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Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

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  • #16
    Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

    The same goes for smallpox. As I stated before, the genetic manipulation in mousepox is apparently a relatively simple procedure for a geneticist and the methods were published in the Journal of Virology 10 years ago. Probably the only thing that has kept someone from releasing a deadly, contagious pathogen like smallpox is the fear of catching it or killing their own family, friends, countrymen, etc. Also, that is why anthrax was the pathogen of choice for bioweapons - it doesn't transmit H2H, so it could be used without risking it coming back, via H2H spread, and killing your own people.

    Overall, smallpox had, I believe, a CFR of 30%. The milder form (variola minor) had a CFR of <1%, but variola major, which came in two forms - confluent and hemorrhagic, had a CFR as high as 75%. It had an R0 of 5-7 (and infected persons start shedding viruses before becoming sypmtomatic), based on casual social contact.

    The genetically altered mousepox had a near 100% CFR in both vaccinated mice and those who had contracted and survived normal mouse pox.

    If someone created a "superpox", they would most certainly use a strain of variola major, which the Soviets produced in powdered form by the ton during the Cold War (and much of it was unaccounted for after the USSR broke up). If that kind of pathogen was released, even on a small scale, it could be the end of modern human civilization within a few years.

    If the basis of research being done on genetically altered pathogens is to help further discovery of a more effective defense against it, then I would say that it is worth the risk. But, doing it out of curiosity seems to me like the crazy kid in chemistry class who likes to mix the contents of unlabeled bottles just to see what happens.

    Originally posted by alert View Post
    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.
    "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


    • #17
      Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

      Originally posted by Giuseppe Michieli View Post
      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.

      Indeed, I would think Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) would apply to nations involving pandemic viruses in much the same way as it did to atomic bombs. The problem to me is the presence of "bad actors" not affiliated with any nation who might have nothing to lose, like the cult that unleashed the nerve gas attack on Tokyo in 1995. Their intent was to produce a doomsday scenario. In particular, there was evidence that group tried to use the Ebola virus as a weapon, but could not for some reason (I have read conflicting reports as to why those attempts failed).

      My impression (and it could be a false impression from reading the released non-technical reports) is that the prodcedure involved in increasing the transmission of H5N1 is not going to be that complicated, and might indeed be possible for lone individuals to perform without the support of any nation.


      • #18
        Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

        Well. At this point it is perhaps worth to cite the case of the rogue trade of irradiated material from Tchernobyl NPP: individuals at desperate need are going on the abandoned villages daily to seek wood, metal and every kind of reusable thing to exchange for few rubles in certain factories that transform the material collected into bicycle parts then sold elsewhere...

        I remain sure that science is one of our best hope but ethics and humanity are at the same time the most important line between arbitrary impulses of individuals and communities' interest in survival.


        • #19
          Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

          The pursuit of scientific inquiry is neither inherently good nor bad. It is only when scientific findings are used for nefarious purposes that moral and ethical issues arise. Unfortunately, one person's nefariousness is another person's revolution. The world as whole no longer has a shared vision of brotherly respect and tolerance.


          • #20
            Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

            From website Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands:

            FAQ Birdflu

            How big is the risk that the virus will spread among humans?
            The researchers concluded that this happens more easily than previously thought. All previous pandemic viruses were caused by genetic mixing of human and animal viruses (recombination). They presumed that this would now also be necessary. But this is not the case; a mere handful of mutations can change a H5 N1 bird flu virus into an aerosol-transmitted virus that can spread via the respiratory tract of mammals. All of the mutations found also appear individually in nature. There is no reason to assume that an aerosol-transmitted bird flu virus could not occur naturally.

            Why does Erasmus MC carry out this type of research?
            Erasmus MC carries out research to improve public health which is precisely why it is essential to conduct research on these viruses. A pandemic could cost many lives. Only by conducting these studies can we determine the risks caused by viruses and devise strategies to mitigate the risks, for example, by developing vaccines and medication to curtail the spread of the virus and by developing diagnostic tests. If these studies are not carried out as a precaution but once the virus has started to spread, it is too late. Research and the development of tests, vaccines and medication are very time consuming. The outcomes of this study will also be benficial in earlier recognition of dangerous variants of the virus in outbreaks.

            Can researchers become infected with the virus and then spread it?
            The laboratory staff members have been well-trained and take all the required precautions to work safely in the research areas. The staff members have been vaccinated. In the interest of everybody?s safety, no unauthorized persons are admitted to this area and all work is carried out under the supervision of a Biological Safety Officer. In the unlikely event of an incident, antivirals are available to treat staff members. Erasmus MC also has the facilities to accommodate people in an isolation room after possible infection.

            Would it not be better to stop this type of research?
            A possible pandemic could cost millions of lives. If this type of research is carried out under maximum safety conditions, as described above, the benefits of the research are greater than the risks.

            Could this dangerous virus escape from a laboratory or fall into the hands of people intending to cause harm, such as bioterrorists?
            The research will be carried out in a special laboratory with additional safety precautions for working with these viruses. The circumstances are such that they provide maximum safety for both humans and the environment. This area is also called the BSL3-plus laboratory (where BSL stands for biosafety level). The air pressure in this area is, for example, lower than that of the surroundings so that the air will always be drawn towards the ?inside? and the air is cleaned by virus filters.

            Only well-trained and vaccinated researchers can enter the laboratory through a lock chamber, with special clothing. The work is carried out in hermetically sealed biological safety work bench isolators from which contaminated air cannot escape. Materials will always remain in the laboratory. All waste is sterilized before being disposed.
            The research group carried out the study under conditions that ensure the safety of both humans and the environment. The group has been given a general exemption to work with bird flu viruses and it has an environmental permit from the Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M). I&M was given advice by COGEM that provides the government with independent scientific advice on genetic modification.

            The research was also commissioned by the American National Institutes of Health (NIH) and therefore also assessed by experts in an international context. Because of the American funding, the researchers not only have to comply with Dutch law and regulations but also with American law and regulations. The facilities and researchers are inspected every three years by inspectors of the ?Centers of Disease Control?(CDC) in Atlanta. A positive recommendation with regard to the safety was once more given by the inspectors during the last inspection in February 2011.

            The facilities have a high level of security and the virus is stored in an area not accessible by outsiders. It is also not easy to copy the virus as specialist knowledge and equipment is necessary.

            ?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 ~~~ ~~~


            • #21
              Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

              Some time ago, I have read a piece about human propensity to create myths about doomsday and I agree with the author when he said that it is simpler to make predictions of this kind rather than attempting to change our societies - even with small steps.

              So that poverty, famine and wars are killing thousands every day and our 'democracies' arent' able to do nothing to save generations of humans.

              For example, are we really capable to shut our tv or pc and go out on the street and unite with an Occupy movement?


              • #22
                Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                Giuseppe: Sometimes I think that humans are predisposed to create their own destruction - not the kind that is dramatic, like bombs or disease - but rather habitually making poor choices and insufficient compassion. Is there any other species that destroys so many their own and live their lives such that they're ensuring bad health & premature death?

                Regarding the supervirus: haven't we said that viral genetics will naturally sustain strains that don't completely destroy their hosts? While a lab can create a deadly strain, I'll put my money on viral genetic programming to mutate away (given time) from any code combination that assures its own destruction.

                Even some GM seeds start to mutate after planted - back to their original genetic coding.

                "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation


                • #23
                  Re: CIDRAP: H5N1 transmission experiment stirs concern

                  A Dutch researcher has created a virus with the potential to kill half of the planet?s population. Now, researchers and experts in bioterrorism debate whether it is a good idea to publish the virus creation ?recipe?. However, several voices argue that such research should have not happened in the first place.

                  The virus is a strain of avian influenza H5N1 genetically modified to be extremely contagious. It was created by researcher Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands. The work was first presented at a conference dedicated to influenza, that took place in September in Malta.


                  • #24
                    Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                    Thanks everyone. I merged 2 threads that were being simultaneously posted on.


                    • #25
                      Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                      Originally posted by AlaskaDenise View Post

                      Regarding the supervirus: haven't we said that viral genetics will naturally sustain strains that don't completely destroy their hosts? While a lab can create a deadly strain, I'll put my money on viral genetic programming to mutate away (given time) from any code combination that assures its own destruction.
                      I agree with this point in the abstract. No organism will survive and evolve if it kills off all its hosts in the short run. But with 7 billion people on the planet, H5N1 could kill off a lot of people in the short run (perhaps 4 billion at a CFR of 60% and AR of 100%). While that would be devastating for humanity there would still be enough surviving human hosts for the virus to continue to propagate.

                      And remember that avifauna are the main hosts for H5N1, not humans. Even if the human species was completely wiped out, H5N1 would still survive and circulate among birds.


                      • #26
                        Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                        "Public security is threatened by fear, rather than by freedom of publication".

                        Exploitation of fear is harming public health. Unfortunately no vaccin available.

                        Blog (in Dutch) :
                        “Angst grotere bedreiging openbare veiligheid dan publicatievrijheid”

                        De wetenschappelijke publicatievrijheid staat onder druk. Het Amerikaanse adviesorgaan voor bioveiligheid bepaalt of de publicatie van een artikel van de Rotterdamse hoogleraar Ron Fouchier de openbare veiligheid in gevaar brengt. Is dat zorgelijk?

                        Rotterdam. In opdracht van de Amerikaanse gezondheidsautoriteit NIH is Ron Fouchier, hoogleraar virologie aan het Erasmus MC, erin geslaagd om in een streng beveiligd laboratorium een zeer besmettelijke variant te maken van het vogelgriepvirus H5N1. Doel van het onderzoek was om uit te zoeken of het H5N1-virus een pandemie kan veroorzaken. Veel wetenschappers zijn daar namelijk sceptisch over. Maar Fouchier toont met zijn onderzoek hun ongelijk aan: slechts een paar mutaties in het virus-dna, die ook op natuurlijke wijze kunnen ontstaan, veranderen H5N1 in een zeer besmettelijke variant. Dezelfde opdracht werd verstrekt aan een Japanse onderzoeker. De resultaten van dat onderzoek bevestigen Fouchier’s conclusies.

                        Read more -Lees meer -
                        ?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 ~~~ ~~~


                        • #27
                          Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                          Great blog by Carl Zimmer

                          Making viruses the natural way

                          When it comes to viruses, we humans like to pretending we know much more than we really do. It’s understandable. The influenza virus, for example, has only ten genes. It is just a shell that delivers the genes and proteins required to hack a cell’s biochemistry to manufacture more viruses. It seems like such an easy biological problem to solve. Yet the flu and other viruses hide a complexity which virologists have only partly uncovered. The idea that someone could intentionally design a super-lethal virus from scatch–as plausible as it may seem–is, for now, a delusion.

                          ...if it’s so easy for mutations to turn H5N1 into a human flu, the experimental viruses have a lot to tell us about what we may be facing in the future. There’s no point in condemning the scientists for tampering with nature. They were watching nature do what it does disturbingly well.
                          thanks to Mike Coston
                          ?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 ~~~ ~~~


                          • #28
                            Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                            Some snips from the blog of Vincent Racaniello - Virology Blog

                            Ferreting out influenza H5N1

                            6 DECEMBER 2011

                            A laboratory in the Netherlands has identified a lethal influenza H5N1 virus strain that is transmitted among ferrets. These findings are under review by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to ensure that they do not constitute a threat to human health. Meanwhile both the popular and scientific press has been calling this a ‘virus that could change world history’. Even the usually restrained Helen Branswell writes that ”…the dangerous virus can mutate to become easily transmissible among ferrets — and perhaps humans…” Should we be frightened?
                            I cannot fault the press for not having the background to interpret these studies, but scientists should know better than to declare that this is a dangerous virus.
                            The possibility that passage of the H5N1 virus in ferrets will attenuate its virulence in humans has been ignored.
                            In my view, it is highly unlikely that laboratory-modified viruses will be able to cause extensive disease in humans.
                            Could the sequence of the ferret adapted H5N1 be used for bioterrorism? It seems unlikely: it is not known if the virus would be pathogenic and transmissible in humans. Bioterrorists do not want to carry out an experiment; they want to instill terror. Why use a laboratory modified H5N1 strain when the sequence of the 1918 influenza virus, known to be a lethal and transmissible human virus, is readily available? Ebright calls the 1918 virus “the most effective bioweapons agent now known”.

                            No one can guarantee that Fouchier’s virus would not be lethal and transmissible in humans. But the same could be said about any number of laboratory modified viruses, none of which have attracted the attention of the NSABB or the press. When dealing with viruses, both caution and restraint are necessary qualities.
                            Virology Blog
                            ?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 ~~~ ~~~


                            • #29
                              Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                              Maybe the questions the press should be asking instead of sensationalizing an unlikely scenario are:

                              1. If public funding was used, was this the most productive use of the funding in terms of furthering public health?

                              2. Was the animal suffering justified?

                              Ask Congress to Investigate COVID Origins and Government Response to Pandemic H.R. 834

                              i love myself. the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever. ---- nayyirah waheed

                              (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)
                              Never forget Excalibur.


                              • #30
                                Re: Man Made H5N1 - Super Version

                                I would also add:

                                3) Since there are 7 billion people on the planet, and vaccines will not be available to most people in the event of a pandemic, what treatments and/or methodologies are most effective in reducing morbidity and mortality on a global scale?