issue is what you’re going to be using [the labs] for,” he said. “If they’re for diagnostic purposes, then you need them. But I don’t think every country needs a BSL-4.”
He added, “If they start having a dual purpose for research that has offensive military implications, that is the concern.”