It’s a scientific breakthrough for some, pure madness for others: Chinese scientists have experimented with mutating a coronavirus. The experiment led to a new virus, which killed all the “humanized” mice exposed.
This is a study that has not yet been published but which already outrages part of the scientific community. Chinese researchers have modified a coronavirus, thus developing a strain that is 100% lethal in mice.
Mice died after eight days
This virus, called GX_P2V, comes from a modified coronavirus. It was inoculated into mice carrying human proteins, in order to test its effect. A total of eight mice were infected with virus, eight were infected with inactivated virus, and eight were used as a control group.
All mice infected with the modified virus died. The rodents succumbed to the infection between seven and eight days after being infected. A fact researchers described as “surprisingly” fast.
A high viral load in the brain
The team was also surprised to find high levels of viral load in the brains and eyes of the mice – suggesting that the virus, despite being in the same family as Covid-19, is multiplying and spreading to through the body in a unique way.
Symptoms included completely white eyes, rapid weight loss and fatigue for all infected mice. “Severe brain infection during the later stages of infection may be the main cause of death in these mice” estimate the researchers.
A huge risk for a ridiculous scientific interest
If these manipulations outrage part of the scientific community, it is because of the potential risk of dissemination of such a virus in the environment, with all the consequences that this would have for humans.
Professor François Balloux, an infectious disease expert based at University College London, wrote on Twitter (X): “This is a terrible study, scientifically completely useless. I don’t see anything vaguely interesting that could be learned by forcibly infecting a strange breed of humanized mice with a random virus. Conversely, I can see how such things could go wrong…” he emphasizes.
I had a look at the preprint. It’s a terrible study, scientifically totally pointless. I can see nothing of vague interest that could be learned from force-infecting a weird breed of humanised mice with a random virus. Conversely, I could see how such stuff might go wrong …
— Prof Francois Balloux (@BallouxFrancois) January 10, 2024
Researchers cloned the virus and stored several copies in the Beijing laboratory, where it continued to evolve. The only reassuring point is that the original strain of Covid-19 also killed 100% of mice in some studies. This therefore means that these results may not be directly translatable to humans.
But as Dr. Gennadi Glinsky, retired professor of medicine at Stanford, quoted by the Daily Mail, rightly recommends: “This madness must be stopped before it is too late.”.