In case you weren’t aware, there’s been this disease called COVID-19 doing the rounds for the last 12 months or so. And despite no real evidence being found to prove this hypothesis, some people still choose to believe that the current pandemic is the result of a man-made virus.
While that might not be the case for COVID, let’s take a look at some deadly viruses and bacteria that were in fact man-made in a lab. They’re just copies of the real thing though, no bio-terrorist stuff.
Some scientists in Alberta decide to buy all sorts of DNA pieces to recreate horsepox in an attempt to make new vaccines for smallpox. This little exercise did scare a lot of people at the time, since there was a genuine fear that this knowledge could be used by terrorist groups to create a new smallpox virus. Since we no longer vaccinate for smallpox, the results would be catastrophic.
Another scary moment for science, scientists in New York pretty much did the horsepox thing but with polio DNA pieces they ordered through mail. These were pieces available from databases that pretty much everyone can access, and since it only has a genetic code of about 7700 letters (smallpox has 185000), it’s pretty easy to recreate artificially.
In this fun science experiment, a team of researchers in North Carolina made the SARS virus stronger by adding a protein to it that makes it more resistant to the current vaccines and treatments. This was done to prepare for a natural mutation and have new treatments ready if the need should ever arise, but does pose the risk that this amped-up SARS virus could escape the lab and set off an epidemic by itself.
As far as we know, this will not be the name of Elon Musk’s second child, but is in fact an artificial virus. It’s a category of virus that infects and kills bacteria, but it has no effect on humans for now. Hopes are that in time this will help us develop new artificial bacteria that will help us.
MERS is basically a more lethal version of SARS, with a fatality rate of 35%. There is no vaccine for it right now, so they decided to genetically create a MERS-Rabies hybrid as a stepping stone to a vaccine for both viruses. The vaccine works on mice, and scientists believe it’ll work for humans too.
The H1N1 epidemic in 2009 wasn’t the first one. In fact, H1N1 first popped up in 1918 but it was a lot more deadly back then. A scientist attempted to recreate this first and deadlier strain by altering the recent one, and succeeded. It’s stored in a lab for now, but considering how bad the 1918 epidemic was, I’m sure we all want it to stay there for as long as possible.
Dutch scientists decided to make bird flu (which isn’t easily transmitted to humans) easier to transmit to humans. Considering how lethal bird flu is, this is bad news. The virus mutated on its own and became airborne, where natural bird flu isn’t an airborne virus. And as if that wasn’t risky enough, the scientists wanted to publish the process to create their new deadly virus that could potentially wipe out half the planet.