The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Media Roundup

Ghosts of Epidemics Past

In the wake of the recent break in security protocols at a Centers for Disease Control anthrax laboratory, Harvard School of Public Health Professor of Epidemiology (that’s a lot of capitals, I know) Marc Lipsitch discusses the controversial projects involving labs in the US, Europe, and Asia, to recreated pandemic flu strains. Here is  an excerpt of his Op Ed piece in today’s New York Times:

“These experiments use flu strains like H5N1, which kills up to 60 percent of humans who catch it from birds. Scientists use ferrets to study these viruses. From the perspective of flu infection, ferrets are very similar to humans. Scientists pass the dangerous flu viruses from one ferret to another to “train” the viruses, in a genetic sense, to spread. The goal of these experiments is to see what gives a flu virus the potential to create a pandemic. The problem is that such experiments themselves risk spreading virulent flu in the population, and even causing a pandemic.”

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