Boston University Says It Didn’t Create a Deadlier Strain of COVID-19 Using Omicron
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.
It seems that friction between the federal government and Boston University over COVID-19 research has come down to that pesky issue of communication that sometimes plagues all of us in the workplace (pardon the pun).
Boston University caught the unexpected attention of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and not in a good way. While all is fine now, the immediate friction, according to WHDH Boston, was misinformation. This came following reports that BU researchers were studying a deadlier version of COVID-19 to prep for future pandemics, according to BU and the Institutional Biosafety Committee, who reviewed and approved the study.
According to BU, the reports said that a new "deadly" COVID strain had been created in an attempt to research what's called a gain-of-function study, that allows for studying what could be. This claim is not only misleading, but completely untrue.
First, this research is not gain-of-function research, meaning it did not amplify the Washington state SARS-COV-2 virus strain (original virus from 2020) or make it more dangerous. In fact, this research made the virus replicate less dangerous.
I know that Boston University does have 1 of the 13 labs in the country authorized to handle the most dangerous of viruses, so researchers studying viruses isn't a huge shock. Still, it is frightening to learn from misinformation, considering the continued fear of viruses escaping labs by accident.
Here's what we've learned from Boston University, according to WHDH.
Yes, BU's National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories are studying the omicron variant, along with the original strain that paralyzed the world.
Yes. BU's National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories did combine COVID-19 with omicron to create a hybrid virus.
Yes, they wanted to see what the affects would be on mice, and try to understand the various proteins that create COVID-19 and omicron. Guess what? While highly contagious, the hybrid is less likely to cause severe illness.
Boston University researchers say that the hybrid virus, with the spiked protein of omicron attached to the original strain, killed 80% of infected mice, while the original COVID-19 virus killed 100%. According to WHDH, this means that the identified deadly proteins will help better diagnose and treat COVID.
Ultimately, this research will provide a public benefit, by leading to better, targeted therapeutic interventions to help fight against future pandemics.
What it comes down to, as I mentioned, is lack of communication. NIAID told Boston.com that they should have known about the approval of this research, and could be involved in the framework and approval process as well.
Let the bureaucratic bickering continue, while science continues to make us safer, healthier, create advancements in technology, health, and wellness, and help us understand the world around us.