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NIH investigating Boston University's creation of COVID strain with 80% kill rate in mice

Experiments caused uproar, fears of new outbreak.

Published: October 22, 2022 3:04pm

Updated: October 22, 2022 3:15pm

The National Institutes of Health are investigating a Boston University team's experiments into a new COVID strain that reportedly had a sky-high 80% fatality rate on rodents exposed to it. 

The experiments generated uproar this week when scientists in Florida and Massachusetts revealed that their specially designed "Omicron-S" strain of the virus "inflict[ed] severe disease with a mortality rate of 80 percent" in lab mice. 

Now the NIH is reportedly looking into the experiments, of which it claims it offered neither review oversight nor funding prior to their being conducted.

“The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, did not review nor issue awards for experiments described in a pre-print article on SARS-CoV-2 research at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories," the agency told media outlets this week.

"NIH is examining the matter to determine whether the research conducted was subject to the NIH Grants Policy Statement or met the criteria for review under the HHS Framework for Guiding Funding Decisions about Proposed Research Involving Enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogens," it added. 

Controversy has swirled for the past two years around experiments involving enhanced viral pathogens—known as "gain-of-function" research—due to fears that such experiments may have played a role in the initiation of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. 

Intense scrutiny has been focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a laboratory in Wuhan, China, known for performing enhancement experiments on coronaviruses in the years leading up to the pandemic. 

The lab sits just a few miles from what Chinese and global authorities claim is the first known serious outbreak of COVID-19. 

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