(NewsGlobal.com)- It was recently reported that Boston University scientists had developed a more lethal strain of COVID with an 80 percent “kill rate.” However, researchers at the university argue that the claim misrepresented the study and its goals.
According to Ronald Corley lab director from the university’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, the “80 percent kill rate” statement has been “taken out of context for the purposes of sensationalism.”
In the study, which has been posted online but not yet peer-reviewed, researchers created a hybrid coronavirus by fusing the spike protein from the omicron variant to the original COVID-19 strain.
The hybrid virus killed more lab mice than the original omicron variant but was still less deadly than the original strain of the virus. No mice died from the omicron variant, while 100 percent of the mice died from the original strain and 80 percent died from the hybrid strain.
In a statement provided by Boston University, biochemistry professor Mohsan Saeed, the lead researcher on the study, said the findings will help scientists understand the role various proteins play in the coronavirus so they can develop better treatments.
According to virologist Benjamin Neuman from Texas A&M University, critics of the BU study have unfairly focused on the hybrid’s lethality compared to the original omicron without comparing its lethality to the original strain of the virus.
Neuman told the Associated Press that the BU study used a species of mouse particularly vulnerable to COVID and the results should be taken with a “big grain of salt.”
Critics of the study accuse the university of conducting “gain of function” research. However, Boston University disputes the claim, arguing that the work didn’t make the original COVID strain more dangerous, instead, it made it less dangerous.
The university told the Associated Press that if there was any evidence that “the research was gaining function,” it would “immediately stop and report.”
However, Steven Luby, research director at Stanford’s Center for Innovation in Global Health, disputed Boston University’s argument, telling the AP the research should be considered “gain of function” because the experiment took the original COVID strain and “made it much more infectious while still retaining much of its high killing power.”