By Christine Hsu
Controversial flu researchers have argued that their airborne H5N1 virus creation, able to spread in easily among mammals, would assist in the speedier creation of flu vaccines should a strain like the one created in the laboratory emerge in the future. However most experts that say that the government censored research is unlikely to speed up the vaccine response in a pandemic, Nature reported on Wednesday.
Workers including Japan Ground Self-Defence Force soldiers wearing protective suits cull chickens at a poultry farm where the bird flu virus had been found in Miyazaki, southern Japan February 2, 2011. There have been a total of six confirmed cases of the highly virulent strain of the H5N1 virus in Japan with culled chickens totalling about 750,000, still some 0.1 pct of Japan’s total chicken output for meat use as of 2009. (Miyazaki prefectural government office/Handout)
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, told Nature that such expectations “a red herring,” in other words misleading.
Many agree that the controversial flu research is important for understanding the flu virus, but not for vaccine purposes.
Farrar, like many other researchers said that the two studies, one led by Ron Fouchier at the Erasmus Medical Center and the other by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that although the flu studies could benefit flu surveillance in the long term, the current surveillance systems are nowhere close to being able to detect genetic changes in naturally circulating viruses similar to the lab strains which could provide an early warning of a pandemic and enable authorities to act quickly to contain the virus.
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