Should research work that attempts to make the H5N1 virus more potent, virulent, dangerous and transmissible under laboratory conditions be allowed? A meeting will be held in New York in July that will discuss whether the voluntary ban should be lifted.
The controversy over influenza risky levels of research ban and non-publication issues began over research by Netherlands researchers. They took an influenza (flu) virus that previously could only infect birds. They selected mutations from Influenza (Flu) viruses that had caused human pandemics with millions of deaths in 1918, and other years. They combined these mutations with the bird (avian) flu virus and passed it through ferrets. The reason they passed it through ferrets was that these animals most closely resemble how a person behaves when they are sick with the flu – the ferrets sneeze. The flu virus changed a little bit with each passage helped by the scientist to pass it from one sick ferret to a healthy ferret. In the first passage the scientist had to help or assist the mutant bird virus to infect the ferret by actually introducing it into the ferret. It could not “fly” through the air when the infected ferret sneezed to infect a healthy ferret in the vicinity. However, by the fifth passage onwards, this bird flu virus had mutated or picked up the ability to infect a healthy ferret by “flying” through the air in a sneeze pellet released by a sick ferret. The Dutch scientists could show how a new dangerous flu virus could emerge to cause a pandemic in people by existing previously in birds only, but by picking up mutations in flu virus infecting other animals or people and becoming able to “fly” in the air and infect a population. The scientists feel that knowing this ability will help them arm in advance and better equip governments to prepare in advance for the next pandemic. None of the ferrets died from this infection, a result of genetic engineering and multiple ferret transmission.
This research, by Ron Fouchier, PhD, of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and colleagues, was announced in a meeting of scientists and along with other researchers announcing their research on similar topics. Click here to read the reaction of the other researchers and policy makers present. Derek Smith, of the University of Cambridge, coauthored the second science paper, on June 21, 2012 gave a press release saying that such a pandemic event was in the realm of reality. Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, published online by Nature discovered how the flu virus recognizes and stabilizes on a host cell through a protein during an influenza attack process. (Every human being is made up of several cells, as are all living things like birds, ferrets and plants; just in case you did not have a biology class in school. Also, a virus is not a bacterium. Only bacterial diseases can be cured by antibiotics. Viral diseases cannot be fought or cured by antibiotics).
The Dutch people were pondering on not allowing publication of research that might be dangerous in the hands of the wrong scientist, who might want to hurt all people. This view was contested by other scientists, including Nobel prize winner and head of the National Institute of Health, USA, who believe that the Dutch scientists research and similar research by University of Wisconsin scientists should be published in full. Click here to read what proposals made the Dutch Government reconsider their decision on banning this pubication of a bird flu study.
So, the question here is:
Is it better to be knowleadgeable and thus prearmed and prepared for the pandemic war that could possibly arise in the near future given the three deadly pandemics since the first one in 1918 last century?
is it better to just wait and see what hits the public with a severe health blow to millions of people (about 50 million are estimated to have died in 1918) and then figure out what flu combination is causing the pandemic and look for scientists available to find a vaccine to prevent further spread?
You may contact via email: email@example.com This group did show that …”The transmissible viruses were sensitive to the antiviral drug oseltamivir”….
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Bird flu study published after terrorism debate ….could start a deadly pandemic among humans. These initial findings were presented last September in Malta at the European Scientific Working group on Influenza meeting to an auditorium packed with fellow scientists and policy makers…
Fouchier anticipates resuming H5N1 studies soon….said the voluntary 60-day moratorium on lab-modified H5N1 viruses expired Mar 20 and added that researchers are waiting for national governments to release their lab biosecurity assessments. These assessments were a component of a plan stemming from a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting of technical experts in February.
Fouchier made his comments during a live episode of virologist Vincent Racaniello’s “This Week in Virology” (TWiV), which was broadcast via webcast from the Society for General Microbiology conference in Dublin, Ireland. Racaniello, a virologist at Columbia University, authors Virology Blog and hosts the weekly virology podcast series.
Fouchier’s group at Erasmus and a University of Wisconsin team led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD, conducted experiments that involved engineering an H5N1 virus and an H1N1-H5N1 hybrid, respectively, that were transmissible in ferrets via airborne droplets.
The studies have been accepted for publication in Science and Nature, but advisors to the US government in December recommended against publishing the full details of the studies, due to bioterrorism concerns….
Debate Persists Over Publishing Bird Flu Studies – you may click to hear a NPR discussion on this subject by biosecurity expert D.A. Henderson on the risks of publishing the research.
N.Y. Times: H5N1 ferret research should not have been done – by virology blog shows the New York Times editorial on 8 January 2012, entitled ‘An Engineered Doomsday’.
Mutant-flu paper published: Controversial study shows how dangerous forms of avian influenza could evolve in the wild. By Ed Yong on 02 May 2012 in Nature.com …Kawaoka found that the hybrid virus could spread between ferrets in separate cages after acquiring just four mutations. Three of these allow the HA protein to stick to receptor molecules on mammalian cells, and the fourth stabilizes the protein. “Before we initiated this experiment, we knew that receptor specificity is important,” says Kawaoka. “We didn’t know what else was needed.”…
Related Articles: The Controversial Flu virus papers being discussed above
1. Airborne Transmission of Influenza A/H5N1 Virus Between Ferrets in Science 22 June 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6088 pp. 1534-1541
by Sander Herfst and colleagues – A report. (…..The genetically modified A/H5N1 virus acquired mutations during passage in ferrets, ultimately becoming airborne transmissible in ferrets. None of the recipient ferrets died after airborne infection with the mutant A/H5N1 viruses. Four amino acid substitutions in the host receptor-binding protein hemagglutinin, and one in the polymerase complex protein basic polymerase 2, were consistently present in airborne-transmitted viruses. ……)
2. Pathogenesis and Transmission of Swine-Origin 2009 A(H1N1) Influenza Virus in Ferrets ￼/ http://www.sciencexpress.org / 2 July 2009 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1177127
3. Severity of Pneumonia Due to New H1N1 Influenza Virus in Ferrets Is Intermediate between That Due to Seasonal H1N1 Virus and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus. J Infect Dis. (2010) 201 (7): 993-999. doi: 10.1086/651132
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