NewsThe coronavirus aus dem Labor

The coronavirus aus dem Labor

Created: 10/18/2022 Updated: 10/18/2022 3:56 p.m

80 Prozent der mit dem künstlich geschaffenen Coronavirus infizierten Labormäuse starben, während die Tiere, die nur mit der Omikron-Variante infiziert wurden, lediglich mild erkrankten und alle überlebten. Allerdings: Bei der ursprünglichen Wuhan-Version waren sämtliche infizierten Versuchstiere gestorben.
80 percent of the laboratory mice infected with the artificially created coronavirus died, while the animals infected only with the omicron variant only became mildly ill and all survived. However: In the original Wuhan version, all infected test animals had died. © Imago (symbol image)

Researchers from the USA combine the Wuhan strain of the coronavirus with the omicron variant.

The pathogenic properties of the original Wuhan strain of Sars-CoV-2 combined with the easy transmissibility of the omicron variant: That sounds scary, and one cannot imagine that such a corona virus could emerge and eventually dominate the global infection process. Researchers at the University of Boston (USA) have now created just such a hybrid version of the pathogen in the laboratory. A team led by biochemist Mohsan Saeed from Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories equipped a Wuhan coronavirus with Omicron’s spike protein. The spike protein is the part of the virus that it uses to dock and enter human cells. Mutations in the genes for this protein have ensured that the virus has become ever more easily transmissible – the currently dominant omicron subtype BA.5 is considered the most contagious known virus of all. At the same time, Sars-CoV-2 now causes less serious illnesses in most people than the former Wuhan strain.

The result of the fusion sounds alarming: 80 percent of the laboratory mice infected with the artificially created virus died, while the animals infected only with the omicron variant only became mildly ill and all survived. However, the original Wuhan version had even more devastating effects on the mice than the hybrid virus – all infected test animals died here.

The university therefore explained that the fusion ultimately made the virus less dangerous than the original – without pointing out that the variant from the laboratory is less pathogenic than the wild type, but more dangerous than omicron and possibly just as contagious. The university’s statement was a reaction to severe criticism, including serious allegations, which hailed primarily on the Internet when the results were made public at the beginning of the week. The researchers published their study last Friday on the bioRxiV preprint server ( and it has not yet been reviewed by other experts.

One of the allegations was that the high-security laboratory at Boston University had carried out gain-of-function research with the fusion of the two virus types. This controversial research, which involves gaining new properties in viruses and bacteria, for example, was briefly suspended in the USA under President Obama and then made possible again under certain conditions. To this day, the rumor persists that the existence of Sars-CoV-2 is the result of gain-of-function research and came into the world through a laboratory accident.

The University of Boston contradicted assumptions that they had done gain-of-function research with the creation of the virus chimera. Rather, the study provides important insights, such as the fact that the spike protein is not the driver of pathogenic properties, but that other viral proteins must be responsible. If these are found, this will contribute to better diagnostics and the development of targeted therapies and could also help with a view to future pandemics. The university also announced on Monday that the Boston Health Commission had approved the trials.

However, Emily Erbelding, director of the Department of Microbiology and Infections at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told the medical news portal STAT that they were not fully informed about the work in the high-security laboratory at Boston University. “We wish they had, yes.” She announced talks for the next few days.

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