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Medicine Science

Details of the Second Controversial Mutant Bird Flu Study Finally Published 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the terrorist-handbook dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The second of the two controversial bird flu studies once considered too risky to publish in fears that they would trigger a potentially devastating global influenza epidemic was published Thursday. The study describes how scientists created H5N1 virus strains that could become capable of airborne transmission between mammals. Scientists said that the findings, which had been censored for half a year, could help them detect dangerous virus strains in nature."
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Details of the Second Controversial Mutant Bird Flu Study Finally Published

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:15PM (#40406861)

    What we really meant to say is we created a dangerous strain and will release it in the wild. We were doing it for research purposes only of course so don't worry about any kind of accidental release.

  • by able1234au (995975) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:44PM (#40407071)
    Sadly, this scenario of "the end of civilisation" is more likely than nuclear war. Presumably, just like the black death, not all would die, but the impact would be just as devastating as any WWIII
  • Re:Again. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @10:40PM (#40407355)

    The people doing this research are also capable of creating vaccines, etc.

    [citation needed]. Would appreciate if you can find citations showing their capability to produce quantities large enough if needed in a pandemic.

  • Re:Again. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) * on Friday June 22, 2012 @12:53AM (#40408183) Homepage Journal

    In my opinion, anyone purposely working on a more dangerous version of a deadly flu for very close to no reason, they should be shut down immediately.

    Well, it's a good thing they have a really good reason then. They want to prevent a pandemic flu.

    A pandemic is caused by a novel influenza virus that we are not immune to, and can spread itself quickly from infected host to uninfected human via airborne droplets.

    As you pointed out, viruses do not die. The host's autoimmune system either learns how to control the more lethal strains, or the host dies. And we've learned the host's autoimmune system can be trained by inoculating it with a strain of the virus that looks very similar to the lethal strain, yet does not contain the machinery that typically causes sickness or death. We call this process vaccination.

    We know the influenza virus lives for a long while in a non-human animal population (pigs, birds, horses), slowly mutating away from something our human autoimmune systems used to be able to recognize into a new form of the disease. This is called drift. (Reassortment is another mutational path that leads to new forms of the virus.) Judging by the regularity with which we are afflicted by pandemic flu viruses, this seems to happen about every 20 years. As we approach that 20 year mark, the occasional cross-species infection will occur, as the virus hops into some unlucky human who was in direct contact with the infected host. At that time, it's evident that there's a new form of the disease to which we're no longer immune.

    We also know that every so often natural mutations will confer the ability to become transmissible to humans via airborne droplets that are exhaled by a carrier. Once that happens, the virus is able to spread among humans very rapidly.

    So there are two things nature needs to create a new strain of pandemic flu: novelty and transmissibility. Once we see the novel form, it's time to create a vaccine that hopefully will lessen its impact before the time it naturally becomes transmissible on its own.

    But mutations are mutations. We don't know for certain that the mutant form that's transmissible is still similar enough to the novel form for our autoimmune systems to recognize them both (keep in mind that the non-lethal form cultured for the vaccine is already somewhat different from the lethal form.) So the researchers are trying to study the possible mutations so they can test and develop the vaccines before they're actually needed in the wild.

    tl;dr - they need to do this research, or a lot of people will die.

  • RTFA! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PhilistineGuillotine (2633149) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:02AM (#40408241)
    Clearly those panicking did not bother to read even the abstract. Not a single ferret died from airborne transmission which is how this flu would spread. It's not even clear whether this new kind of flu would be more dangerous than the present wild type flu viruses, which kill many people every year. Why on Earth are there so many people freaking out about what these scientists have done?
  • Unanswered questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by miketheanimal (914328) on Friday June 22, 2012 @06:41AM (#40409707)
    Back when H5N1 was doing the rounds, my wife had a long running worse-than-average but not debilitating chest infection which came and went over two or three months; I had something pretty similar; and lots of people we know and work with had much the same. But none of us or them were ever diagnosed as having H5N1, because none of us got bad enough to see a doctor. My wife (a biologist who worked in an immunological research laboratory a while back) thinks that the H5N1 infection rate was really much much higher than it was supposed to be, but the infection was much much less severe than H5N1 was hyped to be in all those cases. If she's right - and it seems pretty plausible to me - then H5N1 was just not the risk it was painted as. Granted it was nastier than the average flu bug, but nothing like governments would have us believe. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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