EU and US spark fresh pandemic fears by creating ‘risky viruses’ for vaccine research

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A New King’s College London paper warned scientists in the US and Europe may be creating self-spreading viruses while hoping to develop viral vaccines. The scientists are trying to modify viruses to spread easily between hosts, in the hope of developing viral vaccines, according to the paper.

The paper, written by a team of international academics and led by Dr Filippa Lentzos, stated scientists hope the viruses could then be used like insecticides to protect crops or used like a vaccine to spread immunity from one host to another.

Dr Lentzos, of the Department of War Studies and the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London, has revealed these scientists have ignored a fundamental belief which states self-spreading viruses are too unstable to be safe.

In a statement she claimed the research is an example of “risky virology”, not unlike “virus hunting in bat caves”.

Her statement continued: “Developing self-spreading viruses for environmental release is another example of risky virology research, like virus hunting in bat caves or deliberately making dangerous pathogens even more dangerous in the lab, all in the name of pandemic preparedness, but where it is far from clear that the anticipated benefits outweigh the very clear risks.”

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The authors of the paper have appealed for an increased regulation over such research.

They said: “Only a concerted, global governance effort with coherent regional, national and local implementation can tackle the challenges of self-spreading viruses that have the potential to radically transform both wildlife and human communities.”

The paper continued to warn about the dangers of the research.

The authors stated: “Self-spreading vaccines could indeed entail serious risks, and the prospect of using them raises challenging questions.

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“Who decides, for instance, where and when a vaccine should be released?

“Once released, scientists will no longer be in control of the virus. It could mutate, as viruses naturally do. It may jump species.

“It will cross borders. There will be unexpected outcomes and unintended consequences. There always are.”

The paper’s authors went on to state the concept of self-spreading viruses has been around for years.

In Australia and Spain, there were attempts to use them against insects and wildlife.

However, this was later abandoned over warnings the potential dangers were too serious.

In 2016, interest in the method began to spike once again with the European Union, the US National Institutes of Health and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funding proposals around using self-spreading viruses for wildlife vaccines.

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