[SaneVax: Scientists in the Netherlands are out to prove a point: they can create a deadlier strain of flu than any that currently exists. What is wrong with this picture? One would think scientists with any ethics at all would be researching ways to solve some of the world’s problems – not create new ones.]
Scientists Will Create A Deadly New Flu Strain, Just To Prove They Can
By Steven Salzberg
In an outrageous display of chutzpah, a group of flu researchers led by Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands announced today, in a letter to the journal Nature, that they were planning to engineer the new H7N9 avian flu strain to give it new, possibly much more deadly capabilities. Fouchier is the same scientist who, two years ago, adapted the highly pathogenic H5N1 flu strain so that it could be passed from human to human, which it cannot do in its natural form. The resulting outcry delayed publication of his paper, but it eventually did appear.
Now they want to do the same thing, and much more, with the new H7N9 influenza virus, which has killed 43 people in China to date, and which epidemiologists are tracking with great concern.
They should track Fouchier and his lab instead.
Wait a second, protests Fouchier. He promises that
“All experiments proposed by influenza investigators are subject to review by institutional biosafety committees. The committees include experts in the fields of infectious disease, immunology, biosafety, molecular biology and public health; also, members of the public represent views from outside the research community.”
Sorry, but I’m not reassured. Fouchier’s group wants to do this research because it’s all they know how to do – and, I suspect, because they enjoy the publicity. Despite their claims that the research is vital to our understanding of the flu, none of their past work, including their work on H5N1, has changed our ability to respond to a pandemic.