Scientists in the United Kingdom have used dangerous “gain-of-function” research to create a deadly mutant strain of COVID-19, according to reports.
The researchers are being blasted over the move, however, as critics accuse them of “playing with fire” with the “high-risk, low-benefit” laboratory experiments.
Hamsters were infected with mutant viruses, blends of the original Wuhan strain, and parts of either Omicron or Delta.
While Omicron and Delta are extremely contagious but only have mild symptoms, scientists are hoping to create a highly contagious but extremely fatal variant of the coronavirus.
The research, carried out by Imperial College London, was revealed in an exposé by the Daily Mail.
Critics of the research call it “insanity” and warn that the lab trials could, in theory, unleash a new viral threat.
Twenty scientists were involved in the project, including one who sits on the UK Government’s advisory panel SAGE.
Yet the university insists the study, part-funded by the taxpayer, follows British regulations and is “entirely safe.”
The bombshell revelation comes amid an ongoing furor over similar experiments in the US.
Republican lawmakers have been calling for a crackdown on virus manipulation research.
As Slay News reported earlier this month, academics at Boston University combined different parts of the Omicron and the original Wuhan Covid strains.
The newly created strain shows an 80 percent kill rate in lab testing.
Scientists combined the higher lethality of the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 version, which triggered the pandemic in early 2020, with the extreme transmissibility of the milder Omicron strain.
Omicron is said to be just contagious as measles, although the claim is disputed.
Boston University defended its research, saying it proved less lethal than the Wuhan type on its own.
It vehemently denied the experiments could be considered “gain-of-function.”
The controversial field of science sees virologists intentionally manipulate pathogens to make them more infectious or deadly to prepare for future pandemics.
Proponents argue that the research allows scientists to develop vaccines and therapies in case diseases evolve naturally to become more dangerous.
A leak of such an engineered virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which receives taxpayer-funded grants from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is one of the main theorized origins of the pandemic.
The infamous lab carried out similar research involving coronaviruses found in bats, with some arguing this work constituted gain-of-function experiments, though others refute this.
But others argue that the Boston University research was unquestionably gain-of-function as it had the potential of increasing its transmissibility.
Professor Shmuel Shapira, former director of the Israeli Government’s Institute for Biological Research, stated any similar research should be banned because it is effectively “playing with fire.”
Shapira warns that such a virus could escape strict biosecurity measures in a lab and go on to infect people.