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Research into more deadly strain of bird flu suspended over fears for potential spread
2012-01-23 0:00

By Meghan Keneally | DailyMail.co.uk

A group of scientists have suspended their research about a more-deadly strain of the bird flu because of massive objections to the study itself.
The scientists in question altered the strands of the H5N1 bird flu, of which there have been 600 cases and 300 fatalities since its discovery in 1997, to make an even more deadly version in hopes of learning key details about the evolution and development of pandemics.

Global threat: Critics argue that the research is at risk of being transmitted, or even stolen by terrorists who will use the more deadly version of the H5N1 virus (pictured) to wreck havoc.

By agreeing to postpone their research for 60 days in order to allow the global scientific community to air their grievances about the research, the scientists are making a significant act of good faith, as voluntary research suspensions are extremely uncommon.

The research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, is being done jointly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

’We recognize that we and the rest of the scientific community need to clearly explain the benefits of this important research and the measures taken to minimize its possible risks,’ the scientists wrote in a letter they published to explain the decision.

’A major obstacle in preventing influenza pandemics is that little is known regarding what makes an influenza virus transmissible in humans. As a consequence, the potential pandemic risk associated with the many different influenza viruses of animals cannot be assessed with any certainty.
Critics argue that their research is extremely dangerous, as it is potentially possible that the disease itself may spread, or that either the information or the specimens of the disease get into the hands of terrorists.

The scientists involved feel that the work should not be hindered as the details that they expect to learn about the development and early warning signs of pandemic diseases is vital to protecting society.
They have made a mutation of the well-known strand of avian flu and have been testing the more deadly version on ferrets as they are considered to be the most similar to humans in how their bodies respond to illness.


Read the full article at: dailymail.co.uk

FrontPage Image: PASIEKA/SPL/Getty, PJM, Edited: EL RIC 2012

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