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The Risks of Dangerous Research

Should research that makes pathogens more deadly or infectious—or other dangerous research—be conducted in the first place?

By | January 13, 2012

image: The Risks of Dangerous Research Electron micrograph of avian influenzaCDC

Electron micrograph of avian influenzaCDC

In the wake of news last month that researchers had created a version of the deadly bird flu that was easily transmissible by air, a heated debate has arisen in the scientific community about whether or not the research should be published. But some experts are taking the discussion a step further back, and wondering why the research was conducted at all.

“Why should our tax dollars be used to create new pandemic pathogens?” said Richard Ebright, a chemical biologist at Rutgers University.

The bird flu breakthrough came from two separate groups, one at Erasmus University in the Netherlands and another at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who successfully converted H5N1 into a form that can be transmitted between ferrets in droplets through the air. Soon after, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, an advisory group to the US government, took the unusual step of asking Science magazine to censor specific details of the methodology.

But many scientists and security experts are questioning the value of such research and wonder whether stepping in at the publication stage is simply too late.

In the era of Wikileaks and the ease of posting things on the Internet, it's unlikely that simply excluding the data from Science or Nature will keep the details under wraps for long, said Randall Larsen, who was the executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

By the time the research gets to publication, “the genie's already out of the bottle,” he said.

The risks

The argument that such research should be conducted but not published stems from the chance, however remote, that groups with malicious intent could deduce how to make a deadly biological weapon. Many countries have biological weapons programs, for example, which are developing deadly pathogens, Larsen said. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Sergei Popov, one of the heads of the country's genetic weapons program defected. While debriefing Popov, Larsen learned that the Soviet Union had active programs to weaponize Legionnaire's disease, Ebola, smallpox, and HIV.

And now, with biotechnology continuing to advance, even a small, but determined terrorist group or an apocalyptic cult could conceivably generate a weaponized pathogen that was capable of doing great damage, he added.

Ebola virions
Ebola virions
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, PLOS

But some scientists say the biggest problem isn’t the risk of a terrorist group using an engineered pathogen as a weapon, but simply the existence of such pathogens. A likelier scenario, said Ebright, is that a disgruntled or unhinged employee may voluntarily release small pox or Ebola, as the FBI says occurred in the 2001 anthrax scares.

Another fear is the possibility of accidental release. Not every country that could acquire these pathogens will follow robust safety protocols and rigorous oversight, said D. A. Henderson, an epidemiologist and physician who headed the effort to eradicate smallpox. And while the World Health Organization issues guidelines for pathogen security, each country must decide for themselves how to regulate such research, said WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl.

Henderson suspects influenza has escaped the lab at least once before. In 1977, a flu epidemic in Russia was largely identical to the 1950 strain, and likely originated in a research lab in China or Russia, he said. “The details of it are still mysterious, but all of a sudden we had a virus which we hadn’t seen for quite a number of years, which began causing real major epidemics. So far as we can make out it’s identical to one that had been in the laboratory.”

Misguided benefits?

If the real problem is mere existence of engineered pathogens in the first place, why is the research being conducted at all, and why are organizations like the National Institutes of Health funding it? The NIH funded the bird flu research and the US government funds much of the world's bio-defense research.

The rationale behind such funding is, of course, the exploration of virulence for the purpose of developing countermeasures to these pathogens, such as vaccine and treatments. “The argument is that knowing what can be done provides help in planning,” Ebright said. But research to make flu, Ebola, or smallpox deadlier or more infectious will likely not help in combating the spread of such diseases, he added.

Viruses can evolve different mutations than those created in the lab, agreed Henderson, and the real bottleneck in preventing casualties is a slow and outdated system of developing vaccines. For instance, the United States uses the same method to develop flu vaccines as it did 50 years ago, which takes 2 weeks to produce a vaccine even when the potential mutations a pathogen harbors are known, Henderson said. And even if our vaccine manufacturing capabilities increase, there aren't surveillance systems in place that could catch early signs of a pandemic before it had spread, he added.

Not all scientists think that research on pathogen virulence should be tabled, however. It depends on the pathogen being studied and the research being conducted, said microbiologist and infectious disease specialist David Relman, who was part of the working group which recommended censoring the bird flu data.

But one thing that most scientists can agree on is the need for a more thorough and standardized oversight process to ensure that the risks of pathogen research don't outweigh the benefits. Some types of research may merit increased oversight, but which projects should qualify remains a point of contention, Relman said. “We need to come to a mutually agreed upon process for deciding what work even deserves this type of more careful scrutiny.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that the University of Wisconsin researchers who made H5N1 transmissible among ferrets never made an official announcement of the results.

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Comments

Avatar of: Dina Padilla

Dina Padilla

Posts: 1457

January 13, 2012

How does anyone really know if pathogens are made to cure/heal vs create new or old diseases? Diseases that were gone are now back & more than one type all at the same time, which is not happenstance. There are privately & government agency businesses including ( also the military owned) both large & small labs making molds, bacteria & vaccines that are causing diseases which is as perverse as it gets. Why? Because top investors like the gates  Buffets of the world make billions while millions get and or die. This is what we should worry about more than war. It's a bio-terrorism war rather than things we can see!
Look for info on below sites 
biotechawareness.com or org
watchdogforsicence.blogspot.co...
katysmoldexposure.blogspot.comj
kaiserpapers.com

Avatar of: Brian Hanley

Brian Hanley

Posts: 66

January 13, 2012

Palese says it very well.
http://www.nature.com/news/don...

To what he says I will add this:

1. Those who could make use of the sequence data could do far more devastating synthesis. They can do that regardless of this bit of info.

2. The method used to create the easily transmitted virus requires no special facilities if one is not concerned about containment overmuch. It could be done in caves or tents.

The proposal that we are safer without this research or by withholding publication of the sequence data is a Potemkin wall. It is carefully locking the barn door to keep the buffalo from escaping which never were in the barn in the first place.

Avatar of: Andrew Russo

Andrew Russo

Posts: 5

January 13, 2012

Identifying, characterizing, and understanding the determinants of aerosol transmissibility, not to mention pathogenicity in general, in influenza viruses and other pathogens is very important information to have.  The more we understand about how these pathogens work the better equiped we are to devise medical countermeasures against them.  The fact is that eventually nature will work out solutions to problems like these and it is better for us to understand what the possibilities are and possibly be prepared to face them.

Avatar of: NagarajanT

NagarajanT

Posts: 1

January 13, 2012

Certain deadly toxins for e.g, like botulinum neurotoxins, are potential biothreat agents and are classified as Category A Select Agent by the CDC. However, they are magical drugs which do wonders in therapeutics to treat several neuromuscular disorders and various types of pain. In this case, engineered "toxins" which are highly potent than the naturally selected ones, might be of  high therapeutic value. Here the benefits largely outweighs the risks involved...  

Avatar of: Guest

Anonymous

January 13, 2012

Let me agree with Russo's comment.  While it's hard to conceive of anyone's deliberately creating a virus form capable of destroying thousands or even millions of human lives or livestock, there are a few individuals in the world who would be motivated to do exactly that.  To beat them to the finish line, and thence use the information obtained to engineer a vaccine to combat that virus would be beneficial.

The important issue, therefore, is security.  Nothing can get "leaked" on the web if it is not entered into the web.

All progress in knowledge is a two-edged sword, such that whatever increases our species' ability to cope more efficiently unavoidably increases its ability to self-destruct.
That is a fundamental dilemma for mankind.

There seems to be a strong tendency for persons who are sociopathic to be less disciplined and persistent in their quest to acquire tools of great potential harm to humanity than those who seek to do great good.  However great the statistical odds
in favor of the good, however, we cannot be certain it could not happen that a dedicated, brilliant, disciplined evil genius will never gain the knowledge, or access to tools enough, to develop and produce a pathogen capable of enabling him or her to commit a mass murder suicide.

If the solution were always to prevent research that might be used for evil purposes, however, and that solution had been consistently applied, we might still be in the Stone Age. 

The best we can do may be to exercise the tightest possible controls and security in research in areas of greatest potential to result in massive suffering.

 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

How does anyone really know if pathogens are made to cure/heal vs create new or old diseases? Diseases that were gone are now back & more than one type all at the same time, which is not happenstance. There are privately & government agency businesses including ( also the military owned) both large & small labs making molds, bacteria & vaccines that are causing diseases which is as perverse as it gets. Why? Because top investors like the gates  Buffets of the world make billions while millions get and or die. This is what we should worry about more than war. It's a bio-terrorism war rather than things we can see!
Look for info on below sites 
biotechawareness.com or org
watchdogforsicence.blogspot.co...
katysmoldexposure.blogspot.comj
kaiserpapers.com

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Palese says it very well.
http://www.nature.com/news/don...

To what he says I will add this:

1. Those who could make use of the sequence data could do far more devastating synthesis. They can do that regardless of this bit of info.

2. The method used to create the easily transmitted virus requires no special facilities if one is not concerned about containment overmuch. It could be done in caves or tents.

The proposal that we are safer without this research or by withholding publication of the sequence data is a Potemkin wall. It is carefully locking the barn door to keep the buffalo from escaping which never were in the barn in the first place.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Identifying, characterizing, and understanding the determinants of aerosol transmissibility, not to mention pathogenicity in general, in influenza viruses and other pathogens is very important information to have.  The more we understand about how these pathogens work the better equiped we are to devise medical countermeasures against them.  The fact is that eventually nature will work out solutions to problems like these and it is better for us to understand what the possibilities are and possibly be prepared to face them.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Certain deadly toxins for e.g, like botulinum neurotoxins, are potential biothreat agents and are classified as Category A Select Agent by the CDC. However, they are magical drugs which do wonders in therapeutics to treat several neuromuscular disorders and various types of pain. In this case, engineered "toxins" which are highly potent than the naturally selected ones, might be of  high therapeutic value. Here the benefits largely outweighs the risks involved...  

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Let me agree with Russo's comment.  While it's hard to conceive of anyone's deliberately creating a virus form capable of destroying thousands or even millions of human lives or livestock, there are a few individuals in the world who would be motivated to do exactly that.  To beat them to the finish line, and thence use the information obtained to engineer a vaccine to combat that virus would be beneficial.

The important issue, therefore, is security.  Nothing can get "leaked" on the web if it is not entered into the web.

All progress in knowledge is a two-edged sword, such that whatever increases our species' ability to cope more efficiently unavoidably increases its ability to self-destruct.
That is a fundamental dilemma for mankind.

There seems to be a strong tendency for persons who are sociopathic to be less disciplined and persistent in their quest to acquire tools of great potential harm to humanity than those who seek to do great good.  However great the statistical odds
in favor of the good, however, we cannot be certain it could not happen that a dedicated, brilliant, disciplined evil genius will never gain the knowledge, or access to tools enough, to develop and produce a pathogen capable of enabling him or her to commit a mass murder suicide.

If the solution were always to prevent research that might be used for evil purposes, however, and that solution had been consistently applied, we might still be in the Stone Age. 

The best we can do may be to exercise the tightest possible controls and security in research in areas of greatest potential to result in massive suffering.

 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Palese says it very well.
http://www.nature.com/news/don...

To what he says I will add this:

1. Those who could make use of the sequence data could do far more devastating synthesis. They can do that regardless of this bit of info.

2. The method used to create the easily transmitted virus requires no special facilities if one is not concerned about containment overmuch. It could be done in caves or tents.

The proposal that we are safer without this research or by withholding publication of the sequence data is a Potemkin wall. It is carefully locking the barn door to keep the buffalo from escaping which never were in the barn in the first place.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Identifying, characterizing, and understanding the determinants of aerosol transmissibility, not to mention pathogenicity in general, in influenza viruses and other pathogens is very important information to have.  The more we understand about how these pathogens work the better equiped we are to devise medical countermeasures against them.  The fact is that eventually nature will work out solutions to problems like these and it is better for us to understand what the possibilities are and possibly be prepared to face them.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Certain deadly toxins for e.g, like botulinum neurotoxins, are potential biothreat agents and are classified as Category A Select Agent by the CDC. However, they are magical drugs which do wonders in therapeutics to treat several neuromuscular disorders and various types of pain. In this case, engineered "toxins" which are highly potent than the naturally selected ones, might be of  high therapeutic value. Here the benefits largely outweighs the risks involved...  

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

Let me agree with Russo's comment.  While it's hard to conceive of anyone's deliberately creating a virus form capable of destroying thousands or even millions of human lives or livestock, there are a few individuals in the world who would be motivated to do exactly that.  To beat them to the finish line, and thence use the information obtained to engineer a vaccine to combat that virus would be beneficial.

The important issue, therefore, is security.  Nothing can get "leaked" on the web if it is not entered into the web.

All progress in knowledge is a two-edged sword, such that whatever increases our species' ability to cope more efficiently unavoidably increases its ability to self-destruct.
That is a fundamental dilemma for mankind.

There seems to be a strong tendency for persons who are sociopathic to be less disciplined and persistent in their quest to acquire tools of great potential harm to humanity than those who seek to do great good.  However great the statistical odds
in favor of the good, however, we cannot be certain it could not happen that a dedicated, brilliant, disciplined evil genius will never gain the knowledge, or access to tools enough, to develop and produce a pathogen capable of enabling him or her to commit a mass murder suicide.

If the solution were always to prevent research that might be used for evil purposes, however, and that solution had been consistently applied, we might still be in the Stone Age. 

The best we can do may be to exercise the tightest possible controls and security in research in areas of greatest potential to result in massive suffering.

 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 13, 2012

How does anyone really know if pathogens are made to cure/heal vs create new or old diseases? Diseases that were gone are now back & more than one type all at the same time, which is not happenstance. There are privately & government agency businesses including ( also the military owned) both large & small labs making molds, bacteria & vaccines that are causing diseases which is as perverse as it gets. Why? Because top investors like the gates  Buffets of the world make billions while millions get and or die. This is what we should worry about more than war. It's a bio-terrorism war rather than things we can see!
Look for info on below sites 
biotechawareness.com or org
watchdogforsicence.blogspot.co...
katysmoldexposure.blogspot.comj
kaiserpapers.com

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 14, 2012

I think the paranoiac visions that have been triggered by the media frenzy surrounding the "engineered" H5N1 issue do most of the people trumpeting them, very little credit at all.  Where are, or WHO are, these terrorists that will weaponise H5N1?  Why would they choose something as a weapon that can actually be defended against by both drugs and vaccines?  Surely antibiotic-resistant anthrax would be both a better agent and easier to develop?

The fact is that the regions where H5N1 is endemic - which is NOT the US, which is just where the fear level is highest - are places where knowledge of just what mutations in the viral haemagglutinin (HA, which provides the "H" type for flu viruses) may be invaluable in screening for viruses which may NATURALLY be about to leap into the human population.

Maybe it is time to include H5 HA or one of the "universal flu vaccines" like the M2e domain, in seasonal flu vaccines as a pre-emptive measure to forestall the expected viropocalypse.  Maybe it is time to make better flu vaccines, faster, by using 21st century rather than early 20th centrury technology - AND make them cheaper, so that a far greater proportion of the human population can benefit from them.  As it is, over 250 000 people die of flu every year, worldwide - and they need not.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 14, 2012

I think the paranoiac visions that have been triggered by the media frenzy surrounding the "engineered" H5N1 issue do most of the people trumpeting them, very little credit at all.  Where are, or WHO are, these terrorists that will weaponise H5N1?  Why would they choose something as a weapon that can actually be defended against by both drugs and vaccines?  Surely antibiotic-resistant anthrax would be both a better agent and easier to develop?

The fact is that the regions where H5N1 is endemic - which is NOT the US, which is just where the fear level is highest - are places where knowledge of just what mutations in the viral haemagglutinin (HA, which provides the "H" type for flu viruses) may be invaluable in screening for viruses which may NATURALLY be about to leap into the human population.

Maybe it is time to include H5 HA or one of the "universal flu vaccines" like the M2e domain, in seasonal flu vaccines as a pre-emptive measure to forestall the expected viropocalypse.  Maybe it is time to make better flu vaccines, faster, by using 21st century rather than early 20th centrury technology - AND make them cheaper, so that a far greater proportion of the human population can benefit from them.  As it is, over 250 000 people die of flu every year, worldwide - and they need not.

Avatar of: Ed Rybicki

Ed Rybicki

Posts: 82

January 14, 2012

I think the paranoiac visions that have been triggered by the media frenzy surrounding the "engineered" H5N1 issue do most of the people trumpeting them, very little credit at all.  Where are, or WHO are, these terrorists that will weaponise H5N1?  Why would they choose something as a weapon that can actually be defended against by both drugs and vaccines?  Surely antibiotic-resistant anthrax would be both a better agent and easier to develop?

The fact is that the regions where H5N1 is endemic - which is NOT the US, which is just where the fear level is highest - are places where knowledge of just what mutations in the viral haemagglutinin (HA, which provides the "H" type for flu viruses) may be invaluable in screening for viruses which may NATURALLY be about to leap into the human population.

Maybe it is time to include H5 HA or one of the "universal flu vaccines" like the M2e domain, in seasonal flu vaccines as a pre-emptive measure to forestall the expected viropocalypse.  Maybe it is time to make better flu vaccines, faster, by using 21st century rather than early 20th centrury technology - AND make them cheaper, so that a far greater proportion of the human population can benefit from them.  As it is, over 250 000 people die of flu every year, worldwide - and they need not.

Avatar of: vsingh3

vsingh3

Posts: 1

January 16, 2012

ITS DANGEROUS TO PLAY WITH THESE TINE PARTICLES. YOU CAN PLAY WITH THEM WITHOUT DISTURBING THEM AND SAFELY. BECAUSE ONCE THEY GET ANNOYED IT WILL BE TROUBLESOME.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 16, 2012

ITS DANGEROUS TO PLAY WITH THESE TINE PARTICLES. YOU CAN PLAY WITH THEM WITHOUT DISTURBING THEM AND SAFELY. BECAUSE ONCE THEY GET ANNOYED IT WILL BE TROUBLESOME.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 16, 2012

ITS DANGEROUS TO PLAY WITH THESE TINE PARTICLES. YOU CAN PLAY WITH THEM WITHOUT DISTURBING THEM AND SAFELY. BECAUSE ONCE THEY GET ANNOYED IT WILL BE TROUBLESOME.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 17, 2012

There was the famous 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... that outlined all important aspects of biohazard risks. Moreover, what I found in my over-30-years scientific career involvement in recombinant-DNA technologies, is astonishing practical & theoretical incompetency in more-than-95% of researchers (low-to-high level) involved; including at so-well-respected labs, that is even dangerous to mention! Even more - at potentially risky situations I witnessed the total lack of competency among staffers that suppose to be last-line responding to biohazard decontamination! My conclusion is, that there is EXTREME need for international law on biohazard research - because, no mater what  a scientist may insist upon, there is a CONSTANT every-day risk of biohazard! Here I am omitting all arguable "Yes"es & "No"s regarding the bio-research, however one  
simplest example is needed: Most bio-research with biohazardous specimens involves the preparation of so-called recombinat libraries consisting of mostly "who-knows-what" mix of novel (created) organisms. After the separation of these of a specific need, the rest finds its way in the sewage!!! It shouldn't under ANY circumstances, however, I personally have seen a proper disposal only once in my life - when I did it.  And I witnessed quite of examples in my life. And the disposal is very simple - JUST BURN THE SAMPLE or dispose it in acid! At LAST: with all my reputation as a scientist I can state - There is ABSOLUTELY no REASONABLE scientific Benefit nor Reason behind the research discussed above!!! Period! These researchers MUST be prosecuted - not only they broke the reasonable scientific moral - as to my knowledge they most-likely MUST to have broken more-than-one practices guarded by the existing laws and/or ordinances!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 17, 2012

The researchers that determined the set of mutations that are capable of making the H5N1 flu virus more transmissible have done us all a favor. Imagine tracking mutations in viral isolates as a means of being able to predict whether a transmissible virus is emerging and where. Knowing that the CDC has this ability gives us a head start in developing an effective vaccine that could prevent the "viropocalypse" from happening.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 17, 2012

There was the famous 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... that outlined all important aspects of biohazard risks. Moreover, what I found in my over-30-years scientific career involvement in recombinant-DNA technologies, is astonishing practical & theoretical incompetency in more-than-95% of researchers (low-to-high level) involved; including at so-well-respected labs, that is even dangerous to mention! Even more - at potentially risky situations I witnessed the total lack of competency among staffers that suppose to be last-line responding to biohazard decontamination! My conclusion is, that there is EXTREME need for international law on biohazard research - because, no mater what  a scientist may insist upon, there is a CONSTANT every-day risk of biohazard! Here I am omitting all arguable "Yes"es & "No"s regarding the bio-research, however one  
simplest example is needed: Most bio-research with biohazardous specimens involves the preparation of so-called recombinat libraries consisting of mostly "who-knows-what" mix of novel (created) organisms. After the separation of these of a specific need, the rest finds its way in the sewage!!! It shouldn't under ANY circumstances, however, I personally have seen a proper disposal only once in my life - when I did it.  And I witnessed quite of examples in my life. And the disposal is very simple - JUST BURN THE SAMPLE or dispose it in acid! At LAST: with all my reputation as a scientist I can state - There is ABSOLUTELY no REASONABLE scientific Benefit nor Reason behind the research discussed above!!! Period! These researchers MUST be prosecuted - not only they broke the reasonable scientific moral - as to my knowledge they most-likely MUST to have broken more-than-one practices guarded by the existing laws and/or ordinances!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 17, 2012

The researchers that determined the set of mutations that are capable of making the H5N1 flu virus more transmissible have done us all a favor. Imagine tracking mutations in viral isolates as a means of being able to predict whether a transmissible virus is emerging and where. Knowing that the CDC has this ability gives us a head start in developing an effective vaccine that could prevent the "viropocalypse" from happening.

Avatar of: Concerned0001

Concerned0001

Posts: 1

January 17, 2012

There was the famous 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... that outlined all important aspects of biohazard risks. Moreover, what I found in my over-30-years scientific career involvement in recombinant-DNA technologies, is astonishing practical & theoretical incompetency in more-than-95% of researchers (low-to-high level) involved; including at so-well-respected labs, that is even dangerous to mention! Even more - at potentially risky situations I witnessed the total lack of competency among staffers that suppose to be last-line responding to biohazard decontamination! My conclusion is, that there is EXTREME need for international law on biohazard research - because, no mater what  a scientist may insist upon, there is a CONSTANT every-day risk of biohazard! Here I am omitting all arguable "Yes"es & "No"s regarding the bio-research, however one  
simplest example is needed: Most bio-research with biohazardous specimens involves the preparation of so-called recombinat libraries consisting of mostly "who-knows-what" mix of novel (created) organisms. After the separation of these of a specific need, the rest finds its way in the sewage!!! It shouldn't under ANY circumstances, however, I personally have seen a proper disposal only once in my life - when I did it.  And I witnessed quite of examples in my life. And the disposal is very simple - JUST BURN THE SAMPLE or dispose it in acid! At LAST: with all my reputation as a scientist I can state - There is ABSOLUTELY no REASONABLE scientific Benefit nor Reason behind the research discussed above!!! Period! These researchers MUST be prosecuted - not only they broke the reasonable scientific moral - as to my knowledge they most-likely MUST to have broken more-than-one practices guarded by the existing laws and/or ordinances!

Avatar of: Will Bargmann

Will Bargmann

Posts: 1457

January 17, 2012

The researchers that determined the set of mutations that are capable of making the H5N1 flu virus more transmissible have done us all a favor. Imagine tracking mutations in viral isolates as a means of being able to predict whether a transmissible virus is emerging and where. Knowing that the CDC has this ability gives us a head start in developing an effective vaccine that could prevent the "viropocalypse" from happening.

January 18, 2012

Perhaps the motivation for developing more virulent strains of pathogens is preparation for offensive biological warfare rather than defence or genuine medical reasons.

Avatar of: Ed Rybicki

Ed Rybicki

Posts: 82

January 18, 2012

And then they would object if they couldn't publish it??  Seriously, now!

Avatar of: johnfryer

johnfryer

Posts: 11

January 18, 2012

Added to Concerned

Isn't it odd that when Paul Berg chose bacteria and virus for his HYBRIDISATION he chose E COLI and SV40. WHY? (today we call this process GMO)

Because in 1973 there was no such human illness as retroviral illness. There was no such thing as DEADLY E Coli poisoning.

At this time SV40 was a harmless virus in monkeys and E Coli a harmless bacteria in cows and humans. My 1965 book says if you eat a cup full of E coli expect stomach ache possibly.

Today with AIDS and regular mass poisonings from E Coli (with no identifiable source) we live in a world MORE dangerous than of 1973 when there was little to fear from illness in most advanced societies and no AIDS.

I call it BACKWARD TECHNOLOGY

I used to work in the aerospace industry where they developed supersonic commuter planes and bits for rockets to go to the moon.

BACKWARD TECHNOLOGY

Learning something and making a bit of a HASH

Todays big mystery is GMO food that uses technology that bleeds pests to death but does nothing to humans that eat the same thing.

You could use the term MAGIC here?

As past sufferer from bleeding illness that clear up from organic food I represent that infamous ANECDOTAL evidence that ALSO struck down several friends at the same time who went as far as to get operated on for whatever.

Today I give MAIZE (GMO through and through), SOYA (GMO through and through) and SPROUTS (GMO through and through) A BIG MISS. 

I also believe Maurice Hilleman when he talks of spreading DISEASE by injections. More ANECDOTES?

Avatar of: johnfryer

johnfryer

Posts: 11

January 18, 2012

I almost forgot.

What is the latest on the PROPOSED state of the art bio research complex nearly in the heart of LONDON?

Taking risks or not?

Avatar of: Giuseppe Lanzavecchia

Giuseppe Lanzavecchia

Posts: 1457

January 18, 2012

Don't exist a dangerous research but only a dangerous use of it. For science the only good think is the knowledge acquired, by research or serendipity, and the only bad the censorship, particularly if motivated by ethical principles.
Giuseppe Lanzavecchia

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

Perhaps the motivation for developing more virulent strains of pathogens is preparation for offensive biological warfare rather than defence or genuine medical reasons.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

And then they would object if they couldn't publish it??  Seriously, now!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

Added to Concerned

Isn't it odd that when Paul Berg chose bacteria and virus for his HYBRIDISATION he chose E COLI and SV40. WHY? (today we call this process GMO)

Because in 1973 there was no such human illness as retroviral illness. There was no such thing as DEADLY E Coli poisoning.

At this time SV40 was a harmless virus in monkeys and E Coli a harmless bacteria in cows and humans. My 1965 book says if you eat a cup full of E coli expect stomach ache possibly.

Today with AIDS and regular mass poisonings from E Coli (with no identifiable source) we live in a world MORE dangerous than of 1973 when there was little to fear from illness in most advanced societies and no AIDS.

I call it BACKWARD TECHNOLOGY

I used to work in the aerospace industry where they developed supersonic commuter planes and bits for rockets to go to the moon.

BACKWARD TECHNOLOGY

Learning something and making a bit of a HASH

Todays big mystery is GMO food that uses technology that bleeds pests to death but does nothing to humans that eat the same thing.

You could use the term MAGIC here?

As past sufferer from bleeding illness that clear up from organic food I represent that infamous ANECDOTAL evidence that ALSO struck down several friends at the same time who went as far as to get operated on for whatever.

Today I give MAIZE (GMO through and through), SOYA (GMO through and through) and SPROUTS (GMO through and through) A BIG MISS. 

I also believe Maurice Hilleman when he talks of spreading DISEASE by injections. More ANECDOTES?

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Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

I almost forgot.

What is the latest on the PROPOSED state of the art bio research complex nearly in the heart of LONDON?

Taking risks or not?

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Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

Don't exist a dangerous research but only a dangerous use of it. For science the only good think is the knowledge acquired, by research or serendipity, and the only bad the censorship, particularly if motivated by ethical principles.
Giuseppe Lanzavecchia

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Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

Perhaps the motivation for developing more virulent strains of pathogens is preparation for offensive biological warfare rather than defence or genuine medical reasons.

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Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

And then they would object if they couldn't publish it??  Seriously, now!

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Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

Added to Concerned

Isn't it odd that when Paul Berg chose bacteria and virus for his HYBRIDISATION he chose E COLI and SV40. WHY? (today we call this process GMO)

Because in 1973 there was no such human illness as retroviral illness. There was no such thing as DEADLY E Coli poisoning.

At this time SV40 was a harmless virus in monkeys and E Coli a harmless bacteria in cows and humans. My 1965 book says if you eat a cup full of E coli expect stomach ache possibly.

Today with AIDS and regular mass poisonings from E Coli (with no identifiable source) we live in a world MORE dangerous than of 1973 when there was little to fear from illness in most advanced societies and no AIDS.

I call it BACKWARD TECHNOLOGY

I used to work in the aerospace industry where they developed supersonic commuter planes and bits for rockets to go to the moon.

BACKWARD TECHNOLOGY

Learning something and making a bit of a HASH

Todays big mystery is GMO food that uses technology that bleeds pests to death but does nothing to humans that eat the same thing.

You could use the term MAGIC here?

As past sufferer from bleeding illness that clear up from organic food I represent that infamous ANECDOTAL evidence that ALSO struck down several friends at the same time who went as far as to get operated on for whatever.

Today I give MAIZE (GMO through and through), SOYA (GMO through and through) and SPROUTS (GMO through and through) A BIG MISS. 

I also believe Maurice Hilleman when he talks of spreading DISEASE by injections. More ANECDOTES?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

I almost forgot.

What is the latest on the PROPOSED state of the art bio research complex nearly in the heart of LONDON?

Taking risks or not?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 18, 2012

Don't exist a dangerous research but only a dangerous use of it. For science the only good think is the knowledge acquired, by research or serendipity, and the only bad the censorship, particularly if motivated by ethical principles.
Giuseppe Lanzavecchia

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Posts: 0

January 22, 2012

To raise the question "should it be done?" is charmingly naive.  The history of human behavior tells us that somebody will do it regardless of "should."  The real question is: "will it be done by the "good" guys or the "bad" guys?"  In this case, as in all cases of human endeavor, the cause of humanity at large is best served by openness (minimize secrecy, the haven of the destructive elements of humanity).  In that way we know what each other is up to.  Our best chance is that someone will work on countermeasures as others work on the threat, both thus increasing the knowledge base, which is what civilization is all about.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 22, 2012

To raise the question "should it be done?" is charmingly naive.  The history of human behavior tells us that somebody will do it regardless of "should."  The real question is: "will it be done by the "good" guys or the "bad" guys?"  In this case, as in all cases of human endeavor, the cause of humanity at large is best served by openness (minimize secrecy, the haven of the destructive elements of humanity).  In that way we know what each other is up to.  Our best chance is that someone will work on countermeasures as others work on the threat, both thus increasing the knowledge base, which is what civilization is all about.

Avatar of: MonodbBart

MonodbBart

Posts: 3

January 22, 2012

To raise the question "should it be done?" is charmingly naive.  The history of human behavior tells us that somebody will do it regardless of "should."  The real question is: "will it be done by the "good" guys or the "bad" guys?"  In this case, as in all cases of human endeavor, the cause of humanity at large is best served by openness (minimize secrecy, the haven of the destructive elements of humanity).  In that way we know what each other is up to.  Our best chance is that someone will work on countermeasures as others work on the threat, both thus increasing the knowledge base, which is what civilization is all about.

Avatar of: BIOETHICS TODAY

BIOETHICS TODAY

Posts: 3

January 27, 2012

Duplicate

Avatar of: BIOETHICS TODAY

BIOETHICS TODAY

Posts: 3

January 27, 2012

The possibility of suppression is embedded within the
practice of oversight of scientific research by government agencies. In
democratic nations and for scientists generally, suppression of free speech in
any form is anathema. On this view, embargoed science is an oxymoron. But
government funding as a privilege requires at least a minimum of oversight, and
in some cases such a minimum may be expanded. The Helsinki Declaration,
expanding and extending the Nuremberg Code, states in Article 2 that "It
is the duty of the physician to promote and safeguard the health of the
people." Substitute "scientific research" for
"physician" and we can better understand the role of oversight.
Unfettered research is not necessarily science. Opportunities for research,
particularly that done in fields with the potential for disaster, needs to be
evaluated for appropriateness on a case-by-case basis.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 27, 2012

The possibility of suppression is embedded within the
practice of oversight of scientific research by government agencies. In
democratic nations and for scientists generally, suppression of free speech in
any form is anathema. On this view, embargoed science is an oxymoron. But
government funding as a privilege requires at least a minimum of oversight, and
in some cases such a minimum may be expanded. The Helsinki Declaration,
expanding and extending the Nuremberg Code, states in Article 2 that "It
is the duty of the physician to promote and safeguard the health of the
people." Substitute "scientific research" for
"physician" and we can better understand the role of oversight.
Unfettered research is not necessarily science. Opportunities for research,
particularly that done in fields with the potential for disaster, needs to be
evaluated for appropriateness on a case-by-case basis.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 27, 2012

Duplicate

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 27, 2012

Duplicate

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 27, 2012

The possibility of suppression is embedded within the
practice of oversight of scientific research by government agencies. In
democratic nations and for scientists generally, suppression of free speech in
any form is anathema. On this view, embargoed science is an oxymoron. But
government funding as a privilege requires at least a minimum of oversight, and
in some cases such a minimum may be expanded. The Helsinki Declaration,
expanding and extending the Nuremberg Code, states in Article 2 that "It
is the duty of the physician to promote and safeguard the health of the
people." Substitute "scientific research" for
"physician" and we can better understand the role of oversight.
Unfettered research is not necessarily science. Opportunities for research,
particularly that done in fields with the potential for disaster, needs to be
evaluated for appropriateness on a case-by-case basis.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 28, 2012

Evaluated by WHOM?  Most of the problem surrounding the "evolved" H5N1 stems from paranoia about its potential use as a bioweapon - in countries who not only can MAKE the vaccines to protect against it, but also can afford the drugs that can be used for therapy.

No-one seems to be thinking of the countries and regions - where a significant portion of the human race lives, BTW - where the virus is presently endemic or threatens to be.

Which is where the natural evolution to aerosol transmission will occur, if it ever does.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 28, 2012

Evaluated by WHOM?  Most of the problem surrounding the "evolved" H5N1 stems from paranoia about its potential use as a bioweapon - in countries who not only can MAKE the vaccines to protect against it, but also can afford the drugs that can be used for therapy.

No-one seems to be thinking of the countries and regions - where a significant portion of the human race lives, BTW - where the virus is presently endemic or threatens to be.

Which is where the natural evolution to aerosol transmission will occur, if it ever does.

Avatar of: Ed Rybicki

Ed Rybicki

Posts: 82

January 28, 2012

Evaluated by WHOM?  Most of the problem surrounding the "evolved" H5N1 stems from paranoia about its potential use as a bioweapon - in countries who not only can MAKE the vaccines to protect against it, but also can afford the drugs that can be used for therapy.

No-one seems to be thinking of the countries and regions - where a significant portion of the human race lives, BTW - where the virus is presently endemic or threatens to be.

Which is where the natural evolution to aerosol transmission will occur, if it ever does.

Avatar of: texasaggie

texasaggie

Posts: 40

February 5, 2012

As has been mentioned, it depends on the particular situation and the type of research being done.  In this case, doing it was absolutely essential because the research was copying what could occur in nature, and as shown, is very likely to happen.  They just transferred avian flu virus from one ferret to another until it evolved on its own into something that could transfer much easier.  They didn't do genetic manipulations that were unlikely to happen in the real world.  

This is what may happen with people who are in contact with infected poultry, and it is an excellent idea to know what changes in the viral genome are dangerous so that we recognize it when we see it coming.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 5, 2012

As has been mentioned, it depends on the particular situation and the type of research being done.  In this case, doing it was absolutely essential because the research was copying what could occur in nature, and as shown, is very likely to happen.  They just transferred avian flu virus from one ferret to another until it evolved on its own into something that could transfer much easier.  They didn't do genetic manipulations that were unlikely to happen in the real world.  

This is what may happen with people who are in contact with infected poultry, and it is an excellent idea to know what changes in the viral genome are dangerous so that we recognize it when we see it coming.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 5, 2012

As has been mentioned, it depends on the particular situation and the type of research being done.  In this case, doing it was absolutely essential because the research was copying what could occur in nature, and as shown, is very likely to happen.  They just transferred avian flu virus from one ferret to another until it evolved on its own into something that could transfer much easier.  They didn't do genetic manipulations that were unlikely to happen in the real world.  

This is what may happen with people who are in contact with infected poultry, and it is an excellent idea to know what changes in the viral genome are dangerous so that we recognize it when we see it coming.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 18, 2012

I subscribe to the existentialist point of view that whether you are good or evil depends on whether what you do is good or evil.  I reject the point of view implied in the above posting, that whether what you do is good or evil depends on whether you are a "good guy" or a "bad guy".

There is a great line in the movie "True Lies", when Jamie Lee Curtis finds out that her husband  (Arnold Schwartzenegger) is a CIA agent.  She asks him "have you killed alot of people" and he replies "yes but they were all bad".

Avatar of: mightythor

mightythor

Posts: 1457

February 18, 2012

I subscribe to the existentialist point of view that whether you are good or evil depends on whether what you do is good or evil.  I reject the point of view implied in the above posting, that whether what you do is good or evil depends on whether you are a "good guy" or a "bad guy".

There is a great line in the movie "True Lies", when Jamie Lee Curtis finds out that her husband  (Arnold Schwartzenegger) is a CIA agent.  She asks him "have you killed alot of people" and he replies "yes but they were all bad".

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 18, 2012

I subscribe to the existentialist point of view that whether you are good or evil depends on whether what you do is good or evil.  I reject the point of view implied in the above posting, that whether what you do is good or evil depends on whether you are a "good guy" or a "bad guy".

There is a great line in the movie "True Lies", when Jamie Lee Curtis finds out that her husband  (Arnold Schwartzenegger) is a CIA agent.  She asks him "have you killed alot of people" and he replies "yes but they were all bad".

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 20, 2012

 There are groups that have declared their intent.

Avatar of: Guest

Anonymous

February 20, 2012

Brian, Of course there are groups who have declared that intent.  There are individuals and groups in human society who have declared their intent to do just about anything imaginable.  People who tend to threaten to do such things as make a bomb and blow up a city, or a nation, or the world tend to lack the intelligence or the discipline to pull it off. 

If there is, say, one person in a million who thinks that way, on the one hand, and has the ability to deceive all the people he or she would have to deceive as to his or her personality aberration, on the other, then that person is a genuine threat.

The more expense, and the more discipline, and the more people one must convince of one's sanity and honorable intentions, the more genius is required for that person must have not only to learn and do what is required to pull off such a rigorously demanding task, not only the more genius is required -- and self discipline -- to become expert enough to prepare the killing device, but the more ingenious must one be at acting... and acting consistently... out of character as to what one's true self is like, and is aiming to do.

Most of the most ingenious criminals make a mistake sooner or later.  They slip up and blurt out something, or fail to dot some i or cross some t and tip their hand.

It is true that some people reveal their true nature and yet are not stopped from
committing a horrid act.  The Muslim psychiatrist, for example, who was a U. S. military officer who shot down several people on a military base in the U. S., had been telling his superiors for months, or years, of his dissatisfaction with his job, of his anger, of his dread of being sent to an area where he felt (rightly or wrongly) that people of his religious persuasion were being unfairly warred against.  Students at universities who have gone on a killing rampage have, in most cases, been recognized as unstable and dangerous by fellow students or professors who felt helpless to persuade anyone to do anything about it.

In a research facility, over the years of time it takes to gain sufficient knowledge to create and disperse a killer virus that would wipe out thousands, including the perpetrator, there is enormously less of a propensity to overlook behavior that indicates a deeply emotionally disturbed personality.

And, even if it were not so, there STILL is much grounds for arguing against any policies which would prevent research by stable individuals, to discover how a mass-destruction killer virus could be developed, and how -- if it were -- it could be countered... could be to prevent knowledge of how to deal with a risk of a natural
evolvement of such a pathogen, or an artificially created one, developed by an individual sick with hatred or a psychopathic urge in the long, long chance that person could patiently and effectively fool a many a person to entrust him with the knowledge and the means to do the deed effectively.

Avatar of: Brian Hanley

Brian Hanley

Posts: 66

February 20, 2012

 There are groups that have declared their intent.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 20, 2012

Brian, Of course there are groups who have declared that intent.  There are individuals and groups in human society who have declared their intent to do just about anything imaginable.  People who tend to threaten to do such things as make a bomb and blow up a city, or a nation, or the world tend to lack the intelligence or the discipline to pull it off. 

If there is, say, one person in a million who thinks that way, on the one hand, and has the ability to deceive all the people he or she would have to deceive as to his or her personality aberration, on the other, then that person is a genuine threat.

The more expense, and the more discipline, and the more people one must convince of one's sanity and honorable intentions, the more genius is required for that person must have not only to learn and do what is required to pull off such a rigorously demanding task, not only the more genius is required -- and self discipline -- to become expert enough to prepare the killing device, but the more ingenious must one be at acting... and acting consistently... out of character as to what one's true self is like, and is aiming to do.

Most of the most ingenious criminals make a mistake sooner or later.  They slip up and blurt out something, or fail to dot some i or cross some t and tip their hand.

It is true that some people reveal their true nature and yet are not stopped from
committing a horrid act.  The Muslim psychiatrist, for example, who was a U. S. military officer who shot down several people on a military base in the U. S., had been telling his superiors for months, or years, of his dissatisfaction with his job, of his anger, of his dread of being sent to an area where he felt (rightly or wrongly) that people of his religious persuasion were being unfairly warred against.  Students at universities who have gone on a killing rampage have, in most cases, been recognized as unstable and dangerous by fellow students or professors who felt helpless to persuade anyone to do anything about it.

In a research facility, over the years of time it takes to gain sufficient knowledge to create and disperse a killer virus that would wipe out thousands, including the perpetrator, there is enormously less of a propensity to overlook behavior that indicates a deeply emotionally disturbed personality.

And, even if it were not so, there STILL is much grounds for arguing against any policies which would prevent research by stable individuals, to discover how a mass-destruction killer virus could be developed, and how -- if it were -- it could be countered... could be to prevent knowledge of how to deal with a risk of a natural
evolvement of such a pathogen, or an artificially created one, developed by an individual sick with hatred or a psychopathic urge in the long, long chance that person could patiently and effectively fool a many a person to entrust him with the knowledge and the means to do the deed effectively.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 20, 2012

 There are groups that have declared their intent.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 20, 2012

Brian, Of course there are groups who have declared that intent.  There are individuals and groups in human society who have declared their intent to do just about anything imaginable.  People who tend to threaten to do such things as make a bomb and blow up a city, or a nation, or the world tend to lack the intelligence or the discipline to pull it off. 

If there is, say, one person in a million who thinks that way, on the one hand, and has the ability to deceive all the people he or she would have to deceive as to his or her personality aberration, on the other, then that person is a genuine threat.

The more expense, and the more discipline, and the more people one must convince of one's sanity and honorable intentions, the more genius is required for that person must have not only to learn and do what is required to pull off such a rigorously demanding task, not only the more genius is required -- and self discipline -- to become expert enough to prepare the killing device, but the more ingenious must one be at acting... and acting consistently... out of character as to what one's true self is like, and is aiming to do.

Most of the most ingenious criminals make a mistake sooner or later.  They slip up and blurt out something, or fail to dot some i or cross some t and tip their hand.

It is true that some people reveal their true nature and yet are not stopped from
committing a horrid act.  The Muslim psychiatrist, for example, who was a U. S. military officer who shot down several people on a military base in the U. S., had been telling his superiors for months, or years, of his dissatisfaction with his job, of his anger, of his dread of being sent to an area where he felt (rightly or wrongly) that people of his religious persuasion were being unfairly warred against.  Students at universities who have gone on a killing rampage have, in most cases, been recognized as unstable and dangerous by fellow students or professors who felt helpless to persuade anyone to do anything about it.

In a research facility, over the years of time it takes to gain sufficient knowledge to create and disperse a killer virus that would wipe out thousands, including the perpetrator, there is enormously less of a propensity to overlook behavior that indicates a deeply emotionally disturbed personality.

And, even if it were not so, there STILL is much grounds for arguing against any policies which would prevent research by stable individuals, to discover how a mass-destruction killer virus could be developed, and how -- if it were -- it could be countered... could be to prevent knowledge of how to deal with a risk of a natural
evolvement of such a pathogen, or an artificially created one, developed by an individual sick with hatred or a psychopathic urge in the long, long chance that person could patiently and effectively fool a many a person to entrust him with the knowledge and the means to do the deed effectively.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 22, 2012

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.

 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 22, 2012

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.

 

Avatar of: dfedson

dfedson

Posts: 2

February 22, 2012

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.

 

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