H5N1: coming soon to a ferret near you?

From Nature News today:

“It is a nightmare scenario: a human pandemic caused by the accidental release of a man-made form of the lethal avian influenza virus H5N1.

Yet the risk is all too real. Since September, news has been circulating about two groups of scientists who have reportedly created mutant H5N1 variants that can be transmitted between ferrets merely breathing the same air, generally an indicator that the virus could also spread easily among humans.”

And yet…and yet…we won’t know, will we? Until and unless a human catches the ferret-bred virus, OR one develops all by itself out here in the world, that has the same mutations – which we won’t know about, unless we are told what those are.

Wednesday 21st December
And updating this story: the BBC has an interview with Anthony Fauci – formerly head of the US NIH – on what will be happening with the information.  The answer – it will be “redacted”, so the conclusions are published, but not the methods the groups used to produce their viruses.  Apparently the redacted details will be shared with national health authorities and “reputable” universities and institutes.

I would be very interested to see who makes those decisions, and who is considered ‘reputable” – our group, at the best university in Africa and 103rd best in the world by some rankings, are not even reputable enough to be able to order bluetongue virus genes from DNA synthesis companies, for example.

Watch this space….

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One Response to “H5N1: coming soon to a ferret near you?”

  1. A Short History of the Discovery of Viruses – Part 2 « ViroBlogy Says:

    […] from infected investigators!  The “ferret model” was very valuable – see here for modern use of ferrets – as strains of influenza virus could be clinically distinguished from one […]

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