So first, Pogue's comment:
OK, not having seen what the original research proposal was it's difficult to say what funding was specifically approved for. As I read the article, the form of H5N1 they worked with is not contagious to humans, so I don't know how it was made "more deadly" other than for headline effect. I doubt that the proposal was to make it an airborne pathogen. In my circles that is referred to as "weaponizing a virus" and I'm not surprised that there is discussion about classifying it. The technique is the issue, not the specific result. When we get into a "government shouldn't have funded that research" argument be careful what you wish for - almost any research may have some potentially dangerous applications, so we shouldn't support stem cell or HIV related research, right?First, let me say, that for me, personally, the issue of who financed the research is much less of an issue than that scientists intentionally set out to do this. [See my previous comment re: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should actually do it.] Although, I must say, seeing who the backer was does make me stop and shake my head more than a little bit.
Moving on, I think I see where/why you got the idea that this specific strain of H5N1 is not "contagious to humans". Unfortunately, the quote was a little misleading.
The researchers, led by Albert Osterhaus of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, mutated the H5N1 strain of avain flu, which could not be transmitted between humans, to an "airborne" strain that can be transmitted in coughs and sneezes between laboratory ferrets, the best animal model of human flu.What they were (rather badly) trying to say was that (prior to the present research) this strain of the virus was not transmittable between humans - from coughs or sneezes. However, although it's ability to infect humans was limited (transmission required direct contract with either infected poultry or contaminated surfaces) it has proven to be deadly when it does. In fact, you might recall back in 1997, when it spread through live-poultry markets in Hong Kong to humans, killing 6 of 18 infected people. So far, on average, it's killed roughly 60% of the humans it has infected. You can find a list of the confirmed human cases and mortality ratehere.
So as far as I am concerned both the technique and the result are the problem. I don't know whether they started out with the intention of "weaponizing the virus" (frankly, I have no idea what they might have been thinking at that point) but that certainly does appear to be the result.
I must admit I can't quite follow your comment about not supporting stem cell or HIV research because almost any research can have potentially dangerous applications. From what I know about stem cell research, the only down side is that some individuals have used aborted fetuses to harvest infant stem cells. Putting aside the fact that adult stem cells are suppose to work just as well (if not better, in most cases), I see that as a problem with how people choose to use new scientific knowledge as opposed to a problem with the research itself. And, quite frankly, I can't quite get my head around what you might be thinking about with HIV research.
Could somebody please explain this to me?
But, please, speak real slowly ... because you're going to have to work really hard to make me understand, let alone accept, this one.
But wait ... it gets better!
The lab-created bird flu strain was engineered by a team of scientists led by Ron Fouchier of Rotterdam's Erasmus Medical Centre. The researchers said the mutation only required a few variations to the original strain.
The research was funded by ... wait for it ... the United States National Institutes of
Because ... you know ... if they did, well, maybe, just maybe, some terrorist group might get ahold of it. And you know, kill us all. The theory of unforeseen consequences always being at play and all.
But, hey, don't take my word for it.
The decision was made after the US government warned releasing the details could be kill millions of people if it was used as a weapon of biological warfare.Of course, freedom of speech and scientific integrity being the laudable constructs they are, the
As to the justification for that concern - apparently, "many scientists within the influenza community have a bona fide need to know the details of this research in order to protect the public, especially if they currently are working with related strains of the virus".
And yet it seems rather self-obvious that there would be a lot less need to know and a lot less to protect the public from if this particular virus hadn't been so painstakingly created in the first place.
I mean just because you can do something ... does that always mean you should?
Just for giggles, I note that the scientific community isn't all that impressed with the request to have the research information withheld; first, because they note that, perhaps,the government ought not to have authorized the research if they did not know how to deal with it and, secondly, it's all a little too late considering that several details had already been shared with hundreds of researchers and governments in open meetings.
So, has everybody had their flu shot for this year?