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Author Topic: Potentially Pandemic H5N1?  (Read 2790 times)

Offline thedoc

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Potentially Pandemic H5N1?
« on: 10/02/2012 18:32:05 »
Should we publish details of how to make viruses with pandemic potential?  We explore the controversy and meet one of the scientists whose work is under question...
Read a transcript of the interview by clicking here

or Listen to it now or [download as MP3]
« Last Edit: 10/02/2012 18:32:05 by _system »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Potentially Pandemic H5N1?
« Reply #1 on: 17/01/2012 19:58:35 »
Most interesting question. 

It first leads to the question on whether one should even be tinkering with constructing a synthetic super-virus (for scientific purposes)?  What if a power outage or something caused a containment breach?  Perhaps PETA will choose to raid the lab at an inopportune moment.  Or, it could just get stolen.  What about disgruntled employees?  Keep in mind that many of the Anthrax attacks on the USA originated in US Laboratories.

At this point, we haven't cured the common cold.  A lab bred super-virus could be extremely difficult to control.  With low natural immunity in the population, one could create a societal dependence on annual vaccines, something that would not be evenly distributed around the planet.

I suppose one should foster a scientific discussion about 4 possible methods of making the species "leap".  Are there more possibilities?
  • New mutations
  • Recombination with Human (or other mammalian) viruses
  • Recombination with existing Avian viruses
  • Artificially Lab Created
I would ask if there is something that is preventing these mutations from happening, or recombining in nature.  For example, a virus with all the necessary genes to be infectious to humans might not be infectious to birds, and thus would not be naturally selected for.

Anyway, I agree.
Perhaps they could build some kind of an inter-lab communication network, but the specific details on the recombination does not need to be published in an open scientific journal. 

Keep in mind, there are several countries that have not signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, and some countries who have signed it are in an ambiguous state due to major political changes since the original signing.  Including the Republic of China apparently signed it, but the People's Republic of China has not (I think).
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Potentially Pandemic H5N1?
« Reply #2 on: 17/01/2012 21:49:31 »
Oh, also,
Do these labs carry insurance?

What would the potential liability be if a laboratory released a synthetic pandemic that killed in excess of 1 billion people, and created the need to annually develop and distribute billions of vaccinations, including vaccinating every child?
 

Offline chris

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Re: Potentially Pandemic H5N1?
« Reply #3 on: 18/01/2012 08:32:17 »
You'd have to prove that the lab was responsible. This might prove tricky in this circumstance because, as Ron Fouchier points out in the interview, all of the mutations that were required to generate their mammalian-transmissible H5N1 strain are already found, albeit singly at present, in naturally-occurring isolates of the virus.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Potentially Pandemic H5N1?
« Reply #4 on: 18/01/2012 10:09:28 »
There are some conspiracy theorists that think HIV/AIDS was a synthetic lab-created virus.  I think that is dubious.  However, I know that things like Anthrax can often be traced back to the laboratory where it came from, but that may be tracing the actual spores, and not the infections.

I suppose one would not know how close were are to seeing the species jump without identifying the genes that would be necessary for it to happen.  And, this might help to develop a disease for a hypothetical disease.  However, I still think it is playing with fire.
 

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Re: Potentially Pandemic H5N1?
« Reply #4 on: 18/01/2012 10:09:28 »

 

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