Articles, Blog

Could bird flu be turned into a weapon?

November 16, 2019

– So, this research, which was done at the University of Wisconsin and at Erasmus University
in the Netherlands, was aimed at determining
whether the H5N1 avian influenza virus could be made to transmit from human to human. So, it wasn’t known whether
that virus could be made to be transmitted between humans directly and so, these two laboratories
used an animal model, a well established animal
model, which is the ferret, to see if they could make
the virus transmissible from ferret to ferret and then presumably that would apply to humans and they were able to do that. The NSABP is a federal advisory board. So, we are an independent advisory board that was set up to advise the government on exactly these kinds of issues. So, legitimate research that might be able to be misused to cause harm. We thought the best thing to do would be, for now at least, to stop. Not release the details except to those who really need to know: Public health authorities, legitimate scientists
who do want to be able to follow up on this research until the public health catches up. So, that we’d be able
to deal with pandemic and then let the details out. Better to be cautious now and
let the details out later. Whereas if you let it out now you can’t pull it back
if there’s a problem. And so that was our rationale
at the end of the day for making our recommendation. This particular incident is an eye opener to the scientific community that we really need to be more engaged with the public because of
the special responsibility that we have as scientists.

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