Russian Top Official Suspected Connection in Smallpox Infection and US Biolabs in Ukraine

Cases of smallpox infection in monkeys in Europe and the military biological activities of US laboratories are of serious concern. This was said on May 20 by Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, at a meeting of the interdepartmental commission of the Security Council on the creation of a national system of protection against new infections. 

Picture: EADaily

As reported by EADaily, health officials across Europe are seeking to investigate the sudden appearance and spread of a rare infection — monkeypox. The so-called natural reservoir of the monkeypox virus are monkeys and some rodents (African squirrels, prairie dogs), from which the virus can be transmitted to humans. Experts interviewed by RBC note that outbreaks of monkeypox have occurred before, mainly in endemic countries, though cases of importation to Europe were also known and occurred annually.

It is specified that the type of transmission of the virus is similar to the type of transmission of smallpox — close contact of a person with a person, contact with human biological fluids, contact with secretions from the pustules of a sick person and interaction with his personal belongings.

Due to the fact that close contact is needed for transmission, the rate of spread of this infection is much lower than that of the coronavirus, as the Head of the laboratories of the Institute of Molecular Genetics and the Institute of Gene Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Konstantin Severinov, said.

The possibility of transmitting the monkeypox virus by airborne droplets is currently being discussed, but today it is unknown how effective it is, the Director of the Institute of Medical Parasitology, Tropical and Vector-Borne Diseases, Alexander Lukashev, added.

It is noted that there are no cases of monkeypox in Russia, and the risk of infection being imported into the country is assessed as low. Nevertheless, the State Scientific Center of Virology and Biotechnology “Vector” has already created an autonomous test system to identify possible cases of the new infection.

Biolabs in Ukraine and their connection to the new virus

In total, the virus has recently been detected in at least 10 countries. At the same time, according to Dmitry Medvedev, the military biological activity of US laboratories in the former Soviet Union poses a serious threat.

“A significant threat is posed by a network of biological laboratories, which retain their importance and operate in some states in the post-Soviet space. They are organized by the United States. In these laboratories, under the guise of purely scientific research, not quite clear military biological activity continues,” he warned.

He clarified that this activity “is connected with the possibility of introducing pathogens of dangerous diseases into the territory of the Russian Federation.”

“And although the Americans strongly reject accusations of this kind of military biological activity, unfortunately, there is evidence for this, the facts prove the opposite,” Medvedev stressed. “So we have to be as attentive as possible to what is happening there.”

He also expressed concerned about the issue, saying that all such threats “require us to actively continue working on creating a national strategy that allows us to respond promptly to the emergence and spread of new infections.”

Dangerous studies preceding virus outbreaks

The Wuhan Institute of Virology assembled a monkeypox virus genome, allowing the virus to be identified through PCR tests, using a method researchers flagged for potentially creating a “contagious pathogen,” TheNationalPulse reveals. The study was first published in February 2022, just months before the latest international outbreak of monkeypox cases, which appear to have now reached the US.

The paper, which was authored by nine Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers and published in the lab’s quarterly scientific journal Virologica Sinica, also follows the wide-scale use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests to identify COVID-19-positive individuals.

Researchers appeared to identify a portion of the monkeypox virus genome, enabling PCR tests to identify the virus, in the “Efficient Assembly of a Large Fragment of Monkeypox Virus Genome as a qPCR Template Using Dual-Selection Based Transformation-Associated Recombination” paper. Monkeypox viruses, referred to as “MPXVs” in the paper, have strains that are “more pathogenic” and have reportedly “infected humans in various parts of the world.”

“Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) is the gold standard for the detection of orthopoxvirus (including MPXV). For pan-orthopoxviruses detection, the E9L (DNA polymerase) gene has been shown to be an excellent target for qPCR assays. For MPXV detection, Li et al. reported that the C3L (complement-binding protein) gene could be used as the qPCR target for the MPXV Congo Basin strain,” the paper explained before noting that China lacked sufficient genetic information on the virus for PCR detection.

The paper notes that since MPXV infection “has never been associated with an outbreak in China”, the viral genomic material required for qPCR detection is unavailable.

“In this report, we employed dual-selective TAR to assemble a 55-kb MPXV genomic fragment that encompasses E9L and C3L, two valuable qPCR targets for detecting MPXV or other orthopoxviruses […] The primary purpose of assembling a fragment of the MPXV genome is to provide a nucleotide template for MPXV detection,” reiterated the study, which relied on the process of transformation-associated recombination (TAR) to isolate a genomic fragment of the monkeypox virus.

The researches explained that “as an efficient tool for assembling large DNA fragments up to 592 kb in length, TAR assembly has become essential for preparing infectious clones of large DNA/RNA viruses”. The paper acknowledged that TAR “applied in virological research could also raise potential security concerns, especially when the assembled product contains a full set of genetic material that can be recovered into a contagious pathogen.”

“In this study, although a full-length viral genome would be the ideal reference template for detecting MPXV by qPCR, we only sought to assemble a 55-kb viral fragment, less than one-third of the MPXV genome. This assembly product is fail-safe by virtually eliminating any risk of recovering into an infectious virus while providing multiple qPCR targets for detecting MPXV or other Orthopoxviruses,” researchers said.

The unearthed study follows the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducting similar research into strains of bat coronaviruses that could infect humans, while admitting its facilities lacked proper laboratory safety protocols.

Ru-Main, 23.05.2022 

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