Monday, October 25, 2021
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Origin of Covid highlights the risk of lab work

To combat covid-19, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wanted to know if the national institute of health had funded the research on coronavirus origin in China. The name of the research is “gain of function”. Gain of function is using naturally occurring viruses of animals to cause infection in humans.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s reputed infectious disease expert, rejected the claim. He says, “Sen. Paul, with all due respect, you are wrong, and the national institute of health has not funded gain-of-function research in the Wuhan institute.

People are suggesting that the coronavirus was engineered, and it didn’t jump from animals to humans. And many health experts supported this explanation. With too little research, it would be hard to fight against future pandemics. But too little attention to safety can also increase the chances that the experimental subject may escape a lab and cause an outbreak on its own.

A big challenge for the world

It is a big challenge to balance the risk and benefits of the research. And now, the politics in the lab can threaten the world.

Marc lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard, has asked the government to be more transparent about its support of gain-of-function.  In the 1970s the scientists were learning to move genes from one organism to another to produce human insulin through bacteria. Critics were worried about the consequences because such experiments can create pathogens if they escape from the lab.

Experimenting with genes is not the only way to give abilities to an organism. Scientists can also do other experiments in which pathogens will fully grow in the cell of an unfamiliar host.  At first, it would be hard for them to replicate but them with time, they can improve their performance.

There are many gain-of-function experiments that can never be a threat; instead, they have provided huge advantages to humankind. In 1937, a scientist found out that the yellow fever virus lost its ability when it passed through chicken cells, and it led to a vaccine for yellow fever.

But gain-of-function can be risky, and coronavirus will surely influence this debate. A few years back, the idea of a new virus coming and causing deaths in the world felt unreal. But now we can see what a virus can do, so the researcher must be careful with their research as it can lead to a pandemic in the future.


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