6 Deadly Bacteria and Viruses Created in Labs

The idea that some pathogens were created in labs isn’t so strange to us. We’ve heard it before, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when some people claimed the infectious disease was made in a laboratory. While we still don’t know for sure whether this is true or not, we know that other viruses and bacteria were indeed created in labs.

Scientists usually prefer altering existing or extinct bacteria and viruses, but sometimes they end up producing new strains that defeat our vaccines, immunity, and drugs. And, in other cases, they prefer creating new bacteria and viruses from scratch.

Unfortunately, some of them ended up being deadly, both for animals and humans. Here are some examples!

viruses created in labs
Photo by Yersinia pestis bacteria from Shutterstock

1. Black Death

Between 1347 and 1351, millions of Europeans were struck by a mysterious disease that killed more than 50 million people. Today, this disease is known as the Black Death, brought on by the Yersinia pestis bacteria.

A few years ago, researchers from several schools across the world recreated the deadly bacteria from DNA samples taken from the teeth of a victim who passed away during the plague. They extracted only 30 milligrams of the bacteria, which was enough to recreate it. Experts eventually confirmed that the original bacteria was the one that exists today.

While the Black Death is still around, it’s not as potent as it used to be and has also become less deadly.

2. Bird Flu

Some Dutch scientists have created a mutant and deadlier strain of the already-lethal bird flu. Natural bird flu isn’t easily transmitted among humans. However, the researchers tweaked it so that it could be.

To test it, they exposed some ferrets to it. The critters were chosen because they displayed similar bird flu symptoms as humans. Generations later, the already-altered virus mutated again and became airborne. The study was controversial in the science community.

It turned out to be even more perturbing when the Dutch scientists tried to publish the process for creating the deadly virus. Although they fear that terrorists could use the study to make a deadly biological weapon that could eradicate half of the world population, the researchers involved claim that the study was necessary to allow us to get ready for a mutated bird flu epidemic.

Photo by Numstocker from Shutterstock

3. MERS-Rabies Virus Hybrid

Scientists have created a MERS-rabies hybrid virus so they could develop a vaccine to protect people from both the original and altered strains. Rabies is a fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans via the bites of infected dogs that generally have the virus in their saliva.

MERS, which is the abbreviation for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a relatively new virus that appeared in Suadi Arabie a couple of years ago. It’s closely related to SARS and is transmitted from bats to camels and, finally, to humans. Its fatality rate is about 35%.

To create the MERS-rabies hybrid, researchers extracted some proteins from the MERS virus and added them to rabies. They used the new virus to make a new vaccine that made mice resistant to MERS and rabies. They believe it can also be used for humans to reduce the risk of getting MERS.

4. Polio

Like their counterparts at other world’s universities, researchers at the State University of New York have developed a new deadly artificial virus by purchasing DNA pieces via mail order. This time, it’s polio, and it’s as dangerous as the natural one.

The laboratory-created polio was controversial among scientists. The researchers who created it had taken its code from databases available to almost anybody. Some experts fear that people with hidden motives could produce their own artificial polio, which is much easier to develop than other potent viruses like smallpox.

Experts point out that smallpox’s genetic code is 185,000 letters long, while polio’s is just 7,741 letters long. Although the world is already on the brink of eradicating polio, researchers fear that we’ll still need to be vaccinated against the disease because it may resurface.

Photo by Karim Boiko from Shutterstock

5. Horsepox

Horsepox is a lethal virus closely related to the deadly smallpox. Apparently, some scientists at the University of Alberta created it.

Unlike smallpox, horsepox doesn’t affect humans and is only fatal to horses. It was created during a six-month study that was founded by the pharmaceutical company Tonix. The scientists bought the DNA pieces via email order and arranged them to create the virus.

The whole thing caused a dilemma at the time it became public. Similar to other viruses, scientists fear terrorists or governments could use the knowledge to create biological weapons.

However, the researchers clarified that they had to develop the virus from scratch because Tonix would have been unable to commercialize the horsepox virus extracted from the wild.

6. SARS 2.0

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a deadly virus. The whole world saw that during the coronavirus pandemic. But that wasn’t the first time the virus has had victims.

Over 700 people were killed during a SARS epidemic that infected around 8,000 people in 29 countries between 2002 and 2003.

Some experts warned that scientists had made a deadlier version of SARS shortly before the coronavirus pandemic became a thing. The new mutant virus was developed by a group of scientists led by Dr. Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina. It was known as SARS-2.0.

SARS 2.0 was immune to treatments and vaccines used to cure the naturally occurring SARS virus. According to the team, the research was necessary because the natural SARS virus could change to become immune to our vaccines.

By making a mutated and deadlier virus, scientists hope they can save the world from a more lethal SARS epidemic. All of that became part of the past because the coronavirus pandemic made everything ten times worse.

If you liked our article, you may also want to take a look at this one: 4 Viral Threats Worse Than the New Coronavirus.

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