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AntiVaxx claim #2: “SARS-CoV-2 spike protein alone may cause lung damage”

This claim is one of the several common purported “evidence” of the cytotoxicity ( a term that’s been used a lot recently and it simply means toxicity to cells) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The quoted claim above is in fact the title of a widely circulated article in the antivax community on social media that’s hosted on Medical X press website, a medical and health news source. The users that share this article interpret it, often from reading the title alone, as if the spike proteins produced by the vaccine injection in humans are toxic to longs. Their train of thoughts would be something like the following:

  1. The mRNA vaccine works by giving the cells instructions to produce the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 alone without making the whole functional virus, and that’s why scientists and vaccine manufacturers claim it’s safe.
  2. However, the research presented in the article found that even the spike protein alone is unsafe.
  3. The mRNA vaccine and its mechanism of action must be toxic.

Let’s do something different here by not making up our minds from the title alone and instead examine the content of the article.

A view of the article mRNA vaccine skeptics use to justify their opposition to the determined safety of the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

The article describes an experiment conducted with genetically modified mice that were exposed to a segment of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to test whether this would be enough to cause lung injury and COVID-19- like symptoms. After a thorough reading, the purpose of the research becomes clear, and that’s to create a mouse model to study SARS-CoV-2 effects on mice without the reliance on the whole intact live virus. The development of such model “dramatically reduces the danger of doing this type of research by allowing COVID-19 lung injury to be studied without using the intact… This will greatly increase and diversify the ability to do COVID-19 research. Our model will also likely be useful for studying other coronaviruses.”

It seems now that the research finding, the main idea and the misinterpreted title of the article isn’t “the spike protein translated by the mRNA vaccine’s instructions may cause lung damage in humans”, but instead “ a new mouse model has the potential of causing lung injury in mice using only spike protein, which would help researchers conduct safer experiments to study viruses impacts”. One can only imagine that studying the impacts of the spike proteins generated by the mRNA vaccines on humans would be a totally different process. SPOILER ALERT: it has already been done, that’s why it has been approved to use by the biggest health institutions around the world.

Now you might ask: doesn’t the result of the experiment mentioned in the article contradicts the results vaccine manufacturers reported from their animal trials? After all, the animal trials results must’ve passed safety checks before the vaccine was tried on humans, so why does this research shows that mice exposed to a segment of the spike protein exhibited lung injury and inflammation? To answer these questions, we need more details regarding the experiment and the methods used. The circulating article is a very simplified report that summarizes a research, published in the FASEB journal, and its purposes. The original paper’s title is Single intratracheal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 S1 spike protein induces acute lung injury in K18-hACE2 transgenic mice .

The abstract of Single intratracheal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 S1 spike protein induces acute lung injury in K18-hACE2 transgenic mice.

Looking at the abstract, we can already see some details breaking the doubt and the misleading understanding of the research. First, the exposure of the model mice to the spike protein was direct; they were injected with a quantity of the spike protein, while with the mRNA vaccines, the body cells in the injection area receive mRNA and translate it to spike proteins. Secondly, the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is injected in the arm and the spikes produced would mostly stay in the injection site. Meanwhile, the study highlighted in the article states that “we developed an acute lung injury model by intratracheally instilling the S1 subunit of SARS-CoV-2 Spike S protein (400 µg/kg, 2 ml/kg body weight) in K18-hACE2 transgenic mice”. The key word here is “intratracheally”, meaning that they injected the spikes right inside the trachea, which is located right above the bronchi and it’s what allows the passage of air to be delivered to the lungs. Furthermore, the injection in this study was amounted to 2 ml/kg body weight. If the mRNA vaccines applied this same measurement, a person with a body weight of 50 kg (110.2 pounds) would receive 100 ml injection. The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines use a total of around 0.3 ml per dose only. Not even close. It’s irresponsible and irrational to equate the effects of injecting 0.3 ml mRNA dose into an arm with those of injecting at least 100 ml worth of spike proteins into a trachea.

Recently, I came across countless false claims regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. As a biology student, I felt the need to use my knowledge to refute them.