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Intro: "Scientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists."

File photo: Microscopic close-up, swine flu virus. (photo: AP)
File photo: Microscopic close-up, swine flu virus. (photo: AP)



An Engineered Doomsday

By The New York Times | Editorial

08 January 12

 

cientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists.

We nearly always champion unfettered scientific research and open publication of the results. In this case it looks like the research should never have been undertaken because the potential harm is so catastrophic and the potential benefits from studying the virus so speculative.

Unless the scientific community and health officials can provide more persuasive justifications than they have so far, the new virus, which is in the Netherlands, ought to be destroyed. Barring that, it should be put in a few government-controlled laboratories with the highest containment rating, known as biosafety level 4. That is how the United States and Russia contain samples of smallpox, which poses nowhere near the same danger of global devastation.

In the future, it is imperative that any such experiments be rigorously analyzed for potential dangers - preferably through an international review mechanism, but also by governmental funding agencies - before they are undertaken, not after the fact as is happening in this case.

The most frightening research was done by scientists at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, who sought to discover how likely it is that the "bird flu" virus, designated A(H5N1), might mutate from a form that seldom infects or spreads among humans into a form highly transmissible by coughing or sneezing. Thus far the virus has infected close to 600 humans and killed more than half of them, a fatality rate that far exceeds the 2 percent rate in the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed as many as 100 million people.

Working with ferrets, the animal that is most like humans in responding to influenza, the researchers found that a mere five genetic mutations allowed the virus to spread through the air from one ferret to another while maintaining its lethality. A separate study at the University of Wisconsin, about which little is known publicly, produced a virus that is thought to be less virulent.

These findings led to an unprecedented request from an American federal advisory board that the researchers and the two scientific journals that plan to publish the studies omit any details that might help terrorists figure out how to unleash a devastating pandemic. That presumably includes details on how the engineered virus was made and details on the precise mutations that allowed it to go airborne.

We doubt that anything at all should be published, but it seems clear that something will be.

The two journals reviewing the papers seem inclined to follow the advisory board's recommendations that the research be published in a redacted form, provided there is some way for researchers who need the information to gain access to the full details. The Erasmus team believes that more than 100 laboratories and perhaps 1,000 scientists around the world need to know the precise mutations to look for. That would spread the information far too widely. It should suffice to have a few of the most sophisticated laboratories do the analyses.

Defenders of the research in Rotterdam claim it will provide two major benefits for protecting global health. First, they say the findings could prove helpful in monitoring virus samples from infected birds and animals. If genetic analysis found a virus somewhere that was only one or two mutations away from going airborne, public health officials would then know to bear down aggressively in that area to limit human contact with infected poultry and ramp up supplies of vaccines and medicines.

But it is highly uncertain, even improbable, that the virus would mutate in nature along the pathways prodded in a laboratory environment, so the benefit of looking for these five mutations seems marginal.

A second postulated benefit is that the engineered virus can be used to test whether existing antiviral drugs and vaccines would be effective against it and, if they come up short, design new drugs and vaccines that can neutralize it. But genetic changes that affect transmissibility do not necessarily change the properties that make a virus susceptible to drugs or to the antibodies produced by a vaccine, so that approach may not yield much useful new information.

We cannot say there would be no benefits at all from studying the virus. We respect the researchers' desire to protect public health. But the consequences, should the virus escape, are too devastating to risk.

 

Comments   

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+20 # Huck Mucus 2012-01-08 15:42
Hmmmm, maybe we should put the question to the:

1. Black Rhino
2. Giant Panda
3. Tiger
4. Beluga Sturgeon
5. Goldenseal
6. Alligator Snapping Turtle
7. Hawksbill Turtle
8. Big Leaf Mahogany
9. Green-Cheeked Parrot
10. Mako Shark

Just sayin'
 
 
+168 # RMDC 2012-01-08 19:24
The NY Times is so lame. They cannot stop themselves from drawing all the wrong conclusions from the facts they present. Try this --

"In the process they [National Institutes of Health] created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists."

If the NIH has it, so does the US Army's Viral and Bacteriological Warfare Unit at Ft. Dietrick, MD, just a few miles up the road.

And why distract the readers by pointing to "terrorists." They've never indicated a desire to kill hundreds of millions of people. But the USG has. Read up on National Security Council Memo 200 from 1975 which contemplates the need to "reduce" the fast growing populations of Africa, Asia, Latin America with control of food (mass starvation) or disease. This and associated papers were the magnum opus of Bush, Kissinger, Haig, and Scowcroft -- contemplation of genocide. Some of their reports suggest that it might be necessary for the US to reduce the world's population by 2 billion people -- if the US is to continue to have access to all the natural resources it desires in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Starvation and disease are the preferred methods.

All genetic modification should be banned. Whatever good we learn from it will vastly be outweighed by the harm. Monsanto is perfect proof of that.
 
 
+62 # Barkingcarpet 2012-01-08 22:35
We ARE the terrorists. WTF! It is time to end the corrupt insanity. Yes, WE can!
 
 
+73 # Ralph Averill 2012-01-09 01:22
Excellent points. Especially about Monsanto, which is busily creating Frankenstein GMO monsters of its own, while fostering the evolution of herbicide-resis tant weeds.
 
 
-20 # Texas Aggie 2012-01-09 16:07
Why exactly do you find herbicide resistant weeds to be in any way worse than garden variety weeds? Seems to me that the problem is the herbicides themselves, not the resistant plants. If the targets are resistant, then maybe farmers will be forced to go to something less noxious to get rid of them.
 
 
+39 # wolflady52 2012-01-09 16:37
Quoting Texas Aggie:
Why exactly do you find herbicide resistant weeds to be in any way worse than garden variety weeds? Seems to me that the problem is the herbicides themselves, not the resistant plants. If the targets are resistant, then maybe farmers will be forced to go to something less noxious to get rid of them.

Actually, with herbicide resistant weeds, Monsanto creates even deadlier herbicides...a never-ending death spiral for our food chain and us. As a farmer, once you sign on with Monsanto, they OWN you.
 
 
-6 # feloneouscat 2012-01-09 07:47
Quoting RMDC:
All genetic modification should be banned. Whatever good we learn from it will vastly be outweighed by the harm. Monsanto is perfect proof of that.


Apparently you and the NYT and many others haven't bothered to read how this alteration occurred. It occurred naturally as the disease passed from ferret to ferret.

These people performed perfectly legitimate science - the question being "how hard would it be to turn the bird flu into something that is airborne". The answer was not hard at all. And worse, it could occur in nature quite easily.

It would be nice if people would bother to read up on something before they comment. The NYT piece hardly qualifies as scientific literature.
 
 
+2 # ericlipps 2012-01-09 08:06
Quoting RMDC:
All genetic modification should be banned. Whatever good we learn from it will vastly be outweighed by the harm. Monsanto is perfect proof of that.
\

Not gonna happen. Imposing a ban, even if, in a amoment of panic, such a thing occurred, would simply ensure that the only people who would do this sort of research would be those willing to defy the law. The only way to suppresds iot entirely would be to kill everyone who knows the techniques, burn all the books on the subject and make it a capital offense, rigorously enforced, to even attempt to recover such knowledge. That's a scenario better left to dystopian SF stories than considered fore real-life application.
 
 
+34 # cordleycoit 2012-01-08 22:09
It looks like the crazies are at it again. Nukes are not good enough for our so-called masters. To quote Gil Scott Heron "White man got a God Complex..."
 
 
+39 # m... 2012-01-08 22:36
''... escaped confinement or WAS STOLEN BY TERRORISTS,''

Yeah, a terrible thought indeed. But, let's think a little broader here in our Brave New, Vastly Over-Deregulate d, Super-Dooper-We alth-Concentrat ed, ''Chosen!!''-Li mited-Governmen t-Of-The-People , GLOBAL CORPORATE RUN America and Planet. And, the high probability of the existence of MANY Biotech-Nasty-T hing-Creating Labs all over the world now.
I mean look at how GENES are being manipulated, propagated and PATENTED by 'FOOD' Corporations, a few of which control more and more of the planet-wide food production systems.

The NY Times presents a very limited 'Boogeyman' scenario here for whatever reason they decided to limit the scope of modern day possibilities in our Corporate-Wealt hy Controlled World.

I think another nasty deregulation-cr eated 'virus' we should consider fearing is the highly concentrated and extremely narrow ownership of almost all media enterprises in America by just a very few Global Corporate Conglomerates and the nasty 'viral' effect it may be having on the minds of MILLIONS each and every day as OUR Government of Ourselves Shrinks and Our Republic withers from the infection.

How did we come to the collective decision that all of human reality and how we GOVERN Ourselves should be boiled down to some sort of Conservative Corporate Business Model that declares Government Evil and the Unfettered Rights of Corporations Our Salvation..?
 
 
+34 # bluepilgrim 2012-01-08 22:47
I like the picture -- kind of cute -- like a tiny little death star.

One can wonder how something like this research gets funded while many more helpful projects don't. Yeah, I have to give some credence to RMDC, above: there is likely military mixed in here somehow, and there is no limit to the evil there.
 
 
+10 # uglysexy 2012-01-08 22:47
insanity...but, as the commenter says above...the military...ours and the russians....def initely have this...may be behind the research in fact...I used to call the CDC the Center for Disease Control ...and Propagation.... since it's sort of connected to the pentagon...it's the friendly face of it
 
 
-14 # uglysexy 2012-01-08 22:48
I don't believe in the de-population theory though...not that I'd put it past the dod....I just think they know they couldn't keep it under control
 
 
+30 # redjelly39 2012-01-09 00:24
We are just too stupid to exist. We continually create things that will kill us & everything else on earth and once there is money to be made, rationalization s come out of the woodwork selling us on some lame idea that this new killing ______ will be beneficial. Look at Monsanto or Nuclear Energy or Fracking or drilling for more oil.....
 
 
+10 # Glen 2012-01-09 05:11
In spite of the predictions arising in the past concerning a global pandemic, most folks believed the natural course of viruses would prevail, not considering the deadly intent of governments or military. No longer. We all are aware of how deadly the machines of war are - especially those built and used by the U.S. - so why not disease?

60 years ago a defense strategy was developed concerning those that have and the have nots. The strategy was not considered immoral; it was considered survival. The entire scenario was to protect the haves, which meant a city, a country, or a bomb shelter against those who would take it from you. Some of us must survive, it was said.

Now we are faced with so many possible attacks that folks are turning to zombie movies for mental escape. I, myself, have joined the Zombie Outbreak Response Team, and am preparing for the worst.
 
 
+12 # Glen 2012-01-09 07:28
I failed to mention the Russian Marburg virus research to be used as a weapon. Apparently, when things went south there, the research morphed into defense only. Arrogant, warring countries are capable of just about anything.
 
 
+2 # leonardthefast 2012-01-11 16:01
Quoting Glen:
I failed to mention the Russian Marburg virus research to be used as a weapon. Apparently, when things went south there, the research morphed into defense only. Arrogant, warring countries are capable of just about anything.


Glen,
You should read the non-fiction book "The Dead Hand" for a very thorough insight into the Russian [and I'm sure, American] military's weaponization of ALL the most devastating virus's known to man. Millions of strategic AND tactical warheads that are stockpiled with little or no oversight. Not exactly recommended for bedtime reading but worth reading for it's facts.
 
 
+1 # Glen 2012-01-11 16:48
Thank you, leonardthefast. I will read it. There are books available that offer information, but the information is so sensitive it must be buried in a novel, rather than non-fiction. Bedtime or no, we must keep informed and not take it to our guts. The information is to keep us on our toes.
 
 
+4 # USA2012??? 2012-01-09 05:44
I believe we are whole hardily engaged in self fulfilling prophecy, and we're blatantly, calculatingly, and at times quietly following the Nostradamus prophecies as an excuse and script.

If so, what do we expect to gain by our own annihilation?
 
 
+5 # Huck Mucus 2012-01-09 07:01
Quoting USA2012???:
If so, what do we expect to gain by our own annihilation?


Garden of Eden.
 
 
+5 # wolflady52 2012-01-09 10:20
Quoting Huck Mucus:
Quoting USA2012???:
If so, what do we expect to gain by our own annihilation?


Garden of Eden.


All the other species of the world doing the Happy Dance.
 
 
+6 # NoMoreLibs 2012-01-10 16:30
Your government doesn't care about our annihilation THEY and the other elite will be below ground safe and sound.
 
 
+12 # feloneouscat 2012-01-09 07:37
The REASON that scientists did this was to determine how difficult this would be in the wild.

Seriously, the United States ALONE with conventional warfare has killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq. Rather than focus on the "maybe's" and "could have's" and "what if's", why not focus on CONVENTIONAL warfare?

"But it is highly uncertain, even improbable, that the virus would mutate in nature along the pathways prodded in a laboratory environment, so the benefit of looking for these five mutations seems marginal."

ACCORDING TO WHO? The pinheads at the NYT? Did they even bother reading how they managed to create this virus? The gave it to a ferret and after spreading from ferret to ferret it mutated. This is not "prodded" this is natural. And the scary part is that it only required five mutations.

THIS is the part that is important: FIVE mutations turned it into an airborne virus. That is the worrisome part.

If people want to have their ALARM buttons go off, perhaps they might start thinking about the number of nuclear weapons the United States and other countries have - those are far more likely to end life as we know it than the bird flu.
 
 
+6 # Glen 2012-01-09 08:28
Thank you, feloneouscat. Very good comments that yank folks back to reality. Although the big nukes are there waiting to be applied, lower level radioactive weapons are used regularly with breathtaking results. Seems to be no worries there...
 
 
+2 # Huck Mucus 2012-01-09 08:17
"But it is highly uncertain, even improbable, that the virus would mutate in nature along the pathways prodded in a laboratory environment, so the benefit of looking for these five mutations seems marginal."

To paraphrase Jeff Goldbloom in Jurassic Park: "Life will find a way."
 
 
+7 # shortonfaith 2012-01-09 09:46
If you want to see an Engineered Doomsday watch "A New Standard for Deception" by Kevin Ryan. A top UL Scientist. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/a-new-standard-of-deception/
A 9/11 shock & ah & it's closeness to Hitler's Reichstag Building fire.

The weapons of man are much more deadly & out of control. Deception being the easiest gun to fire with the widest spread, killing the most with one shot.
 
 
+2 # panhead49 2012-01-09 11:41
Well, it couldn't happen to a more deserving species if it does escape the lab or is intentionally loosed upon everyone not holed up in their 57 room 'safe mansion'.

Resident Evil indeed.
 
 
+8 # Scott479 2012-01-10 14:08
''... escaped confinement or WAS STOLEN BY TERRORISTS,'' is exactly what will be said when they intentionally release a bioweapon.
 
 
-2 # NoMoreLibs 2012-01-10 16:19
Our government had the scientist develop the mutation of this deadly virus. The Obama administration didn't want any info released on it.
 
 
-1 # Pickwicky 2012-01-11 14:59
NoMoreLibs--and your proof is?
 
 
0 # Pickwicky 2012-01-11 15:08
Now that the world knows H5N1 exists in airborne form and is contagious among humans, someone or some group will try to get it. (With any luck they'll die of it in the process.) Just think of all the nutcakes out there working to make the Gospel According to John or the Mayan Calendar 'predictions' true.
 

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