Faced with accusations from the Daily Mail, the Boston University researchers quickly reacted in an official press release. They refute the tabloid’s conclusions.
This publication of DailyMail makes a lot of noise. In a recent article, the British newspaper revealed that a team from Boston University (USA) had created a hybrid virus – combining Omicron and the original Wuhan strain – responsible for the death of 80% of mice in a study. To read this article, it would be research on the gain of function, that is to say a deliberate manipulation of viruses to make them more infectious or more deadly.
False, answer the researchers, who accuse the tabloid of distorting the results of their study. In an official statement, the scientists denounce misleading claims. They call these conclusions false and inaccurate. Conversely, the researchers assure that their experience even makes the virus less dangerous. “They sensationalised the message, they misrepresent the entire study and its objectives“, added Ronald B. Corley Director of NEIDL and Director of Microbiology at BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine.
Better understand the strain of the virus
The University recalls that the research was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Biosafety Board (IBC), which consists of scientists as well as members of the local community, and that the Boston Public Health Commission had also approved the research.
So what was this study for? This study aimed to examine proteins on the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (BA.1) variant. Thus, the researchers wanted to compare the variant with the original viral strain. “They wanted to know if the virus was really less virulent, simply because it was not infecting the same cells as the original strain.“, explains the scientist.
“A statement taken out of context”
Ronald B. Corley protests against the accusations of the Daily Mail and categorically denies the accusations: “First, this research is not gain-of-function research, meaning it did not amplify the Washington State SARS-CoV-2 virus strain or make it more dangerous. . In fact, this research has made the virus replicate itself less dangerous“. He explains that the media released the result of “80% more deadlyand distorted the objectives of this study: “This was a statement taken out of context for the purpose of sensationalism and it totally misrepresents not only the results as well as the purpose of the study.“
Through this official press release, the researcher also defends himself against any endangerment of the population: “We take the safety and security of how we deal with pathogens seriously, and the virus does not leave the laboratory in which it is studied“. Before concluding: “Our whole focus is public health. And this study was one of them, finding which part of the virus is responsible for the severe illness. If we can understand this, then we can develop the tools we need to develop better therapies.“.
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