Professor and scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has manufactured a deadly new strain of the 2009 swine flu virus, and if this somehow escaped the lab, it could kill hundreds of millions, possibly even a billion. One researcher says: "He's basically got a known pandemic strain that is now resistant to vaccination. Everything he did before was dangerous, but this is even madder." Continue reading for more information.
Last month Kawaoka revealed in a scientific paper that he had also synthesized a bird flu virus, called "1918-like Avian", through a process known as "reverse genetics", using a flu virus similar to that which caused the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. According to his team, the virus was made to assess whether variants of the 1918 flu were as deadly to humans as the original virus. They proceeded to test it on ferrets and discovered what they created "may have pandemic potential."
Viruses in clinical isolates have been identified that have these same changes in the [viral protein]. This shows that escape viruses emerge in nature and laboratory studies like ours have relevance to what occurs in nature.
We are confident our study will contribute to the field, particularly given the number of mutant viruses we generated and the sophisticated analysis applied.
There are risks in all research. However, there are ways to mitigate the risks. As for all the research on influenza viruses in my laboratory, this work is performed by experienced researchers under appropriate containment and with full review and prior approval by the [biosafety committee]
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