By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A lab-created virus that's similar to but not as dangerous as the new coronavirus could aid efforts to create COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, according to scientists who created it.

Airborne and potentially deadly, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 must be studied under strict safety conditions. Precautions include full-body biohazard suits with pressurized respirators, and labs with multiple containment levels and specialized ventilation systems.

But many scientists lack access to such safety measures, slowing efforts to find drugs and vaccines. So a team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said they created a hybrid virus that doesn't require such extensive measures.

To create it, they replaced a gene in a mild virus with one from SARS-CoV-2. The hybrid virus infects cells and is recognized by antibodies just like SARS-CoV-2, but can be studied under ordinary laboratory safety protocols.

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