WHO: Bird flu data still on hold
February 17th, 2012
06:27 PM ET

WHO: Bird flu data still on hold

Two studies about a genetically altered strain of H5N1 influenza, a deadly avian flu, should be published in their full form, but not yet, experts at a meeting organized by the World Health Organization concluded Friday.

There has been concern the research on bird flu could be used for terroristic purposes. WHO said in a statement that "understanding of this research through communications and the review of biosafety and biosecurity" issues that the research raises is crucial, but did not say specifically how or when this review will happen.

WHO also said that it would extend the temporary moratorium on research with the laboratory-modified viruses, but research on the avian influenza found in nature must continue for public health protection.

The naturally occuring H5N1 bird flu virus has a high death rate associated with it; 60% of all humans who have been infected have died, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of health security and environment for the World Health Organization.

A research group in the Netherlands and a separate group at the University of Wisconsin have each created a mutated version of the H5N1 virus that can more easily transmit from mammal to mammal than the virus found in nature.  They tested the mutated virus on ferrets, which closely mimic the human response to the flu.

The journal Science was going to publish the Dutch paper, and the journal Nature was going to publish the American paper. Both journals decided to refrain from publishing the studies so far.

Concerns about the research were first raised in December, the fear being that a highly transmittable virus could be used in a biological weapon.

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity said in January that the data could be used to help prepare for a possible outbreak in the future.  However, the board recommended the studies be published without "methods or details" to prevent misuse by terrorists.  Science and Nature jointly released a statement on the matter.

Friday, the World Health Organization said more public health benefit would come from publishing the entire manuscripts than "urgent" partial publishing.  But the WHO is going to continue its assessment of the biosafety and biosecurity aspects first.

"If you just have scientists in the room and no security people, it’s not enough," Science Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts said Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science  meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.  "The other side of the equation is, what do we know about the ease at which al Qaeda, for example, could actually produce this thing?"

Alberts said the original plan was to publish a redacted version of the papers in the middle of March, but that will not happen in light of the WHO decision. 

"My reading is that both Nature and Science are to wait until we get some further information from WHO and other authorities about when we are to publish the full manuscripts," Alberts said.

Experts say it's important to get this information out about avian influenza to the people doing surveillance, especially in countries like Indonesia that have the biggest problems with this disease.  But considering the risks for terrorism is important, Alberts said.

"Obviously this cannot go on for years," he said.

The best outcome would be the establishment of an international version of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, he said.

There also is talk of other ways to get information to people who need it besides publication of the papers, Alberts said.

For instance, there could be a list of 50 genetic mutations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that could be screened for; the technology for that exists.  That could be done openly because all the mutations of H5N1 that are being kept secret have already been found individually in other viruses.  It's only in combination that these mutations are dangerous.  Alberts suggests a database of these mutations could be available to public health officials in developing countries, for example. 

So where is this secret information?  The Science paper is in a locked electronic file, and everyone who reviewed the papers was told to destroy their copies, Alberts said.  The whereabouts of the Nature paper were not revealed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science  meeting.

soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. daeh ttub

    This would be the all time Darwin Award if these knucklehead scientists succeed in publishing the key to kill off humanity for the sake of their academic egos (and quest for tenure and grant money). It's time to park your egos for the benefit of mankind. Someone kindly give these guys publication and academic credit without having them publish the "How to Kill the World with Bird Flu" guide.

    February 18, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      So... when their research is used to stop a deadly bioterrorism attack (instead of creating one), are you going to force them to return the award?

      February 18, 2012 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      So well said. Someone please give them a pat on the back and a plaque so they can sleep at night without feeling robbed. Freaking academics.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:21 | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – it was those knucklehead scientists who made the decision not to publish in the first place.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
    • M.

      Do you seriously believe that scientists ("freaking academics") are ready to kill half of humanity, including probably large chunks of their own families, just as an ego game? The world must be such a scary place for you.

      Figuring out how flu becomes particularly infectious – and then figuring out how to stop it – is the only way to prevent disaster. The wild flu virus will mutate eventually – in a year, ten, fifty, but it will happen. And we better be ready. The "freaking academics" are your best chance.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      The bonehead who created the mutation said he did it just to see if it could be done. The only science he was doing was utterly mad and I absolutely agree that he should be hauled before the Hague to answer for his private, personal creation of a weapon of mass destruction for which there is neither cure nor vaccine.

      February 18, 2012 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • medicalstudent

      @Byrd hundreds of biology courses throughout universities all over the country have mandatory experiments involving genetic manipulation of e. coli plasmids, making them resistant to antibiotics. Many disease treatments involve growing the actual bacteria or virus in question.

      This is actually a very NORMAL part of creating treatments for infectious diseases. The only way to figure out the function of various genes is to alter them and see how that affect changes. Sometimes alteration hinders the species, sometimes it helps it, and sometimes it does nothing.

      That's how research works, and it's only ignorance that has led to this media scare.

      February 18, 2012 at 20:12 | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      As a virologist, I think its necessary that the public is correctly informed about this work, or we get responses like this...

      All of the methodologies used to create these viruses is common practice within the influenza field. The viruses were simply passaged in ferrets until a mutant virus with the ability to transmit from ferret to ferret emerged. They didn't create some "supervirus", they are just trying to determine what mutations could arise in the future. The mutations they saw have been detected in wild avian influenza, fortunately not all together, so the threat of this virus emerging is a real possibility.

      Further, ferrets are a good model for human influenza, but not perfect. For example, the pandemic H1N1 from 2009 was predicted to have a very high mortality in humans from ferret studies. That turned out not to be the case in humans.

      Its necessary to understand how avian influenza H5N1 can change to transmit from human to human and not only bird to human. These studies were funded by the NIH and the results and methodologies should be made available to the scientific community, so that we can continue to study H5N1 and develop anti-viral strategies to stop the next pandemic from occurring.

      February 18, 2012 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
    • Scientist

      I am a scientist but I have to admit I believe science is probably the greatest threat to the future of this planet. Will it be a nuclear, biological, or some other weapon that wipes us out? It is possible to develop vaccines without creating or publishing dangerous strains of a virus. I agree with the decision to withhold these papers.

      February 18, 2012 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      What kind of scientist are you? Are you a virologist who understands the methodologies and implications of this research?

      February 18, 2012 at 23:47 | Report abuse |

      I am a real scientist, take my word for it. Its already too late for the planet us knuckleheads have done broke everything.

      February 19, 2012 at 00:56 | Report abuse |
    • Dan, TX

      There is no danger to publishing this work. But it does sell newspapers to make people afraid. Terrorists can make a supervirus easily if they wanted to, it's not hard. But it is only useful if you are OK with killing your own children as well as your intended victims.

      February 19, 2012 at 01:02 | Report abuse |
    • Ted Nelson

      The most dangerous part of this study is not the list of mutations that make the virus transmissible between mammals, but the simple knowledge that by passaging wild type H5N1 between ferrets (a commonly used technique in virology) you will eventually create a virus that is highly transmissible between mammals. That procedure for creating weaponized H5N1 is much simpler than the route of in vitro recombination and mutagenesis based on the exact sequence of the virus, basically because in the former case natural selection does all the work for you. Therefore, the most sensitive finding of this study is probably already out of the bag, and withholding the detailed data for any significant length of time1just hinders detection of an imminent pandemic. Rather than going off on a paranoid national (in)security trip, this episode should be used as a springboard for flu preparedness efforts. After all a major -natural- flu epidemic will sweep the Earth again eventually.

      February 19, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      Well stated. This should have the world terrified but hey, what's on TV?

      The choice to hold the details should have been made while the research was ongoing. The lag-time has me very concerned about our ability to see beyond our little, personal views and see the very frightening big picture.

      February 19, 2012 at 08:20 | Report abuse |
    • Geff

      The inventors of the atomic bomb could not have known how prominently their creation would affect world politics for decades to come. What does make the possibility of an H5N1 pandemic especially insidious , is that as a weapon, it can be deployed without culpability and hence, reciprocity.

      February 19, 2012 at 10:19 | Report abuse |
    • Terri

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      February 19, 2012 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
    • Canopy

      Had to quote a fellow poster...
      "Recombinant DNA techniques have also allowed the insertion of foreign genetic material into pathogenic vectors- needless to say, these man-made constructs do not circulate in the wild, or they would not need to be created de novo in the lab." Perhaps thats why they don't want the information released. I'm sure it would take the US (or Terrorists) no time to figure out how to get the virus to "infect" certain racial and ethnic groups...if it hasn't already. I mean come on...how many times has the US apologized for experimenting on certain populations on the premise of "advancing health".

      February 21, 2012 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
  2. steven

    The people at the University of Wisconsin should be convicted of creating a weapon of mass destruction. I thought creating nuclear weapons was the worst idea but these guys have beat that one. You just want to beat your head against a wall after hearing some of the stupid things smart people do.

    February 18, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      Umm... this research can also be used to SAVE lives: first off, it studies the progress of the disease quite effectively, allowing those people in affected parts of the world to recognize and treat it. Second, by showing how to treat it, these people have shown how to deal with a biological weapon.

      I imagine you also want the inventor of the gun to be arrested, too - right? After all, guns are very, very deadly, and gangs use them a lot.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      You can take this to the bank. If something else hasn't killed us already, someday soon someone's going to create a super flu and unleash it on us and kill lots and lots of people. Possibly everyone. I'm not religious or spiritual, and I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but I think the writing is on the wall for our species. Intelligence and morality may soon prove to have very little longterm survivability benefits. We destroy far more than we heal as a species.

      February 18, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • J

      Hey Edwin, get a bag to put over your head so "terrorists" don't get you. Idiot.

      February 19, 2012 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
    • Dan, TX

      Nature is far better at creating new viruses than scientists. There is no virus that scientists can create that hasn't probably already been created in nature – that is a fact.

      February 19, 2012 at 01:04 | Report abuse |
    • Ted Nelson

      No, Dana, that is not a fact. Scientists have created attenuated vaccine strains of many pathogens in the lab that have not and would not arise naturally, because they are of reduced pahogenicity and transmissibility compared to wild-type strains. Recombinant DNA techniques have also allowed the insertion of foreign genetic material into pathogenic vectors- needless to say, these man-made constructs do not circulate in the wild, or they would not need to be created de novo in the lab.

      February 19, 2012 at 01:30 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      steven: were you upset when "smart people" isolated polio viruses in the lab, or smallpox, or ebola? Each of these has been studied in much the same way, and now we know more about them. The first two have been CURED because of research by epidemiologists. There are now treatments for the third, which (untreated) is nearly always fatal. If a more deadly flu virus emerges (naturally, or because of terrorists), I hope researchers have studied it.

      It is pretty easy, given money, a lab, and some scientists, to induce mutation in a virus. Remember the white powder anthrax scares a few years ago? We were worried that a terrorist group had managed to mutate the anthrax virus. It turned out to be false, but our government believed at THAT time that terrorists were already capable of doing this kind of deadly research. Clearly, they are better at it now than they were ten years ago.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Ted: you do have a point. Artificial strains have not gone through the natural evolutionary process. They are studied in "ideal" conditions in a lab. If they were to escape the lab, they would have to compete in a messy, real world filled with viruses that are actually good at propagation.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
  3. john

    And exactly why did people in Wisconsin create a virus that can wipe out the whole human race???????!!!!!

    February 18, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      ...because terrorists probably ALREADY have. If two separate research groups can do this in about the same time period, it can't be freakishly difficult. Imagine how embarrassed the government is going to be when a different strain is released by terrorists, but our scientists haven't been given enough time to study the research to figure out what to do...

      Simply put: if you stop researching harmful things, your enemy WON'T stop researching them.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      Thanks, edwin, for the oh-so-enlightening "if your friend jumps off a cliff" analogy. Now they can get together and wipe out humanity from both sides of the Atlantic. Just tell them that edwin said it would be alright since it was in the name of science.

      February 18, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Well, I believe in the scientific community knowing something CAN be done is half the battle.... Way to go in letting every 2 bit country know that they can now research bird flu and make it a weapon. Heck, it does not have to be a country that does it... someone at a university in the mideast can probably do it on their own....

      February 18, 2012 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Dan, TX

      You really don't understand. That is the problem with this, people are made to be afraid when there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. The viruses made by these scientists are no more dangerous than viruses that already exist in nature.

      February 19, 2012 at 01:06 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      DB: umm, they already knew this could be done. This sort of research is not new - the specifics definitely are, but the methods are well established. Biotoxin creation and virus mutation methods have been available via the internet for over a decade (it is illegal, I think, to publish or download such knowledge, but terrorist groups probably don't care).

      ...so these researchers did not give away any secrets by simply creating it - the likelihood it could be created was known a decade ago.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
  4. Ramshi Gerald

    And this is what Wisconsinites pay taxes for!

    February 18, 2012 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Easy E

    I really don't see the issue. Just delay publication until a vaccine has been made against the strain in question. Problem solved for both sides.

    February 18, 2012 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RedHook

      "Just delay publication until a vaccine has been made against the strain in question. Problem solved for both sides." How would 7 billion people get the vaccine if the strain got out. Once there is an outbreak of a new strain with something between a 60 and 100% death rate, millions will die before any vaccine can be administered. How could the global economy afford to vaccinate the world population every time someone invents another killer virus?

      February 18, 2012 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • "TM" TAG MEL

      Lawmakers told: Go easy on ‘sin’ taxes

      February 22, 2012 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
  6. werescrewed

    I'm getting a scared here. wth are we as a race doing? jobs i guess

    February 18, 2012 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. werescrewed

    easye we wouldnt need the vaccine if the virus wasnt mutated

    February 18, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      So... you assume NO terrorist is going to have worked on this at all? Remember: two INDEPENDENT teams of researchers, in two separate parts of the world, created mutations of this virus. All they needed was a few fancy machines and a couple of experts.

      Al Qaeda may have a lot of stupid suicide bombers in its midst, but they also recruit brilliant people. And even if THEY don't have the know-how to do this, some amoral groups around the world sure do. They have probably ALREADY done it, but haven't released it yet - they're waiting on it until they get a high enough offer.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      But then the amoral dudes who did create it were at the University of Wisconsin and in the Netherlands, not al Queda, isn't that right? If you'd like to hear about a few thousand other really nasty things we oh-so-moral Americans have created try doing a bit of reading about the history of Ft. Detrick, MD. Some really friendly bugs living in their vaults. When I lived in Frederick, MD I was by a neighbor who worked there that if the light ever when on atop the water tower it was already too late and one building has been sealed for over twenty years – rather poorly I might add – because of an anthrax accident. Birds fly into the building but they never come back out.

      February 18, 2012 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • McAfee

      The researchers were trying to determine if the virus would naturally mutate into a more contagious variant. From what I've heard and read, the scientists have concluded that it could easily arise in nature.

      February 18, 2012 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Byrd: I work at the University of Wisconsin, so I know something about those "dudes" - they are not amoral. You seem too comfortable maligning people you've never met and never will meet - it says a lot about you.

      These people are very good scientists, working on projects that were funded and approved by multiple panels of experts in medicine and epidemiology. The project was designed to study what happens WHEN the virus mutates, which it will on its own at some point. In order to study it - to understand how it spreads, how to treat it effectively - they had to have a sample of a mutated virus, which they created in their lab.

      Knowing how to treat diseases prevents epidemics. We study deadly viruses all the time - this time is not different.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
  8. Byrd

    Dateline: Little Norway, Wisconsin: "...so I lit a fire...isn't it good...Norwegian wood..."

    This bird (flu) has flown.

    Kinda creepy, don't you think...

    February 18, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. midogs2

    They tested this mutated H5N1 virus on ferrets?

    February 18, 2012 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. cpc65

    Invade Wisconsin now before it's too late! I've always suspected them no good cheese makers were up to something.

    February 18, 2012 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jim

    HEY guys we're going to see if bird-flu can be made more deadly and used as a weapon
    but don't your bad guys get any ideas from that
    oh yeah we will tell you all about it

    February 18, 2012 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Frank

    A bunch of college kids experimenting with this stuff doesn't give me a warm fuzzy. If ya'll are going to kill me do it with something fast acting. Death by flu would be terrible.

    February 18, 2012 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dripping Design

      yea all those dumb people in colllege.... ya'll

      February 18, 2012 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
  13. Nuno


    February 18, 2012 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mike

    So I understand but do not agree with the rationale that these studies could enhance our ability to fight future engineered bioagents. What the scientist have failed to consider so far is a risk analysis. If you create the deadly virus, you increase the likelihood that and event will occur where you need defenses. It's a self fulfilling rationale. In the end, risk analysis will probably reveal that making the deadly virus and publishing the "how to" greatly increases the risk of harm to humanity, it does not decrease the risk.

    February 18, 2012 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • McAfee

      "What the scientist have failed to consider so far is a risk analysis."
      Performing a study like this is not a trivial endeavor. Trust me, the researchers have looked at this from every possible angel. They'd have to, or they wouldn't get the funding.

      February 18, 2012 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
  15. HansGruber

    The research shows which gene affects transmission in mammals, which could help avert a pandemic. On the other hand, the natural occurrence of such a specific mutation is in more than 100's of billions to 1. And so the spread ( that is why it has not happened). Now , not publishing details is interesting since the methods were already discussed in previous papers , although not relating to H5N1, and relating to this case in the virologist conference last year. Not to mentioned that is widely spread by e-mails in virologist circles. Now the good news , must terrorist group would not use this weapon cause it will kill their supporters faster and greater percentage than people in first world nations who have greater resources to fight a pandemic. But the really good news is this..TERRORIST are DUMB .. Bin Laden's home had no security.. no spy-gear no armaments.. then lets see someone like Kim Dot Com his security was so good that it took half a day to cut him out of a safe-room, and he had the capability to inflict real damage to the police – but did not do so because he is just a crook. The point is that terrorist are not the sharpest tool in the box!! there is nothing to worry! and 911 was a tragedy but a just a fluke

    February 18, 2012 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sarah

    We can't cure cancer, but we can create other deadly viruses.

    February 18, 2012 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • medicalstudent

      there are actually many curable cancers. The notion that there is, or ever will be some universal cancer cure is not really a reasonable one, as neoplastic diseases vary tremendously depending on their location, etiology and genetic factors.

      Also, creating a virus that has an enhanced property is a step towards a treatment for that virus. Once we know which genes are responsible for infectious properties, those genes or proteins synthesized from those genes can be targeted.

      February 18, 2012 at 20:04 | Report abuse |
    • 100 % ETHIO

      Quite true. We humans are more evil than good ended.

      February 19, 2012 at 19:16 | Report abuse |
  17. bees

    I understand why these things are developed and studied, but why are they even talking about publishing it.Let the people who need to know, know. KEEP YOUR MOUTHS SHUT. There is no need to broadcast what should be top secret and aid mankinds enemies.

    February 18, 2012 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • McAfee

      How do you determine who needs to know? Historically, one of science's best characteristics and what sped research was the free dissemination of information.

      February 18, 2012 at 21:48 | Report abuse |
  18. Blessed Geek

    Knock knock?
    WHO's there
    Bird flu data.

    February 18, 2012 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Stephanie

    I can tell you one thing-researchers at University of Wisconsin are soooo conceited that it is easy to imagine them playing god and bringing about a plague. The scarier thing is that half of the grad students doing the work are probably Chinese or Indian and will go back to their country with this knowledge. I have believed for some time that we are stupid to send these guys back after training them in some of the scariest technology we have. If this doesn't show smart immigration policies are a national security issue-I don't know what will demonstrate it.

    February 18, 2012 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • medicalstudent

      aaaand most ignorant comment of the day goes to....

      ::drum roll::

      Stephanie, the hillbilly bigot from teh internets.

      congrats. please kindly remove yourself from the gene pool and make no further attempts to breed. thank you.

      February 18, 2012 at 20:06 | Report abuse |
    • Dripping Design

      You're probably going to have to provide a definition for "gene pool" for her to find the last bit insulting....

      February 18, 2012 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
    • Dan, TX

      Most of those Chinese and Indian students will stay in the US and get very good jobs as professors, or lecturers or industry. If Americans were as interested in knowing about science, we wouldn't have all this fear of this innocuous study.

      February 19, 2012 at 01:10 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Dan: remember, this is the United States you are talking about - the country where roughly half of the people don't believe in evolution or global warming. For a huge percentage of our nation, the thinking goes like this:

      Science = hard to understand = probably wrong because I don't understand it = conspiracy by people I don't trust

      February 19, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
  20. medicalstudent

    This is just a media frenzy and fear mongering that pressured the journals to keep the research quiet right now.

    The reality is, there are already plenty of viruses, bacteria and protozoal species out there a "terrorist" could alter to spread a deadly infection quickly. There is actually a government list of bioterrorism agents most medical schools teach now.

    This isn't some special case, it's just a media frenzy. The scientists have done nothing wrong, this research is necessary to understand how the H5N1 flu functions, and is a gateway to potential therapeutic targets. Censoring the research will simply impede the development of future treatments.

    People need to calm down and stop buying into these media scare tactics. They're just trying to create headlines, and it's at the expense of valuable medical research.

    February 18, 2012 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Candace Wakefield

    Sounds like the Stephen King novel "The Stand."!!!. I grew up near Las Alamos, New Mexico where the government runs a biological weapons lab. I used to read articles about children in that area having 'higher normal' cases of brain cancer. So all this not new just getting bolder. God help us and protect us all.

    February 18, 2012 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      Candace: there IS risk, you are right. But there is also good reason to continue research like this. One of the reasons: we have probably ALREADY faced bio-terrorism attacks. They were not reported as such - it would have led to panic. But some of the outbreaks that DIDN'T get far were probably deliberate.

      One of the primary reasons these attacks didn't get far (regardless of whether they were terrorism or natural) is that we STUDY this field. The risk of something like in "The Stand" becomes a lot greater if we stop doing research and pretend everybody else will stop, too - including nature.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
  22. 3 dogs

    Wasn't the flu pandemic of 1918 a bird flu?

    February 18, 2012 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dripping Design

    The amount of ignorance displayed in these posts is amazing. Understanding the mechanisms used for the virus to spread is vital to creating vaccines against the disease. Yes, it's a little scary to create something so potentially dangerous, but we have a headstart at creating a defense against it. Calling for prosecution of these indviduals absolutely stupid. Don't be so naive to think that this discovery can only be made once. I'm sure there are those much less trust worthy than these scientists working on it.

    February 18, 2012 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James PDX

      It seems that it would be more effective to understand the mechanisms of the ACTUAL virus you're trying to fight than a variant that previously did not exist. But that's just me, and I'm the kind of guy who when he wants to know how to pick a lock, he practices on the actual lock he wants to pick and not some other lock.

      February 18, 2012 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
    • McAfee

      Also, the scientists were trying to ascertain if a human-human contagious strain would arise naturally. From what I've heard, it's not all that unlikely.

      February 18, 2012 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
  24. James PDX

    I just created a variant of the bubonic plague that is 10x more virile and for which there is no cure. Why, you ask? Because I'm a moron. Now I'd like to publish my research so that anyone can make their own super killer plague. Why, you ask? Because I'm a HUGE EFFIN moron.

    February 18, 2012 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Yes, I agree you are.

      The scientists are doing these studies so that they can understand the mechanism by which the virus works, and then target that mechanism for treatment. If you stick with the naturally-occurring virus, there is no way to study it mechanistically. These genetic studies are the bedrock of modern biology and medicine.

      February 18, 2012 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
  25. McAfee

    I love how everyone who posts on here thinks they're an expert. Some of these researchers have been studying influenza longer than some of you have been alive; they might know a thing or two about the implications and consequences of their research. Before cutting straight to freaking out about the research, maybe do some research yourself.

    February 18, 2012 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      The internet makes everyone an expert - at least in their own minds. Or rather, it empowers everyone to have a say in everything. It also makes the repercussions of looking like an idiot virtually non-existent, so all the people who keep quiet in real life post here.

      I remember one board, where people were complaining about the dangers of di-hydrogen monoxide, a major component of acid rain which can cause severe burns in its gaseous state. Posters were upset that there were no regulations on this particular chemical, until one person pointed out it was simply H2O. The original post was probably a joke, but a lot of people got up in arms about the dangers of too much water in rain.

      February 19, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
  26. Andy

    This is not beyond crazy. As a virologist, I think its necessary that the public is correctly informed about this work.

    All of the methodologies used to create these viruses is common practice within the influenza field. The viruses were simply passaged in ferrets until a mutant virus with the ability to transmit from ferret to ferret emerged. They didn't create some "supervirus", they are just trying to determine what mutations could arise in the future. The mutations they saw have been detected in wild avian influenza, fortunately not all together, so the threat of this virus emerging is a real possibility.

    Further, ferrets are a good model for human influenza, but not perfect. For example, the pandemic H1N1 from 2009 was predicted to have a very high mortality in humans from ferret studies. That turned out not to be the case in humans.

    Its necessary to understand how avian influenza H5N1 can change to transmit from human to human and not only bird to human. These studies were funded by the NIH and the results and methodologies should be made available to the scientific community, so that we can continue to study H5N1 and develop anti-viral strategies to stop the next pandemic from occurring.

    February 18, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      The H1N1 IS a "supervirus" and the researchers gave it a mechanism to more easily infect humans. In the 'right' hands, this is not a problem. But how do you assure it stays in the 'right' hands. Think nuclear proliferation. Furthermore, if we 'the public' are too dumb to understand that H1N1 is not a threat, then it's useless to try to inform us of the methodologies used to make it more contagious. Oh, sorry. H1N1 is not a 'super virus' as you say, which is why researchers are so focused on it. Why not focus on the rhinovirus then since it infects more people more frequently. (That's a sarcastically rhetorical question)

      February 20, 2012 at 14:52 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Correction; H5N1

      February 20, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  27. PhilG.

    The Umbrella corporation will protect you-never fear.

    February 19, 2012 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sam9

    There's nothing actually new, they also revived the 1918 pandemic flu virus in labs 5 years ago and no one died, the techniques used in both papers can be done easily and has been done in the past, so they are NOT publishing anything new, just their findings in how vaccines and response could be made faster.

    People just have fear without knowing.

    February 19, 2012 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      Where do you get your details? People respond to the information provided. I haven't read that this is derivative of existing roadmaps for building a deadly virus.

      February 20, 2012 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
  29. Mike

    Isn't there a mechanism that allows researchers to collaborate with out publishing the "how to create the flu" recipe to the general pubic? The general public are not virologists so how does Joe Plumber benefit from having access to this material.

    Its kind of like having the The Anarchist Cookbook being freely available at every Barnes and Noble. Its simply just not a good thing to justify that people can be trusted because they only want the information but would ever attempt to make it.

    Like nukes, we can't ever uninvent them, sure some good can come from them but also horribly massive destruction.

    February 19, 2012 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mike

    I keep reading over and over the same come back to this issue. The issue that its necessary to discover how this virus can be transmitted. Fair enough... I believe that is the case.

    The other folks that are against such work are not really against the work and its core objective... its the methodology of how the information is shared and collaborated. I'm all fine with the top universities with legitimate science programs conferring with personal with special clearance to work on these things.

    It's entirely different thing handing off the cook book to a hell bent disfranchised scientist, off in some desert under a tent. So again establish some security procedures here.

    February 19, 2012 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. J Heather

    Pointless! It is only a matter of time before someone will reproduce this – with or without the results. Once it is know it CAN be done there are probably dozens of ways of going about it. Better to hand it out on T-shirts and let someone with some brains figure out how to beat it.

    February 19, 2012 at 05:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Archie Bunker

    They will release this bug to the population and then there will be a cure for it soon after.Big pharma will be rich

    February 19, 2012 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Chris

    All invention is simply the discovery of something that does not yet exist. We can choose to tie the hands of our own scientists - though that will not keep the something from existing - or we can let them do everything they can to keep ahead of the scientists of our enemies. Those who would give up knowledge for security deserve neither. And will end up with neither. Publish the whole papers.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jeff S

    For all of the posters who live in fear of science and it's "new-fangled devil inventions", the only way anything is going to escape from an L3 bio-lab is if it's taken out of there on purpose. Calm down.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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  36. 100 % ETHIO

    The storage of Bio-infectious Chemicals are almost empty, since Edwin and associates (WHO), extremely used it, somewhere.
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    February 19, 2012 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Rob

    So, Iran can't build a nuclear power plant or a nuclear bomb, yet it's ok for researchers to build a flu virus that will kill half the people on earth?! Don't get me wrong. I am anti-Iran because I believe the press that they are a terrorist state. However, I am also against creating these wretched viruses. Find another way to develop vaccines.

    February 20, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Myto Senseworth

    ... and everyone who reviewed the papers was told to destroy their copies.....I am so confident they were all destroyed....yea..right....

    February 21, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. David Fedson

    The debate over restricting publication of the experimental details of the H5N1 research by Fouchier and Kawaoka misses a larger point. Influenza viruses can and do develop more efficient transmissibility on their own; we've known this for decades. What's more important is to understand what we might do to reduce mortality when this happens. Immunomodulatory agents could probably be used to modify the host response to severe influenza and improve survival (Influenza Other Respi Virus 2009; 3: 129-42). Evidence that this happens was published recently. In a study of patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, statin treatment reduced mortality by 41% (J Infect Dis 2012; 205: 13-9). The reduction in mortality was in addition to any benefit that might have been due to previous influenza vaccination or antiviral treatment. Influenza scientists and the public health officials who listen to them have yet to understand the potential importance of these agents, yet if a highly virulent H5N1 virus gets loose, the vaccines and antivirals they're counting on won't be available in time to do much good. The issue we should be discussing is not whether to undertake or publish research on H5N1 influenza virus transmission; it's why we have failed to undertake laboratory and clinical research on immunomodulatory agents that could save lives. These agents are produced as generics in developing countries and could be used to treat anyone with access to basic health care. The cost of treating an individual patient would be less than one dollar.

    February 22, 2012 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. David Davidson

    dear god it's painful reading these comments
    it's a good thing they're researching it you morons

    February 23, 2012 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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