Sunday, March 26, 2006

Government Scientists bring 1918 spanish flu back to life

In an effort to try and understand how the current bird flu virus could mutate to a human to human strain, scientists at the CDC (Center for Disease Control), have brought the 1918 spanish flu back to life.

In tests, mice were infected with the 1918 Spanish flu virus to record any symptoms associated with the virus. The Spanish flu killed 40 to 50 million people and then just disapeared.

“It brought a chill down my spine because I knew that I had this deadly virus,” said Tumpey, a research scientist for the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I didn’t have the whole thing, but I knew I had parts of it.”

Tumpey and a team led by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology announced they had achieved a remarkable feat. Not only did they discover the virus’ entire genetic code, they brought it back to life in a tightly controlled laboratory at CDC offices in Atlanta.

The virus that had swept the globe, infecting more than one-fourth of the world’s population, existed on earth once again.

Scientists hope to use the virus to discover how to prevent new pandemics, or at least lessen their devastation.

While lauding the researchers’ goals, critics question the wisdom of reviving the virus. They fear it could be accidentally or deliberately let loose into the population.

“That can come about if a disgruntled or disturbed laboratory worker releases it,” said Richard Ebright, a chemistry professor at Rutgers University.

“That can come about if a person of ill-intent follows the procedures in the published work and reconstructs and releases it. It’s worth bearing in mind that this virus killed 1 percent of the earth’s population.”

[Complete bird flu story here]

Posted by john T. on 03/26 at 05:21 AM
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