A virus capable of utterly ravaging the human population of the planet, and this has to be a cause for concern, because if one of these diseases somehow got released, how many of us would survive to tell the tale?
In an alarming experiment recently, researchers wanting to test how many changes needed to be made to allow the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus to be spread through coughs and sneezes resulted in the scientists involved creating a pandemic strain, though an an eight-month delay passed by, while bio-security officials contemplated just what information should be made public about this scandalous science.
H5N1 virus cannot currently spread between people, so genetic tampering was needed to make it transmissible in air through coughs and sneezes, the wild H5N1 virus only requiring mutations at five genome locations for a pandemic strain to emerge, which would almost certainly decimate humanity if released.
Netherlands Erasmus Medical Centre professor of molecular virology Ron Fouchier, led the research team, infecting ferrets with the modified virus, which at that point had only three modifications, but as it spread between the rats through physical contact, additional mutations appeared. Then, with only five mutations from the wild virus, it became airborne.
It was the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity -NSABB – who warned of possible information misuse by terrorists. Scientists wanted the research published in full, so authorities could prepare vaccines in case this wild strain of H5N1 naturally mutated into a form that could easily spread between people.
First identified in poultry some 16 years ago, bird flu rarely people, but can cause serious illness or death when it does. Currently, it cannot spread between humans, but scientists have now altered that. They had thought that pandemic, flu viruses would first have had to mix their genes with other viruses, but this was not the case with H5N1.
The research team demonstrated that it is perfectly possible to generate, through genetic engineering, a virus capable of utterly ravaging the human population of the planet, and this has to be a cause for concern, because if one of these diseases somehow got released, how many of us would survive to tell the tale?