guia do novo coronavirus
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biosecurity

Making lethal viruses

Researcher handling dishes of viruses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

JAMES GATHANY / CDCResearcher handling dishes of viruses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention JAMES GATHANY / CDC

The US government has announced a temporary moratorium on the funding of new studies that seek to make certain kinds of viruses deadlier or more transmissible. This branch of research is aimed at understanding how viruses undergo the mutations that make them more dangerous, and inducing this process is one way of advancing knowledge on the topic. “It’s really excellent news,” Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University School of Public Health, told the journal Nature. Lipsitch and other scientists believe there is a risk of accidentally spreading a virus with high pandemic potential. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is also asking researchers who perform this type of experiment on influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) to suspend their work until a risk assessment can be made. The White House wants to set a safety limit on the artificial stimulation of mutations and to ban research studies that want to go even further. Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, criticized the moratorium. “Most experiments are conducted in high-security laboratories that take all necessary precautions,” he stated.

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