Chinese scientists have engineered a virus with parts of Ebola in a lab that killed a group of hamsters.

A team of researchers at Hebei Medical University used a contagious disease of livestock and added a protein found in Ebola, which allows the virus to infect cells and spread throughout the human body.

The group of hamsters that received the lethal injection ‘developed severe systemic diseases similar to those observed in human Ebola patients,’ including multi-organ failure,’ the study shared.


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One particularly horrific symptom saw the infected hamsters develop secretions in their eyes, which impaired their vision and scabbed over the surface of the eyeballs

While the experiment may spark fears of another lab leak, the researchers say their goal was to find the suitable animal models to mimic Ebola symptoms in a lab setting safely.

The study suggested that infected hamsters could be a decent model for studying the spread and treatment of Ebola in the future.

Ebola needs to be handled in Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) facilities, which are special high-security laboratories, while many are only BLS-2.

To work around this in a lower security setting, scientists used a different virus called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which they engineered to carry part of the Ebola virus called glycoprotein (GP), which plays a crucial role in helping the virus enter and infect cells of its host.

The team studied five female and five male three-week-old Syrian hamsters. All female hamsters showed decreased rectal temperature and up to 18 percent weight loss—they all died between two and three days.

The five male hamsters lost 15 percent weight and succumbed to the disease within three and a half days. However, two male hamsters survived and gained 20 percent more weight than before the infection.

The team harvested organs from the dead animals, and found that the virus had accumulated in the heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney, stomach, intestines, and brain tissues.

The highest levels were found in the liver and lowest in the brain.

‘It is a sign that 3-week-old Syrian hamsters infected with VSV-EBOV/GP have the possibility of playing a role in the study of optic nerve disorders caused by EVD,’ the team shared in the study, which was published in the Chinese journal Virologica Sinica.