Killer flu virus threat 'over-hyped'

2011-12-22 07:49

The Hague - A top Dutch scientist heading a team which created a mutant killer flu virus on Wednesday said the threat to global biosecurity is being overplayed, even if full research results are published.

"The threat to bio-security is not as big as everybody thinks," Ron Fouchier, whose team at the Rotterdam Erasmus Medical Centre announced the mutant version in September, told AFP.

"Recreating this virus is definitely not easy. You need highly-skilled people and a very large team, as well as specialised facilities to do this type of work," he said.

Two top scientific journals said on Tuesday they were mulling whether to publish full details on how Dutch scientists mutated the H5N1 flu virus in order for it to pass from one mammal to another.

Researchers genetically altered the bird flu strain in a lab, making it airborne and likely to be contagious between humans for the first time.

The research has sparked fears that a pandemic causing millions of deaths could be triggered if it emerged in nature or fell into hands of bio-terrorists or rogue countries.

A US government science and advisory committee urged the US journal Science and the British journal Nature to withhold key details of Fouchier's team's research, so that people seeking to harm the public would not be able to manufacture the virus.

Fouchier, however, said his team believed publishing the full findings, including a detailed description of the mutated virus, how it becomes airborne and its migration patterns, could help save lives in case of an outbreak.

"These are important details that we need to get out very quickly. This is information that needs to be shared with countries where H5N1 viruses cause outbreaks so that the countries can now be on the lookout if these mutations arise," he said.

He said however his team would respect a recommendation by the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) that the journals withhold key details on their work, saying redrafts of their findings had been re-submitted for approval before the board.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza is fatal in 60% of human cases but only 350 people have so far died from the disease, largely because it cannot, yet, be transmitted between humans.

  • adamjvanwyk - 2011-12-22 08:32

    mmmm...this won't end well

  • Eric Maseko Ma-Eza - 2011-12-22 09:09

    Most scientists have no respect for human life. Why did they create the flu virus in the first place & now fear it might fall into the hands of wrong people? They created the problem when there's absolutely no need to! They are God haters & certainly human haters too! Such renegades & workers of iniquity make our world an unbearable sphere to live in!

      ilsewepener - 2011-12-22 11:18

      Eric, that is a very general comment to make. I'm a scientist (biochemist), I don't hate humans and I am God-fearing. Just think of all the things science brings you everyday.

  • Stefan - 2011-12-22 09:19

    What a wonderful world this would be if 80 percent of the human population were wiped out! Seriously, I don't see the problem.

      TheWatcher - 2011-12-22 10:09

      until you realize that the 80% is likely to include you

      Sithando - 2011-12-22 11:43


  • TheWatcher - 2011-12-22 10:13

    This research is based on mutations of the virus which are likely to happen anyway without scientists' support. The idea behind the research is to create the new strain and study it to help with possible outbreaks (how does it spread, what kills it, that sort of thing). While this new strain is artificial in the sense that it was bred in a lab it should give a good indication of what the natural strain would do if it acquired these traits. Personally i'd like them to leave out the bit about how they made it in the report though.

      Stefan - 2011-12-22 11:13

      Weather it includes me or not is of no relevance and doesn't deter from the fact that the world would be a better place without 80 percent of its population. The world should be like it was when it was ruled by the Sumerians.

      Garth - 2011-12-22 12:12

      Good post TW. Hey Stefan, to which Sumerian era do you refer, 8000 years BP(before present) or when they were at the pinnacle of their civilisation at 4100 BP? Because, unless you are a survivalist of the highest order, i.e. your credentials do not come from watching that bear grylls idiot, you would not find the world in the first period too accommodating. Unless of course you like your women unwashed, your food unrefined grain and your lifespan at approximately 30 years, the last 12 with little or no teeth in your mouth. And another thing: the Sumerians never ruled the world, unless you call a small part of Mesopotamia `the world'?

      Stefan - 2011-12-22 14:19

      the Sumerians, ie, the Annunaki, did not live in poverty as you so describe. the only lineage of these Sumerians are any people who have an Rh negative bloodline, anyone else was in fact genetically engineered to serve these Sumerian Gods. So if you are O positive, which you probably are, then you are a direct descendant of one of the slaves. All blue bloods (rh negatives) are descendants of the Annunaki and have nothing to fear in terms of outbreaks.

      TaniaSandraSteyn - 2011-12-22 16:19

      Stefan, did you read that on a Chappies bubblgum wrapper? Insane!

  • EyesEars - 2011-12-22 13:31

    @ Eric - I understand what you are trying to say and do agree with you to a certain extent. There is good and bad in everthing that happens in this world. The problem is, something start off as a good intention, but capatalism tend to turn it into something bad and in most cases pure destruction. @ Ilse: I also understand your point of view. The problem I have with scientists are, they tend to believe that they can assist each one on this planet by giving them anti-biotics. Mixing alot of different ingredient together in order to get a certain result, does not always help and I therefor have the tendancy to compare scientists with sangoma's. You get your good ones and bad ones. Please also see the following:' irrespective of what I am, do I or any one for that matter really want to be minipulatd like this? NO! Because it will mean that a human's own free will will be taken away and not nesseseraly for the good. Money at the end of the day is what drives the "ambition" in order to research and make things as described in the article. If someone can explain to me the need to create such a virus in the first place other than own survival and money, I have no alternative but to agree with Adam and Eric.

  • yummyhamster - 2011-12-22 13:56

    Ok in one article the people who did the work stated that it is remarkably easy to mutate the virus. NOW they are saying it isnt so easy.i think someone made them come up with this version. The fact that they are spinning a new story is highly suspicious .

  • pages:
  • 1