A recent Chinese coronavirus study has fueled false claims that researchers created a more deadly COVID-19 variant with a “100 percent kill rate” as a bioweapon. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, infected mice with an existing pangolin coronavirus strain that mutated in a lab.
Risk level: Low
Recommendation: Social media posts about this study perpetuate the unsubstantiated claim that COVID-19 and its variants were engineered in laboratories and deliberately spread. This may promote distrust in guidance from government and public health officials. While conversations about this particular study are unlikely to arise in a clinical setting, doctors may face questions about the origins of COVID-19 and its variants. Debunking messaging may emphasize that the mutant virus used in the study was not created by researchers and is not a SARS-CoV-2 variant or any virus that infects humans. Some experts have questioned the validity of the study, and there is no evidence that the research is related to COVID-19 or that it poses any danger to humans. Additional messaging may emphasize that staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines helps protect patients from COVID-19 variants.