Tag Archives | Bird Flu
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.
I pose for you the question: if avian flu was created in a laboratory, as many think it was, is the right course of action to modify the genes of chickens to reduce their susceptibility? One ponders the law of unintended consequences, but there are certainly some scientists who think it is a good idea, as reported in the Daily Mail:
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A genetically modified ‘superchicken’ that doesn’t spread deadly bird flu has been developed by scientists.
The bird is intended to prevent the outbreaks of avian influenza which lead to millions of birds being culled.
It could also stop new strains of flu mutating in domestic fowl and spreading to people, leading to killer worldwide pandemics.
The British team behind the GM chicken say it is ‘inconceivable’ that its meat or eggs could be harmful. However, it will need rigorous safety checks before it could go into the food chain, they said.
Lauren Davis writes on io9.com:
Looking toward the worst case scenario for the swine flu pandemic, virologists in Lyon are attempting to create a virus as contagious as swine flu and as deadly as avian flu. Is it time to call in Bruce Willis yet?
Researchers at the Jean Mérieux/INSERM facility in Lyon, France, are working with the highly contagious H1N1 virus and its more lethal relation H5N1, better known as the avian flu. The scientists are attempting to determine if H1N1 could reassort with H5N1, blending their genetic material, and whether a resulting virus could have the worst traits of the original viruses.
More on io9.com
Dammit Donald! And I know your explanation isn’t going to make any sense … My eye’s now on you, Porky Pig, for the current craze. Nora Schultz writes in New Scientist:
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Bird flu may be a sexually transmitted infection — at least in ducks. That’s the suggestion of an analysis of flu prevalence and mating behaviour that also proposes an easy way to spot duck populations most at risk of harbouring avian flu.
Surprisingly, the more rampant the sex a particular duck species indulges in, the lower the chance of spreading the virus. It’s all to do with penis size and the complexity of the females’ vagina.
Lethal strains of avian flu virus can evolve from harmless versions and then jump to other species, so it is important to also monitor less dangerous strains in wild birds. Ducks are the main wild hosts of bird flu, but surveillance is difficult without easy markers of infection risk.