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Boston University (BU) denied news reports that it had created a COVID strain “with an 80% kill rate.”
The claims were first published by British tabloid, Daily Mail. Several other media outlets ran with the headline, but speaking to the Boston Globe, the university called the story “false and inaccurate.”
“First, this research is not gain-of-function research, meaning it did not amplify the [ancestral] SARS-CoV-2 virus strain or make it more dangerous,” BU said in a statement. “In fact, this research made the virus replicate less dangerous.”
A pre-print study out of BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) was to determine whether the Omicron spike protein, with its many mutations, is responsible for the COVID variant’s high transmissibility.
“They’ve sensationalized the message, they misrepresent the study and its goals in its entirety,” said Ronald B. Corley, NEIDL’s director, added.
The new Omi-S strain killed 80% of infected mice in laboratory tests. The original strain killed 100% of the mice. Omicron killed none.
Corley addressed the publication’s “80% kill rate” claims.
“The animal model that was used was a particular type of mouse that is highly susceptible, and 80 to 100% of the infected mice succumb to disease from the original strain, the so-called Washington strain,” the NEIDL director said. “Whereas Omicron causes a very mild disease in these animals.”
Researchers concluded the results showed the lesser severity of omicron is not linked to the spike protein mutations and that more research is needed.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told NBC News that although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did not fund the Boston study, “it was interpreted I think in an exaggerated way by some as being of great concern.”
BU says the research was green-lit by the Institutional Biosafety Committee and the Boston Public Health Commission.