“Mouse Bites Man,” isn’t much of a headline. Unless the man is a researcher in a “biosafety” lab—and the mouse is one that was injected with a genetically engineered, potentially deadly virus.
An article published this week in Independent Science News reports that, according to recently obtained minutes of the Institutional Biosafety Committee of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, sometime between April 1 and May 6 this year, a coronavirus researcher at a high-security BSL-3 lab was bitten by a mouse infected with a “mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 strain.”
Why does that matter? The article quotes Richard Ebright, an epidemiologist from Rutgers University:
“There has been an explosion of research involving fully infectious SARS-CoV-2 over the last six months. Research with infectious SARS-CoV-2 now is occurring in every, or almost every, BSL-3 facility in the US and overseas.”
Independent Science news also quotes Edward Hammond of Prickly Research, Austin, Texas, former director of the Sunshine Project, an NGO that tracked the post 9/11 expansion of the U.S. Biodefense program:
“It is evident that swarms of academic researchers with little prior experience with coronaviruses have leapt into the field in recent months.”
And that creates huge risks, Hammond says:
“We need to be clear headed about the risk. The first SARS virus was a notorious source of laboratory-acquired infections and there is a very real risk that modified forms of SARS-CoV-2 could infect researchers, especially inexperienced researchers, with unpredictable and potentially quite dangerous results. The biggest risk is the creation and accidental release of a novel form of SARS-CoV-2—a variant whose altered characteristics might undermine global efforts to stop the pandemic by evading the approaches being taken to find COVID vaccines and treatments.”
Worth the risks? Especially given that none of this research has ever led to the creation of a vaccine that works against any strain of the coronavirus?
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