UK scientists created mutant Covid strains in 'high-risk, low-benefit' lab experiments: SAGE-linked team comes under fire amid calls for more regulation over controversial 'gain-of-function' research
by Paul Alexander
Hamsters were infected with mutant viruses (original Wuhan strain and parts of Omicron or Delta); Critics of the lab experiments called it 'insanity' (Imperial College London)
British scientists intentionally created hybrid Covid strains in risky experiments judged to be like 'playing with fire', MailOnline can reveal.
Hamsters were infected with mutant viruses, blends of the original Wuhan strain and parts of either Omicron or Delta.
Critics of the research, carried out by Imperial College London, called it 'insanity' and warned the lab trials could, in theory, unleash a new viral threat. Twenty scientists were involved in the project, including one who sits on the Government's advisory panel SAGE.
But the university insists the study, part-funded by the taxpayer, followed British regulations and was entirely safe.
Our revelation comes amid ongoing furore over similar experiments in the US, where authorities have proposed a crackdown on virus manipulation research.
Earlier this month, DailyMail.com, MailOnline's US equivalent, revealed academics at Boston University combined different parts of the Omicron and the original Wuhan Covid strains.
Critics say this combined the higher lethality of the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 version, which triggered the pandemic in early 2020, with the extreme transmissibility of the milder Omicron strain. Omicron is said to be just contagious as measles, although the claim is disputed.
The hybrid virus they created killed 80 per cent of infected mice.
Boston University defended its research, saying it proved less lethal than the Wuhan type on its own.
It vehemently denied the experiments could be considered 'gain of function', a controversial field of science that sees virologists intentionally manipulate pathogens to make them more infectious or deadly to prepare for future pandemics — allowing them to develop vaccines and therapies in case diseases naturally evolve to become more dangerous.