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  • Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

    Robert Roos * News Editor

    Nov 17, 2011 (CIDRAP News) ? A national biosecurity board that monitors "dual use" research is apparently worried about an as-yet-published study in which a mutant form of H5N1 avian influenza virus was found to be easily transmissible in ferrets, which are considered good models for flu in humans.

    A National Public Radio (NPR) report today said the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) is scrutinizing the research by Dr. Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. The board provides guidance on biological research that has a legitimate purpose but could be misused to endanger public health.

    Dr. Paul S. Keim, acting chair of the NSABB, said today that the board is conducting a review of H5N1 virus transmission in mammals, but because of the board's confidentiality rules, he could not give any details. Keim is director of pathogen genomics in the Translational Genomics Research Institute at Northern Arizona University.

    Referring to the Office of Biotechnology Activities in the National Institutes of Health's Office of Science Policy, Keim told CIDRAP News, "We have now been directed by OBA staff that we can acknowledge that a review process on the H5N1 transmissibility in mammals is under way. We are not allowed to provide additional details."

    The H5N1 virus causes human illness relatively rarely, but it is often deadly when it does, with a case-fatality rate of about 60% among cases confirmed by the World Health Organization. Though the virus has circulated in poultry in many countries since 2003, it has not gained the ability to spread easily in humans. Scientists worry that if it did gain that ability, it could spark a fearsome pandemic.

    With the goal of identifying genetic changes that could lead to greater person-to-person transmissibility, a number of researchers have introduced mutations in the virus and studied how the mutant strains behaved in animals.

    Fouchier gave a general description of his experiments at a European meeting in September, according to a news story published in Scientific American after the meeting. He and his team introduced various mutations into the virus and watched their effects on its ability to attach to human respiratory tract cells. They found that with as few as five single mutations, the virus could bind to nasal and tracheal cells, according to the story.

    But when tested in ferrets, this mutant virus still didn't spread very easily through close contact. Fouchier and his team then undertook to let the virus evolve naturally?a project that he described as "really, really stupid," according to the story. They inoculated one ferret with the mutant virus, and after it got sick, they exposed a second ferret to infectious material from the first one.

    After they repeated this process 10 times, "H5N1 became as easily transmissible as seasonal flu," the story said. Fouchier said he concluded from this that H5N1 viruses "can become airborne" and do not need to reassort with other mammalian flu viruses to do so.

    The report quoted another expert, Albert Osterhaus, also of Erasmus University, as saying the individual mutations that Fouchier introduced have already occurred naturally in animals, but not together.

    Further details about Fouchier's study have been hard to come by. In response to a CIDRAP News query last week, Fouchier said he couldn't comment on the study until it is published. Other flu experts, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also declined to discuss the study or didn't reply to queries last week.

    The NPR report said the Fouchier study is the subject of a "fierce debate" among disease experts and is being reviewed by the NSABB. The experiment was criticized by some experts quoted in the NPR report.

    "It's just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus, and it's a second bad idea to publish how they did it so others can copy it," said Thomas V. Inglesby, MD, director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who is not a member of the NSABB.

    While biology has a culture of openness and relies on the full sharing of findings, occasional exceptions to this policy are warranted, and Fouchier's study calls for an exception, he told NPR.

    It was not immediately clear just how the NSABB might influence whether and in what form Fouchier's findings would be published. The board makes recommendations on policies governing publication, public communication, and dissemination of dual use research methods and results, according to information on the OBA Web site. It is up to the federal government to convene relevant agencies to determine how to respond to the recommendations.

    One previous case in which the NSABB influenced a research publication pertained to reports on the reconstruction of the 1918 pandemic flu virus using material from preserved tissue samples, according to Keim.

    "In this case NSABB recommended that the papers be modified to better represent the biosafety aspects of the research and also to explain the positive benefits of the work to public health," he told CIDRAP News. "There were no restrictions recommended by NSABB on the actual data or limitations to the results distribution."

    Some other recent studies have tested the ability of mutant or reassortant strains of H5N1 to replicate and spread in animals, but the findings were less dramatic than Fouchier's.

    For example, the December issue of the Journal of Virology includes a study in which researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis inserted the hemagglutinin gene from a 1997 Hong Kong strain of H5N1 virus into a pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus. When this hybrid was grown serially in human lung epithelial cells, it became more pathogenic in mice, "suggesting that these viruses may easily adapt to humans and become more virulent," the report says. The authors concluded that natural reassortment between circulating 2009 H1N1 and H5N1 viruses could lead to viruses with increased pathogenicity in mammals.

    Dr. Lynn Enquist, the Journal of Virology's editor-in-chief and a member of the NSABB, told NPR that the journal's staff carefully considered whether to publish the paper. He observed that the type of reassortant the scientists created could occur in nature.

    Another recent study, by researchers from the CDC and Scripps Research Institute, suggested that it would take a series of complex changes for H5N1 viruses to achieve airborne transmissibility in ferrets.

    They determined that a particular strain of H5N1, when modified with certain mutations from previous pandemic viruses, could spread in ferrets by direct contact but not by airborne respiratory droplets, according to their report in Virology. Only when they inserted a neuraminidase gene from a human flu virus did this virus achieve a modest ability to spread via respiratory droplets.

    "The complex genetic changes required by a clade 2.2 H5N1 virus to reach a low level of transmissibility in ferrets would indicate that considerable functional evolution is still required for acquisition of transmissibility in humans," the report concludes.

    See also:

    Information about the NSABB

    Nov 17 NPR report

    Scientific American story describing Fouchier's study

    Journal of Virology study abstract

    Virology study abstract

    October 2005 CIDRAP News report on re-creation of 1918 flu virus

    http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/con...1711board.html

  • #2
    Re: CIDRAP: H5N1 transmission experiment stirs concern

    Scientists Brace for Media Storm Around Controversial Flu Studies

    by Martin Enserink on 23 November 2011

    ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS?Locked up in the bowels of the medical faculty building here and accessible to only a handful of scientists lies a man-made flu virus that could change world history if it were ever set free.

    The virus is an H5N1 avian influenza strain that has been genetically altered and is now easily transmissible between ferrets, the animals that most closely mimic the human response to flu. Scientists believe it's likely that the pathogen, if it emerged in nature or were released, would trigger an influenza pandemic, quite possibly with many millions of deaths.

    In a 17th floor office in the same building, virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center calmly explains why his team created what he says is "probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make"?and why he wants to publish a paper describing how they did it. Fouchier is also bracing for a media storm. After he talked to ScienceInsider yesterday, he had an appointment with an institutional press officer to chart a communication strategy.

    Fouchier's paper is one of two studies that have triggered an intense debate about the limits of scientific freedom and that could portend changes in the way U.S. researchers handle so-called dual-use research: studies that have a potential public health benefit but could also be useful for nefarious purposes like biowarfare or bioterrorism.

    The other study?also on H5N1, and with comparable results?was done by a team led virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, several scientists told ScienceInsider. (Kawaoka did not respond to interview requests.) Both studies have been submitted for publication, and both are currently under review by the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which on a few previous occasions has been asked by scientists or journals to review papers that caused worries.

    More / Sciencemag
    ?Addressing chronic disease is an issue of human rights ? that must be our call to arms"
    Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief The Lancet

    ~~~~ Twitter:@GertvanderHoek ~~~ GertvanderHoek@gmail.com ~~~

    Comment


    • #3
      Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

      "A group of scientists is pushing to publish research about how they created a man-made flu virus that could potentially wipe out civilisation.

      The deadly virus is a genetically tweaked version of the H5N1 bird flu strain, but is far more infectious and could pass easily between millions of people at a time.

      The current strain of H5N1 has only killed 500 people and is not contagious enough to cause a global pandemic.

      But their are fears the modified virus is so dangerous it could be used for bio-warfare, if it falls into the wrong hands."

      Now, why on Earth would you create a virus like this?

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencete...#ixzz1erIdm1MN

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

        This is an extreme overhype spreaded by a sensationalist dailynewspaper.

        Experiments with ehnanced transmissible avian influenza viruses were performed in the past in high containment laboratories around the world without leakages, although an event like this may happen if a strict regulatory agencies control is not implemented.

        The likelihood of an outbreak sparked by an genetic hacked H5N1 virus could not be excluded a priori if a rogue laboratory is able to gain the expertise and technology to do it but the actual usefulness of a move of this kind is not great I suspect.

        In any case, ethical panels should taken into account every chances that a published study on how create or manipulate a potentially hazardous pathogen could have on public health safety.

        Overall, people have to put these kind of news into perspective: every days thousands of individuals enter in contact with avian or animal origin influenza viruses offering opportunities to these pathogens to explore way to adapt to new human hosts; in other words, experiments are undergoing in nature without ethical panels surveys... (IOH)

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

          http://www.losandes.com.ar/notas/201...smo-609063.asp
          Spanish to English translation

          Discovery of a new virus extremely deadly and hide it for fear of bioterrorism
          A variation of avian influenza virus H5N1. They discovered in the Netherlands. Do not want to give out the results because they fear that the information "falls into the wrong hands."

          Saturday, November 26, 2011

          Ironically, the study was commissioned by the U.S., now asks you not to publish.
          Dutch researchers discovered how you can develop a variant of the so-called H5N1 "bird flu" to be contagious and deadly to humans, but the fact has opened a debate on whether to publish the results of their research for fear that could be used by terrorists as a biological weapon terrible. In the meantime, ordered the Dutch authorities to postpone the publication of the results of the study. The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reports that experts fear that the information falling into the hands of terrorists and that they use it to develop a biological weapon. The research was commissioned by the U.S. Agency for Medical Studies National Institutes of Health (NIH by the acronym). The center asked the Dutchman said Ron Fouchier, a professor of molecular virology linked to the Erasmus academic hospital, based in Rotterdam, to investigate whether The H5N1 bird flu virus could lead to a pandemic. But the results are now out of hand . The researchers presented the article containing the results of research to the scientific journal Science, but the wording decided to first present it to the office of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity, a U.S. advisory body in the field of biodiversity. According to the newspaper Amsterdamer De Volkskrant, the Dutch scientist declines to comment until they give the results of the investigation. At the same time, the decision to postpone, and possibly ban the publication of the article has sparked among researchers an intense debate on scientific freedom. It is also under review the results of a Japanese study on the subject, which has thrown results similar to those of the Dutch study. virologist Ab Osterhaus of Erasmus Medical Center believes that the publication of research results will not cause damage. "This is a very complex investigation, a virologist who really must be highly trained and very good to do this," said Osterhaus to the Dutch public television NOS.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

            I moved this thread from the UK forum to the discussion forum because this issue is not unique to the UK.

            So what does everyone think - should the researchers be allowed to publish how to make a fully transmissible human to human H5N1 virus?

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

              Originally posted by sharon sanders View Post
              I moved this thread from the UK forum to the discussion forum because this issue is not unique to the UK.

              So what does everyone think - should the researchers be allowed to publish how to make a fully transmissible human to human H5N1 virus?
              I think it is obvious that you can't publish the whole detail to the public. There are individuals who seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them no matter the cost. Such a virus would be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, and you would simply be making those blueprints available to the whole world.

              On the other hand, I also disagree with those who think this research should have been pre-empted due to this risk. We know now that an H5N1 pandemic is at least potentially possible, something that many scientists dismissed.

              I wonder if they can find a way to publish something to make it obvious the general principle without giving away so much to make duplication of the experiment (followed by deliberate release) by terrorists possible.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                Originally posted by Road_Hog View Post
                "A group of scientists is pushing to publish research about how they created a man-made flu virus that could potentially wipe out civilisation.

                The deadly virus is a genetically tweaked version of the H5N1 bird flu strain, but is far more infectious and could pass easily between millions of people at a time.

                The current strain of H5N1 has only killed 500 people and is not contagious enough to cause a global pandemic.

                But their are fears the modified virus is so dangerous it could be used for bio-warfare, if it falls into the wrong hands."

                Now, why on Earth would you create a virus like this?

                http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencete...#ixzz1erIdm1MN
                to sell news papers, its the stuff being mixed in the back room that you dont hear about u should worry. jokeintiphat:g aside its just plane ignorance,cultivate compassion,love,wisdom,peace will follow
                you wont catch me eating meat dead and alive

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                  It would be crazy to publish the entire methodology. However, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. Scientists in Australia experimented with mice pox virus and created a strain for which the vaccine or prior infection provided no protection. The paper was published and revealed that a fairly easy genetic substitution in pox viruses could accomplish this result. The CDC duplicated the experiment successfully. The same genetic change in smallpox would render all the vaccine stockpiles useless and the entire world population would be vulnerable.

                  If these kinds of experiments continue in multiple nations, I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before one is released either accidentally or deliberately.
                  Originally posted by sharon sanders View Post
                  I moved this thread from the UK forum to the discussion forum because this issue is not unique to the UK.

                  So what does everyone think - should the researchers be allowed to publish how to make a fully transmissible human to human H5N1 virus?
                  "I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                    Originally posted by JimO View Post
                    . . . If these kinds of experiments continue in multiple nations, I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before one is released either accidentally or deliberately.
                    Everyday, Mother Nature experiments with novel diseases that could have terrible consequences for humankind. While we need to continue research that will help retard outbreaks of new and dangerous diseases, proper safeguards need to be implemented. Otherwise, I think JimO is correct, it will only be a matter of time before we self inflict a devastating disease onto the world's populations.
                    http://novel-infectious-diseases.blogspot.com/

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                      The research was presented in september , the focus at that time was : "What will the next pandemic look like ?" .

                      This research showed H5N1 is a possible candidate. Both Fouchier in the Netherlands and Kawaoka in Japan were asked to do this and they both proved the concept of a possible H5N1 pandemic. Also they showed the relevant indicators which are important for surveillance and further research for vaccins.

                      Some 10 days ago CIDRAP summarized the discussion, followed by many others.

                      A hype now indeed, worldwide.

                      Being no expert I want to say this: as far as I know this kind of research is happening all the time. That is why international rules for labs etc are issued.

                      Incidents can happen, have happened and probably will happen again. For instance: in 2007 the highly contagious FMD virus escaped from a lab in the UK, causing a local outbreak.

                      You can't stop human curiosity, you can't stop science. The methods of how to make an atomic bomb were published long ago. UN has rules and surveillance on nuclear research and production, all we can do is hope for the best or stop nuclear research.

                      Regarding the H5N1 research: this is not something you do in your back room. You need to be an expert, you need a highly specialized lab, etc., etc..

                      I would be surprised if the research will not be published.
                      ?Addressing chronic disease is an issue of human rights ? that must be our call to arms"
                      Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief The Lancet

                      ~~~~ Twitter:@GertvanderHoek ~~~ GertvanderHoek@gmail.com ~~~

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                        Frankly, that is precisely why I don't worry so much about overpopulation.
                        Originally posted by Laidback Al View Post
                        Everyday, Mother Nature experiments with novel diseases that could have terrible consequences for humankind. While we need to continue research that will help retard outbreaks of new and dangerous diseases, proper safeguards need to be implemented. Otherwise, I think JimO is correct, it will only be a matter of time before we self inflict a devastating disease onto the world's populations.
                        "I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                          For me it is a matter of human rights. If we allow the suppression of this paper, then what is next? And whose judgement?

                          We need to find a quicker method to protect against all influenza. The standard vaccine method is effective but it takes too long and protects only a tiny fraction of the world's population. This is the real issue.

                          What can billions of people do immediately to protect themselves and their loved ones from a virus threat?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                            As far as containment issues, I'm not sure why the lab would have to hold on to the virus after it was created. If the lab simply destroyed the virus at the end of the experiment, the risk of accidental release would be minimal. To me, the bigger issue is bioterrorism:

                            The world has survived quite well since the discovery of the atomic bomb. Part of that reason is that those countries that have discovered it know to keep the recipe a secret. Despite all their desire, terrorists that would want to build and use an atomic bomb have, fortunately, not been able to do so. I would like to think that part of that reason is that instructions on exactly how to do this have not been published to the general public.

                            Pandemic H5N1 is even more of a doomsday weapon than an atomic bomb. If we do not want the recpie for an atomic bomb "out there", we probably don't want a recipe for Pandemic H5N1 out there. After all, an atomic bomb at least requires some difficult to obtain materials (at least as far as I am aware!), whereas an H5N1 pandemic likely might require only an infected animal and the right procedure.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                              As the Cold War has taught us, it would be a sum-zero game.

                              The Mutual Ensured Destruction achieved by the simultaneous release of both 'old superpowers' (US & USSR) thermonuclear bombs would have create the condition for the end of human civilization, at least as we are used to think about it.

                              For an engineered pathogen, the game is also a sum-zero option: no one can build a safe vaccine or drug to protect his part from the destruction of global economy and society.

                              Further, a massive demise of populations could spark a N-bomb response toward the suspected nation recognized (not important if really responsible) as the epicentre of the disaster.

                              In other words, it is really useful to release or obscure a study that will not impact in the research of a cure or improve our knowledge in avian influenza virus ecology?

                              We need an ethical evaluation of research, as scientists are human beings and susceptible to error as all other, even the political bias or intimate egoism.

                              Science is the light of civilization but sometimes (as Kurt Vonnegut has taught us) a seemingly innocent invention could harm millions (do you remember ZyklonB, 731 Unit?).

                              In the recent past some faults were recognized in BSL-3 labs directed by renowned scientists and thus regulatory agencies have the obligation to ensure world population against people that for some reasons were or are trying to gain popularity or visibility through expensive and sometimes dangerous tests with live animals infected with highly pathogenic germs.

                              (IOH)

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