Should Scientists Super-Charge Viruses To Make Them More Contagious?
Re: Scientists Tweak Lab Viruses To Make Them More Contagious.
Some “gain of function” studies explore how a dangerous pathogen might cross species barriers to start an outbreak. They are not without controversy
By Emily Willingham on June 14, 2021
“If a virus has already moved from an animal host to humans, gain-of-function research may be unnecessary, Imperiale says. “In these cases, there may be animal models that serve as useful surrogates for humans” in testing the virus’s effects, he says.”
HWH Commentary by Sharon Lee Davies-Tight:
√ Scientists are already fully aware that there are non-human animals, that can be used as surrogates for humans in testing the virus’s effects. What that ultimately means is that if those surrogates can be infected with the virus in the lab, then they can be infected with the virus through transmission in nature.
√ Name those non-human animals that could be surrogates for humans during the testing process.
- “In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors of the editorial wrote, the source of a pathogen—whether from nature or a lab—does not change how the world should prepare to respond to it. But gain-of-function experiments should be governed by transparency in planning the research, a “rededication” to biosafety and a strong surveillance program to capture breaches.”
Now, if they do indeed super-charge viruses, then there’s a reason. Human population testing purposes. They need to disseminate these super-charged viruses into the environment to see if they work. How fast can we get through this pandemic? This is a horror show in the making. If they didn’t use humans, then how did humans initially contract the virus?
It looks like they wanted to manipulate ‘herd or community’ immunity.
How many people died as a result of that manipulation?
Attempted murder is what it looks like, turned to murder is the result.
How many non-human animals were affected by the super-charged virus?
Nobody seems interested in what scientists do to negatively impact the lives of all humans and all other animals for the advancement of science. They all say they have the best of intentions, but we all know that’s impossible when using live subjects. Enslavement, torture and slaughter is what it is.
Try to walk through that well-intentioned dance to all the families of all the dead during WWII who were tortured in live experiments in the so-called name of and the so-called sake of science, that somebody went to far for too long.
They claim overworked technicians or short staffing, or people rushing to get someplace. The ‘ors’ can go on and on and none of them can be blocked from occurring again, when it’s human error, human recklessness.
I worked in a lab once and truth be told, nobody followed safety protocols; they were too cumbersome. Management didn’t either. Worldwide I believe there is a huge problem in laboratories, across the board, with personnel adhering to safety protocols. They must be adhered to absolutely all the time. No exceptions. Laboratories need to be treated like hospital operating rooms. There is no room for error. It seems that safety is the least of their concerns, when it should be always number one concern, and not only concern, but actionable concern. You do it; you don’t just think you should do it.
√ So, the answer is NO. Even if it helped a few, the answer is still no. Humans can’t be trusted. It’s in their nature to deceive.
These labs absent the animals would not exist. Take the animal out and find another way. When you do, then one mistake with any microorganism results in the lab being shut down for three years.
So are We supposed to assume that scientists intentionally passed the coronaCOVID virus aka SARS-CoV-2 to the human population and it wasn’t the bats and rats that transferred it by mistake to humans, somewhere in China? Wet markets, kill and sell markets, that’s where it was said to originate. The news. It was on the news. Wuhan, China, a few miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology; somebody even said it was owned by Pfizer, the COVID vaccine people. Later denied, but they didn’t deny a relationship, only ownership.
So Pfizer or the Institute put the virus onto wet meat surfaces, then a few miles down the road had a local sell the meat to Wuhan markets, then the virus infected from there the world, then Pfizer developed a vaccine to prevent serious illness when contracting the virus and to significantly lower the virus’s spreading capability?
What’s the relationship between Pfizer and Israel?
The intent was a massive global exposure. They knew; they just couldn’t prove that they knew unless they had the data to back it up.
- “The high-risk practices are those that create mutations to examine whether a pathogen becomes more contagious or lethal as a means of estimating future threats.“
What that means is all those mutations of SARS-CoV-2 are the result of laboratory manipulation? They create a mutation to see if it becomes more contagious? And then what? It estimates future threats? What good did all that manipulation research do, the world still was caught unaware, unprepared. What’s the point? How can the USA Congress, who know nothing of science or threats or human behavior, much less viral behavior be passing laws to allow mistakes or malfeasance by politicians or scientists or institutes or governments or a lab worker with a grudge to occur?
Like maggots seemingly bloom out of nowhere, in wet garbage in the summer, eggs of flies laid on moist surfaces, simultaneously transform into worms before becoming a fly, like butterflies.
Do wet markets sell bats? Out the back door to unsuspecting locals? Ferrets?
Why did China build Wuhan Institute of Virology near wet markets in Wuhan? Or did the wet markets come later?
Why are no scientists being held accountable?
√ What is the lab-leak theory? bbc.com
- “It’s a suspicion that the coronavirus may have escaped, accidentally or otherwise, from a laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the virus was first recorded.
- Its supporters point to the presence of a major biological research facility in the city. The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has been studying coronaviruses in bats for over a decade.
- The institute is a 40-minute drive from the Huanan wet market where the first cluster of infections emerged in Wuhan.”
- “As for SARS-CoV-2, the virus of most urgent interest right now, the NIH released a statement on May 19 that neither the agency nor its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has “ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.””
√ The truth is there; it exists. Governments and scientists are covering it up for a reason. I don’t think this is a case of the cover-up being worse than the crime.
√ Get the United Nations involved. Terrorism is on the loose.
√ Shut down that Wuhan Institute of Virology and all wet markets in all countries DOWN NOW not next month. That means New York City too. San Franciso on the map; any wet markets in Seattle? Too bad, they should have found other employment; they all knew better, all those mongers knew. Better work fast. Why did the world give China so much time to cover their sins? What did China give for it – the time to sanitize? They didn’t sanitize enough. That institute murders people and other animals. I don’t care how prestigious it is. Shut it.
You sat on this long enough and nothing was done. What are you afraid of? The Science Mob?
Why Scientists Tweak Lab Viruses to Make Them More Contagious
Some “gain of function” studies explore how a dangerous pathogen might cross species barriers to start an outbreak. They are not without controversy
- By Emily Willingham on June 14, 2021
- Security suits for a biosafety training lab at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. Credit: Preston Gannaway Getty Images
The microbiology toolbox includes techniques to induce mutations in viruses that give the microbes new powers. Scientists perform these manipulations for many reasons, including wanting to understand how the microbes evade detection by our immune systems. But adding capability to a pathogen carries obvious risks, especially if this “gain of function” involves enhanced virulence or infectiousness. Escape from a lab, by accident or design, is a possibility. So why do it? Some researchers argue the work can offer a peek at what a virus can do before it goes into the natural world and poses a threat to people.
Controversy over gain-of-function research has generated academic papers, conferences and even a moratorium in 2014, when the U.S. government paused funding for three years until steps could be taken to ensure the safety of the procedure. Debate about gain-of-function experiments continues in the latter phases of the pandemic as thoughts turn to the “next one” or a possible second act for COVID-19. Science policy makers must wrestle with defining the rare instances in which the benefits of experiments that enhance a virus’s capacity to survive and flourish in human hosts outweigh any risks.
Densely technical discussions often bog down over the very definition of gain of function. Recently, semantics were front and center in the debate over whether National Institutes of Health–funded work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China constituted gain-of-function research, a contention denied by the U.S. agency. The WIV has also been the focus of a revived dispute over whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, escaped from its facility.
Here are a few basic answers to questions about why an obscure technical term now receives so much attention.
What is gain of function research?
Techniques to enhance some aspect of an organism’s functioning are commonplace in research and applied to everything from mice to measles. One typical application of this approach is tweaking mouse genes to generate more of a protein that limits fat deposition.
But that is not the kind of gain-of-function study that raises fears among scientists and regulators. The high-risk practices are those that create mutations to examine whether a pathogen becomes more contagious or lethal as a means of estimating future threats.
Some experts acknowledge the critical differences between the two types of studies. One proposed term to represent the more threatening subset of this research is “potential pandemic pathogens,” says Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. That phrase “singles out the name and reason for being concerned,” he adds. It has not caught on in common usage, however, returning only about 8,500 results in a Google search, compared with 13.4 million for “gain of function.”
Making this distinction is important for a few reasons, Lipsitch says. When the U.S. government placed the 2014 moratorium on “gain of function research,” some of the studies that were affected carried no obvious risk of setting off a pandemic.
What is the purpose of this research?
Knowing what makes a microbe more dangerous enables preparation of countermeasures, says Lipsitch, who is one of 18 signatories to a May 14 letter, published in Science, that calls for the investigation of a SARS-CoV-2 lab spillover as one of several possible explanations for the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. He points to the difficulties of studying viruses for the development of vaccines and treatments without doing experiments in a mouse or in other nonhuman animals. There is, Lipsitch says, a “direct path from doing that research to gaining public health benefits,” enabling a balancing of risks and potential benefits.
The riskier version of gain-of-function research creates viruses with abilities they do not have in nature. In two separate studies in 2011, scientists famously and controversially did just that with the H5N1 influenza virus, or “bird flu,” resulting in a version capable of airborne transmission among ferrets. The naturally occurring virus does not have this ability. Making mammal-to-mammal transmission easier set off alarm bells and triggered discussion of a U.S. moratorium.
In 2015 researchers engineered a hybrid pathogen that combined features of the original SARS virus (SARS-CoV) that infected humans in the early 2000s with that of a bat coronavirus. Most bat coronaviruses cannot infect the cells lining the human respiratory tract. This experiment was intended to mimic what would happen if a third speciesserved as a mixing vat for the bat and human viruses to exchange genetic material. The result was a pathogen that could enter human cells and also cause disease in mice. Reactions to this work were polarized, as demonstrated by experts quoted in a 2015 article in Nature: one said that all the research did was create a “new, non-natural risk” among the multitude that already exist, while another contended that it showed the potential for this bat virus to become a “clear and present danger.”
Experts in the latter camp argue that gain-of-function virus studies can presage what will eventually happen in nature. Speeding things up in the lab gives researchers firsthand evidence about how a virus might evolve. Such insights could drive predictions about future viral behaviors in order to stay a step ahead of these pathogens.
That calculation must be made on a case-by-case basis, Lipsitch says. “There is not one-answer-fits-all,” he adds. But the key question to address in this complex computation is “Is this work so valuable for public health that it outshines the risk to public health in doing it?”
Lipsitch was “very outspoken,” as he puts it, about the influenza-ferret study, and he led the effort for the 2014 moratorium on similar gain-of-function work.“I did that because I thought that we need to have a real accounting of the benefits and risks,” he says. “I had a view that the benefits were very small, and I still have that view.”
The moratorium was lifted in 2017. A U.S. government review panel later approved a resumption of funding for more lab studies involving gain-of-function modifications of bird flu viruses in ferrets. Conditions of the approvals, according to reports, included enhanced safety measures and reporting requirements.
As for SARS-CoV-2, the virus of most urgent interest right now, the NIH released a statement on May 19 that neither the agency nor its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has “ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.”
What are the risks?
Predictions based on gain-of-function studies may be hypothetical, but lab breaches in the U.S. are not. Serious violations are uncommon and have almost never resulted in a pathogen being released into the community. But 2014 showed why human error may prove to be the biggest wild card in planning these experiments.
Several lab accidents that year endangered researchers and set off waves of uneasiness. These incidents were not gain-of-function mishaps, but they demonstrated the potential threats posed by a biosafety lab—whether from negligence or malfeasance. In 2014 about 75 Atlanta-based employees at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned about their potential exposure to anthrax after safety practices were ignored. Also, several long-forgotten vials of freeze-dried smallpox—a pathogen long thought to be stored in only two places, one in Russia and one in the U.S.—turned up during a cold-storage cleanup at the NIH that year. And the CDC made news again a month later, after it sent out vials of a relatively benign influenza virus contaminated with the much more deadly H5N1 avian flu virus. The possible reason, as reported in Science, was that a researcher was “overworked and rushing to make a lab meeting.”
Michael Imperiale, a professor of microbiology and immunology and associate vice president for research and compliance at the University of Michigan, co-authored a 2020 editorial about gain-of-function studies that said that the key to planning them is to have proper mechanisms to ward off the threats of accidental or intentional harm. “If proper biosafety procedures are in place and proper containment is used, the risks can be mitigated substantially,” he says. Biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs have the highest containment precautions in place, and the U.S. currently has 13 or more such facilities planned or in operation.Research on the novel coronavirus is handled in labs one notch down: BSL-3.
In their editorial, Imperiale and his co-author Arturo Casadevall, editor in chief of mBIO, wrote that even predicting the threat level of an accidental release is difficult. After publication of the studies of ferret-to-ferret transmission of engineered H5N1, two groups tried to predict what would have happened if this virus had escaped into the human population. One team, Imperiale and Casadevall wrote, predicted an “extremely high level” of transmission. The other, from one of the labs involved in the ferret-influenza work, concluded otherwise.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors of the editorial wrote, the source of a pathogen—whether from nature or a lab—does not change how the world should prepare to respond to it. But gain-of-function experiments should be governed by transparency in planning the research, a “rededication” to biosafety and a strong surveillance program to capture breaches.
What alternative techniques are available to test a potential viral threat?
If a virus has already moved from an animal host to humans, gain-of-function research may be unnecessary, Imperiale says. “In these cases, there may be animal models that serve as useful surrogates for humans” in testing the virus’s effects, he says.
Researchers can also test the capacity of virus proteins to engage with different kinds of cells. Software can predict how these proteins might interact with various cell types or how their genetic sequences could be associated with specific virus features. Also, if the researchers use cells in a lab dish, the viruses might be designed not to replicate.
Another option is loss-of-function research. Using versions of a virus with less pathogenic potential is another way to unlock that microbe’s secrets. Still, highly pathogenic forms can be quite different from their less threatening counterparts—for example, they may differ in how often they replicate—possibly limiting the usefulness of such studies.
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