Chinese lab 'creates' mutant Covid strain with 100% kill rate in 'humanised' mice

Chinese lab 'creates' mutant Covid strain with 100% kill rate in 'humanised' mice

Related: Covid hospitalisation rises in US and other parts of World due to …

Times of India - English / VideoElephant

For many of us, the Covid pandemic now feels like a distant fever dream, but the threat posed by coronaviruses is still very real – and deeply alarming.

This was the conclusion reached by a team of scientists in China, who experimented with a deadly strain of Covid-19.

The virus, known as GX-P2V, had a 100 per cent kill rate when it was used to infect a special breed of so-called “humanised” mice.

This means their brains had been genetically engineered to express a protein found in humans, to better understand how we might react to the virus.

The sobering findings suggest that if the disease were to spread among people, the effects could potentially be cataclysmic.

All the mice that were infected with the virus died within just eight days, according to a preprint paper on the findings, which was released earlier this month.

The Bejing-based team, which carried out the analysis, noted that the GX-P2V reached the lungs, bones, eyes and windpipes of the rodents.

In the days before they died, the mice rapidly lost weight, had difficulty moving and became hunched over.

By day six, the viral load had “significantly decreased” in the lungs, but their' brains had shrunk and there were “exceptionally high” virus levels in their brains, reports.

Most disturbingly of all, their eyes allegedly turned completely white the day before they died.

The researchers were investigating the risk posed by a potential cross-species spill-over of the GX_P2V virus(iStock)

These findings suggest that the virus first infects the respiratory system, then migrates to the brain.

“Severe brain infection during the later stages of infection may be the key cause of death in these mice,” the researchers in Bejing wrote.

This differs from Covid-19, which causes lower lung infections and, in severe cases, pneumonia. However, the human-borne virus has also been identified in the brain tissue of acutely sick patients.

The team concluded: “This is the first report showing that a SARS-CoV-2-related pangolin coronavirus can cause 100 per cent mortality in hACE2 mice, suggesting a risk for GX_P2V to spill over into humans."

The new life-threatening virus is a mutated version of GX/2017, a coronavirus relative that was discovered in Malaysian pangolins in 2017 — three years before the pandemic.

The coronavirus relative GX/2017 was discovered in Malaysian pangolins back in 2017(iStock)

To conduct their testing, the scientists reportedly cloned the virus and stored multiple copies in their lab, where it continued to evolve.

It is unclear when the study was conducted, but the researchers reportedly admitted that the virus may have undergone a “virulence-enhancing mutation” in storage, which made it more deadly.

Still, although their findings are undoubtedly terrifying, no other research has documented a 100 per cent death rate in mice infected with the virus.

Indeed, the authors themselves admitted that their figures greatly exceeded the results from similar studies.

They also stressed that it remains unclear how the virus would affect people in real life, given that their work was carried out on mice – albeit “humanised” ones.

Francois Balloux, an epidemiology expert at University College London’s Genetics Institute, condemned the research as “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,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

“Conversely, I could see how such stuff might go wrong…”

His concerns were reinforced by Professor Richard Ebright, a chemist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“The preprint does not specify the biosafety level and biosafety precautions used for the research,” Prof Ebright told

“The absence of this information raises the concerning possibility that part or all of this research, like the research in Wuhan in 2016-2019 that likely caused the Covid-19 pandemic, recklessly was performed without the minimal biosafety containment and practices essential for research with a potential pandemic pathogens.”

Elsewhere, Dr Gennadi Glinsky, a retired professor of medicine at Stanford, warned simply: “This madness must be stopped before too late.”

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