Somewhere in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, locked up safely we hope, in the bowels of a medical research facility, lies a man-made virus that could alter the course of history and kill millions if loosed upon the world.
Scientists have modified the H5N1 “Bird Flu” into a strain that is easily transmissible between ferrets. Ferrets it seems are the animals that most closely mimic the human response to the flu. If the virus were to be released in a heavily populated area, or mutate into a similar form in nature, it is likely that a major pandemic would result, killing millions.
“In a 17th floor office in the same building, virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center calmly explains why his team created what he says is “probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make”—and why he wants to publish a paper describing how they did it. Fouchier is also bracing for a media storm. After he talked to Science Insider yesterday, he had an appointment with an institutional press officer to chart a communication strategy.”
It seems to me that as soon as he publishes DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Kind of like the show “Eureka”, but for weapons.) and similar agencies in other countries will be hard at work growing this as a shiny new weapon. The will claim that they have to do this to defend against the other fellow’s super virus.
And so it goes. And so it goes.
“NSABB chair Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist, says he cannot discuss specific studies but confirms that the board has “worked very hard and very intensely for several weeks on studies about H5N1 transmissibility in mammals.” The group plans to issue a public statement soon, says Keim, and is likely to issue additional recommendations about this type of research. “We’ll have a lot to say,” he says.