Chinese scientists create mutant Ebola virus to skirt around biosafety rules

By Angely Mercado for Dailymail.Com and Stacy Liberatore for

12:39 p.m. May 6, 2024, updated 1:37 p.m. May 6, 2024

  • Hamsters infected with the constructed virus died within two to three days
  • Findings could be a major breakthrough in using animals to safely study Ebola
  • READ MORE: Experts reveal which virus could cause the next pandemic

Chinese scientists engineered a virus containing parts of Ebola in a lab that killed a group of hamsters.

A team of researchers from Hebei Medical University took a contagious livestock disease and added a protein found in Ebola, which allows the virus to infect cells and spread throughout the human body.

The group of hamsters that received the lethal injection “developed severe systemic illnesses similar to those seen in human Ebola patients,” including multiorgan failure, the study said.

One particularly horrific symptom saw infected hamsters develop discharge in their eyes, which impaired their vision and formed crusts on the surface of the eyeballs.

Although the experiment may raise fears of another lab leak, the researchers say their goal was to find the right animal models that can safely mimic Ebola symptoms in the laboratory.

Chinese scientists engineered a virus to contain parts of Ebola (pictured) in a lab that killed a group of hamsters in just three days.
A team of researchers from Hebei Medical University used a contagious livestock disease and added a protein found in Ebola that allows it to infect cells and spread throughout the human body (stock)

The study suggests that infected hamsters could provide a decent model for studying the spread and treatment of Ebola in the future.

Ebola must be treated in Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) facilities, which are special high-security laboratories, while many are only BLS-2.

To get around this problem in a lower security environment, the scientists used a different virus called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which they designed to carry a part of the Ebola virus called a glycoprotein (GP) that plays a crucial role helping the virus to enter and penetrate. infect the cells of its host.

Infected hamsters developed discharge in their eyes, which impaired their vision and covered the surface of the eyeballs.

The team studied five three-week-old female and five male hamsters.

All female Syrian hamsters showed a decrease in rectal temperature and weight loss of up to 18 percent – ​​they all died between two and three days.

The five male hamsters lost 15 percent of their weight and succumbed to the disease within three and a half days.

However, two male hamsters survived and gained 20% more weight than before infection.

The team removed organs from the dead animals and found the virus accumulated in the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, stomach, intestines and brain tissue.

The highest levels were found in the liver and the lowest in the brain.

“This is a sign that 3-week-old Syrian hamsters infected with VSV-EBOV/GP have the potential to play a role in studying optic nerve disorders caused by EVD,” the team said in the study published in the Chinese journal Virologica Sinica.

The group of female hamsters also had multiorgan failure

The team concluded that the infected hamsters had rapid onset of symptoms, hepatic shock, systemic infection, and development of severe systemic diseases similar to those observed in human EBOV patients.

They also noted that the experiments provided a a rapid preclinical evaluation of medical countermeasures against Ebola under BLS-2 conditions, concluding that the study was a success.

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The last major outbreak of the virus between 2014 and 2016 in several West African countries was fatal, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

During these two years, more than 28,600 people were infected and around 11,300 died.

The virus has spread from West Africa to Europe and even the United States.

“The surrogate virus and corresponding hamster Ebola virus disease (EVD) model will improve the safety and economics of EBOV research,” the researchers write in the study.

Testing for infectious viruses is necessary to make progress in treatment and prevention.

But lab leaks do happen, and these incidents could cause them to spread to people outside the lab.

Experts have confirmed that respiratory viruses – which are spared by coughing and sneezing – are more likely to spread widely within a population.

Data released in March revealed that laboratory leak incidents occur every year and include the release of controlled pathogens like tuberculosis and anthrax.

Between 70 and 100 outings are recorded each year.

However, Dr. Richard Ebright, a chemical biologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told that a lab leak involving VSV was unlikely to lead to widespread infection in the public.

“(It) will be imperative to verify that the new chimeric virus does not infect and does not replicate in human cells, and does not present a risk of infectivity, transmissibility and pathogenicity in humans, before proceeding to biosafety level 2 studies,” he said. .

News Source :
Gn Health

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