29 November 2011

Here's a Baaaaaad Idea

And the Oscar for Best Unintentional Destruction of the Human Race goes to the Dutch researcher who created a super-influenza virus that contains multiple mutations, and could wipe out billions (yes, with a 'b') if it ever escaped into the wild. Yay, science!

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.

Avian influenza emerged in Asia about 10 years ago. Since then there were fewer than 600 infection cases reported in humans. On the other hand, Fouchier’s genetically modified strain is extremely contagious and dangerous, killing about 50% of infected patients. The former strain did not represent a global threat, as transmission from human to human is rare. Or, at least, it was before Fouchier genetically modified it.

Fouchier and his team used a pair of ferrets for testing because they react in similar ways as humans, when exposed to the flu virus. Researchers transmitted the deadly virus from one ferret to another, in order to make the virus more adaptable to a new host. After 10 generations, the virus has mutated allowing it to spread through air. The result was that ferrets could get sick just being near another infected animal.

A genetic study showed that new virus strain presented five mutations, and all could be also observed in nature - but only separately, not all five combined. Fouchier’s strain is as contagious as seasonal human influenza, which kills tens of thousands of people, just that, much more lethal.

You have to love accidental biological warfare. And from the Dutch no less!

By: Brant

2 comments:

mad padre said...

Yikes.
Slow day at work yesterday so I passed that link on to my Base Surgeon. He came back with this:

"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." -Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Anonymous said...

Someone is playing with a fire that's going to burn a loooooooot of people! wow

Mike P