Engineering a Pandemic

Posted: December 18, 2011 in Current Events
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As if there isn’t enough concern about naturally occurring viruses and pandemics, a group of German scientists have been busy developing a more deadly version of Avian Flu.  Their research was designed to make the Bird Flu more deadly and more contagious, thereby creating a disease which could kill millions if it ever escaped from the lab.

I know there must be some people out there reading this, saying to themselves, “There he goes, over reacting again.”  But, people, this is real stuff.  It just sounds like the plot of a bad movie.

The research was allegedly done to demonstrate the potential danger in the Avian Flu Virus.  Well I suppose they succeeded there.  Now they want to publish their research.  As if creating it wasn’t bad enough, now they want to give other people clues on how they accomplished it.  There was an article in Discover Magazine a few months ago about how easy it was to set up a genetic biology lab in a spare cupboard.  It is already too easy for individual to brew biological weapons at home; they don’t need any help.

Bird Flu had limited impact because of the specific factors necessary for contagion.  changing five genetic markers changed that to a more contagious and hence more deadly disease.  Can you imagine what would happen if they were able to modify the HIV virus to be airborne instead of being only contracted by contact with body fluids?  Or if they were to make the HIV virus, which has a very limited survival ability outside of specific conditions, more resistant and hearty??  Research thinks that it is necessary to explore these avenues because of the potential for it to happen through straight mutation.  We have to be prepared, they say.

And yet, we’ve now created a perfect vehicle for a Pandemic.  It sits in a lab somewhere and as long as it doesn’t escape by accident, get stolen or the research is replicated, we’re safe.  …Well, I feel confident!

 

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