- Boston University created an artificial form of COVID-19 in a laboratory. Now, U.S. health officials have launched an inquiry into a controversial study.
- The Boston University research was designed to test the mutations in the spike protein of the Omicron strain, which is more transmissible than the original variant.
- The National Institutes of Health told the Financial Times that its officials were investigating whether the study, partly funded by the U.S. government, should have gone through extra checks before proceeding.
- In an early version of findings from the study, researchers combined a lab-made version of Covid-19’s original strain with the spike protein from the more transmissible Omicron variant.
- Omicron proved less deadly than the so-called “wild type” virus but has spread far more quickly because it can better escape immune protection.
- The new artificial strain killed 80% of mice exposed to it, making it slightly less pathogenic than the original strain. But the university said it did not test to see whether it spread more quickly than the original strain.
- “NIH is examining the matter to determine whether the research conducted was subject to the NIH grants policy statement or met the criteria for review under the [government’s guidelines for certain experiments with dangerous viruses],” a spokesperson said.
- Boston University said it did not have to alert NIH before carrying out the work because government money did not fund the experiments directly. However, it was used for tools and techniques to carry them out.
- Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
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