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Scientists Are Inventing Superbugs To Prevent Pandemics. Is It Worth The Risk?

Beneath the lab leak theory runs a current of debate that has electrified the scientific community for years: Should researchers be allowed to strengthen viruses to study them, as the Wuhan lab is alleged to have done for coronavirus?

In “gain of function” research, scientists manipulate pathogens into deadlier and more transmissible variants — for instance, making an avian influenza virus contractable by humans.

Some argue that this expensive research makes it easier to predict emerging infectious diseases and develop vaccines or treatments. But others say such benefits have never been clearly documented. And oversight is sketchy, raising serious questions about safety.

Here & Now‘s Callum Borchers speaks with Umair Irfan of Vox about the research.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.