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Mutant Flu Researchers Declare a Time Out

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the it-worked-on-saved-by-the-bell dept.

Medicine 224

New submitter scibri writes "Researchers working on highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza have said they will stop work on the virus for 60 days, to allow them to explain the importance of their work to politicians and the public. Quoting: 'Despite the positive public-health benefits these studies sought to provide, a perceived fear that the ferret-transmissible H5 HA viruses may escape from the laboratories has generated intense public debate in the media on the benefits and potential harm of this type of research. We would like to assure the public that these experiments have been conducted with appropriate regulatory oversight in secure containment facilities by highly trained and responsible personnel to minimize any risk of accidental release.'" Reader Harperdog sends in a related article arguing that we shouldn't be having a debate about the censorship of research, but rather a debate over whether the research should have been allowed in the first place.

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English is tricky (5, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765252)

Are they researchers for the mutant flu or are they flu researchers that are mutants? Or did the mutant flu make them mutants?

Re:English is tricky (5, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765352)

Are they researchers for the mutant flu or are they flu researchers that are mutants? Or did the mutant flu make them mutants?

Yes.

Re:English is tricky (4, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765360)

No, the researchers are themselves a highly evolved mutation of the influenza virus.

Re:English is tricky (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765662)

No, the researchers are themselves a highly evolved mutation of the influenza virus.

Which mean that they can't produce offspring unless they infect you?

*Don't* RTFA! (3, Funny)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766324)

No, the researchers are themselves a highly evolved mutation of the influenza virus.

Which mean that they can't produce offspring unless they infect you?

Whatever you do, don't click the link!

:-P

Re:English is tricky (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766508)

Incoming Soviet Russia joke in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,

Re:English is tricky (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765658)

Actually, it's non-mutant researchers that are creating a flu that infects mutants, just like the bird flu infects birds.

Re:English is tricky (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765714)

The researchers CLAIM that they're not mutants. But, of course, a mutant isn't going to admit it. Better arrest and quarantine them just to be sure.

Re:English is tricky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766522)

The Computer is our friend.

Either them or someone else (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765258)

If these guys don't do the research, someone else will. Probably some government, and then they'll spread it once they have a secret cure for themselves.

Re:Either them or someone else (3)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765400)

If these guys don't do the research, someone else will. Probably some government, and then they'll spread it once they have a secret cure for themselves.

I think you have confused the government with drug companies. Granted the difference is sometimes difficult to discern.

A drug company is a private corporation over which you have no control.

A government is a public corporation that you vote for, and is controlled by the drug companies. (& etc.)

Re:Either them or someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765922)

Shit - you all have to be kidding. It won't be drug companies or legitimate governments - it'll be terrorists who use the piblished literature to develop the mutant variations, infect themselves and travel the world to cause a true pandemic!

Re:Either them or someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765984)

You have it backwards. The 'control' is quite the opposite.

A drug company depends on voluntary funding(our desire to fund them).
A government depends on coerced funding(our desire to stay alive and out of jail).

The drug companies do the research for government (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766626)

And where is the most money? Military research.

Clearly it's going to be weaponised. They're probably researching selectivity now.

Doomsday weapon; kill all humans on the planet. Except that's not really what you want, it might get you. What you want is to selectively be able to kill someone. Maybe an individual, maybe a certain ethnicity etc.

So. They've already got the doomsday weapon now, the biological equivalent of the hydrogen bomb. How do you control it? How do you make it only kill Russians, or Iranians? Could it be used to assassinate Putin?

Re:Either them or someone else (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765526)

Government or private makes no difference here. It's bad guys (or just people with lax controls) and good guys. In either case someone will do the research. If the good guys do it (people with good intentions and good controls) then we stand a chance of saving people when the bad guys do it and fuck it up.

Re:Either them or someone else (2)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765630)

I see. SOMEONE will do it .. so that makes is moral for ANYONE to do it when NOBODY should be doing it.
hmm....

Re:Either them or someone else (5, Insightful)

Gotung (571984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765866)

Newsflash: SOMEONE is already doing it on a scale so massive that human beings can't even come close to competing with. That someone is called The Universe, or more specifically in this case the Planet Earth.

Flu virii are replicating and recombining on their own. They do it all day every day in billions of organisms around the planet. By doing a tiny tiny tiny version of the same thing in a controlled manner in a lab, we can learn a whole lot about that natural process that will provide wonderful insights to help combat the really bad stuff that the evolution of these virii WILL produce at some point.

In all likelihood all of the combinations that these scientists come up with already exist somewhere.

Re:Either them or someone else (1)

David Frankenstein (21337) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765996)

Like the line from the movie... "we don't need to work on mutating the virus. The birds are doing that for us."

Re:Either them or someone else (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766266)

NOT. VIRII.

You sound like an idiot.

Fun with Latin declensions! (3, Informative)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766674)

...the really bad stuff that the evolution of these virii WILL produce at some point.

NOT. VIRII.

You sound like an idiot.

Indeed. The closest Latin word to virii would be viri, which is just the plural for vir, "a man". So I guess the GGP might be right -- "the evolution of these virii^Wmen" *has* produced some really bad stuff.

More pedantically though, assuming virii existed as the plural of some Latin word, the rules state that the singular would be virius -- still not virus, and not a word in any language that I'm aware of.

Going the other way from singular to plural and using basic Latin rules, many people might look at virus and assume you just change the -us to -i to make the plural, but that gives us viri again -- meaning "men" as the plural of "a man". Looking deeper, we find that the actual Latin word virus was uncountable [wiktionary.org] , so it never even had a plural in Latin -- so applying Latin rules for deriving the plural is just silly.

Applying English rules for plural formation to the *countable* *English* word virus gives us the proper plural form viruses.

Cheers,

Re:Either them or someone else (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766728)

Any you sound like a whiny bitch, so I guess it's even.

Re:Either them or someone else (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766798)

combat the really bad stuff that the evolution of these virii WILL produce at some point.

May produce at some point.

In all likelihood all of the combinations that these scientists come up with already exist somewhere.

Not necessarily. Just because they can achieve given results in a laboratory setting doesn't mean it would ever occur in nature on a reasonable timescale.

And moreover, what are the benefits of producing such a pathogen? It's completely reasonable to discuss the risk/reward involved, and very small risks with very large consequences should not be ignored.

Re:Either them or someone else (3, Insightful)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766108)

From the linked article questioning whether the research should be done

The seven experiments of concern are those that would:

1. demonstrate how to make a vaccine ineffective

2. confer resistance to antibiotics or antiviral agents

3. enhance a pathogen's virulence or make a non-virulent microbe virulent

4. increase transmissibility of a pathogen

5. alter the host range of a pathogen

6. enable a pathogen's ability to evade diagnostic or detection modalities

7. enable the weaponization of a biological agent or toxin

.

I see your point, especially related to #7. However, I'd prefer to know that we understand pathogens, antibiotic actions, and immunization before we really, really need that knowledge. Bubonic Plague wiped out about 1/3 of Europe's population because they didn't have antibiotics.

Re:Either them or someone else (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765886)

If these guys don't do the research, someone else will

We have finite resources we should start to be wiser about prioritizing things. There are some things that should be done earlier, some things that should be done later, and some things that we should avoid doing.

IMO this research is definitely not one of the "do earlier" items. Tell me what's the potential benefit vs the potential cost?

If one day there exists a way to develop a "Big Red Button" that could kill more than 50% of the humans in the world, saying a country shouldn't make it illegal just because "someone else will do it" seems to be a stupid argument to support doing it.

As for developing cures, the main workaround for most of these sorts of diseases is the same- quarantine. Because when "stuff happens" even if a potential cure/vaccine may exist, you usually have no way or resources to get enough of it to everyone in time.

Not every country can afford to stockpile stuff that may or may not work or be needed (just like some did with Roche's Tamiflu).

Re:Either them or someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766180)

Well, for diseases (possibly unlike your hypothetical BRB), developing it can be a necessary precursor to developing ways to stop it -- which will be useful when "somone else" (possibly time and chance) makes it happen.
As you say, thanks in part to patents, it's usually (but not necessarily always) impractical to deploy effective countermeasures besides quarantine. But if it's developed now, and the potential pandemic occurs (naturally, or through the work of terrorists/evil governments/whatever) after the patent runs out... seems there's a better chance?

Re:Either them or someone else (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766414)

Being able to defend against is before MILLION OF PEOPLE DIE. There is your benefit.
Also, developed the technology that makes vaccine and vaccine research better and faster.

""someone else will do it" seems to be a stupid argument to support doing it."
that's a good argument because if someone else weaponizes it, we won't have a reasonable response time.

"As for developing cures, the main workaround for most of these sorts of diseases is the same- quarantine. Because when "stuff happens" even if a potential cure/vaccine may exist, you usually have no way or resources to get enough of it to everyone in time."

you need to stop talking now. Not only aren't you qualified to have this discussion, you are ignorant of even the most basic principles.

Quarantine a flu epidemic.. idiot.

SO, where do we quarentine the first 100+thousand? million? Before we know it it is in the wild. Limiting travel is part of it, but you need to reliace a few things.

It's will be, at least 3 days before the first symptions . And it won't become known until many people ahve it ad go to a hospital that reports it to the CDC.
SO, at best, we are looking at a week. Best Case.

Some people get the flu and have it active and show little or no symptom.

If they got onto any public transportation? Now hoe may exposed? now who do you quarantine?

Quarantine people is really the weakest defense. Necessary, but weak.

If we know how to make the vaccines, we can ramp up very quickly. Like we did with the bird flu; which, BTW, had a 30+% mortality rate when first found, and almost every hospital in the NW was out of beds. Imagine if we had to have waited a month longer before getting the vaccine to people?

Re:Either them or someone else (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766588)

"Being able to defend against is before MILLION OF PEOPLE DIE"

Breaking evolution for humans ... are we supposed to be for Darwin's Evolution or not? If we Evolve, then why are we trying so hard to stop it? Seems short sighted to me.

Re:Either them or someone else (1)

Strawser (22927) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766848)

If these guys don't do the research, someone else will. Probably some government, and then they'll spread it once they have a secret cure for themselves.

They'll target a school, a tube station, and a water-treatment plant. Several hundred will die within the first few weeks. Until at last the true goal comes into view . . . after the election, lo and behold, a miracle. Some will believe that it was the work of God himself, but it will be a pharmaceutical company controlled by certain party members that will make them all obscenely rich. But the true genius of the plan will be the fear. A year later, several extremists will be tried, found guilty, and executed while a memorial is built to canonize their victims. Fear will become the ultimate tool of this government. And through it our politician will ultimately be appointed to the newly created position of High Chancellor. The rest, as they say, will be history.

Handwringers & luddites (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765294)

And this is the way the new Dark Ages will begin. Not from where you'd expect, religious fundamentalists who are offended by the challenge reality presents to their mythology. But from easily-frightened handwringing "ethicists", who had they been around in the time of the caveman would have taken away Ugh's flint for fear he'd burn down the forest were he to succeed in starting a fire.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765408)

Yeah. Because a few million people in the name of science is a fair trade, right? Besides if Mother Nature wanted them to live they'd evolve. Wait, did I just capitalize "mother nature" as if she were someone's god? Blanket application of moral superiority is no more right for "enlightened" people like yourself than it is the religious zealots you decry.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

McGuirk (1189283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765468)

Of course you did. Mother Nature is the personification of nature and thus a proper noun.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (2)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766146)

So would that mean the personification of sex is Mother F...

Re:Handwringers & luddites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765410)

comparing creating fire to creating a super flu is retarded. When they screw up and it is released, and they will f*ck up, they are humans, i hope your the first one infected.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (5, Informative)

kelarius (947816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765462)

comparing creating fire to creating a super flu is retarded. When they screw up and it is released, and they will f*ck up, they are humans, i hope your the first one infected.

This statement is just fucking retarded and ignorant. There has been research going on like this for the better part of a century, including WEAPONIZING even more dangerous bugs than the flu, and none of that has ever been released. Why does everyone think that this one will be any different, the system is proven to work and I'm not the least bit concerned.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (0)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765794)

Right. They should stick to weaponizing the flu. That's much safer.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766858)

The fact that something with a small probability has not happened in the past does not mean that it will not happen in the future. The issue with this research is that the consequences of release are so grave; death of billions of people.

There are safeguards in place to prevent the escape of a deadly virus. There is also an unknown sequence of events that would lead to the release of a virus. The sequence is unknown or there would be a safeguard in place to stop it. Now equate that sequence of events to flipping a coin 1000 times and all coming up heads; probability 1x(10^-300)%. That is extremely low probability but still may happen.

Think of this analogy;
Flip 1000 coins and if they all come up heads kill 1/3 of the earth's population.
How many times would you do this test before considering this test to be safe?

In my opinion it is not safe on the first test. It is a risk/reward analysis; to me the risk of killing billions of people is much heavier on my scale of importance than any reward from the research.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765472)

Research shouldn't be done on the ebola virus - it may get out and kill people!

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765606)

Research with the intentional result of weaponizing the ebola virus shouldn't be done.

They are intentionally taking a virus known to have particularly high kill rates among infected, but poor vectors for infection. And then giving it awesome vectors for infection. They are creating a weaponized super virus.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766254)

Actually they were examining methods of mutations in virii to better understand how they change. The results of this experiment can and will help prevent the creation of similar sub-bugs in nature by identifying particular vectors which must exist for such a mutation to come about. It's good research and it's beneficial to all of us. Your irrational fear is a far bigger threat then this research ever could be.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765506)

Yeah, thats exactly right... tinkering with highly dangerous and highly contagious viruses is exactly the same as supressing all of science... Especially since we all know that outbreaks of viruses from such secure research facilities can never happen... Just a random search on ebola offers this.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/25/world/russian-scientist-dies-in-ebola-accident-at-former-weapons-lab.html

Not to say that it shouldn't be allowed, but the whole point is that this is not that simple an issue, that it requires debate and your comment is just plain dumb.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765710)

Lets see.. forest fire vs
  50% of 7bil dead and a probable end of our ability to carry out commerce or have a technologically advanced civilzation for a few centuries. hmm... which one sounds like a more serious consequence to you?

I don't care how professional, careful , trustworthy etc your group is sooner or later a mistake will be made or an accident beyond their control. Fire , earthquake, tornado, what do suppose it would take.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (4, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765844)

One could argue that setting humanity back a few centuries and wiping out half the population would be good for the planet (and perhaps ultimately save the species). It's not an argument I'd be prepared to make, but it's one I'd take seriously, if someone else were to make it.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765982)

Yes, let's kill off the physically weak and vulnerable, and let the physically fit survive. The resulting loss in overall IQ surely won't have detrimental effects on society.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (2)

jizziknight (976750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766234)

Are you really implying that the physically fit have lower IQs than the physically weak or vulnerable? If so, I question your own IQ, my good sir.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766514)

except we will know how to vaccinate and treat it.

"I don't care how professional, careful , trustworthy etc your group is sooner or later a mistake will be made or an accident beyond their control."
I'
m sure your dim witted ancestors said the same thing about the wheel.

And no, the difference between a pigs nose and a mans is not accidental. There are evolutionary pressure for why they are different.
If you think that, then you don't understand evolution at all.

Humans don't eat their own because it isn't really good for them, and it's not a strong survival trait.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765744)

In all fairness, Ugh really shouldn't be trusted with fire.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766768)

Hell, Ugh's so dumb he can't even be trusted with rocks.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766828)

Ugh so dumb him think woolly mammoth is type of dance.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (2)

DC2088 (2343764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765766)

"Our biochem corpus is far in advance of theirs, as is our electronic sentience. And their...ethical inflexibility has allowed us to make progress in areas they refuse to consider. "

Re:Handwringers & luddites (1)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765884)

who had they been around in the time of the caveman would have taken away Ugh's flint for fear he'd burn down the forest were he to succeed in starting a fire.

i'm sure the rest of the biosphere thinks that would have been a good move.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (5, Interesting)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766388)

Nah, it isn't some mythical "ethicists" that are the problem. Two things are at work here that have shaped this kind of attitude.

First, there is a gradual and seemingly purposeful dumbing down of public education, especially in the "civilized" world. When I was growing up, I had boring math and physics books with theorem proofs and many problems in them. These days my kids have pictures, diagrams, bold colors and boxes with all sorts of historical and "cultural" references, but what was standard hardness in my book is now "optional" or "advanced" and "can be skipped without loss of continuity". The situation is the same in every field that teaches science. Teachers are poor, undereducated and not interested in teaching. Kids are "spared" the "psychological shock" of failure that low grades imply. The situation in higher education somewhat similar, except at the very top, which is accessible to the very few -- who turn out to be the researchers.

Science is hard and getting harder, and to make sense of it, you need to be taught about the basics. There is no time anymore to figure it out for yourself. No education == fertile supply of "luddites". Incidentally, this also means a fertile supply of "consumers".

Second, there is the media world, which has totally gone down the drain in terms of quality. Serious journalism, where reasonably educated people would research a topic and write about it in articles long enough to cover the subject in some depth and breadth has devolved into idiots spewing out 150-200 word articles, or "blog posts" or "twits" of 140 chars or less. They make money by try to make a sensation out of everything. More and more people seriously believe that the Wikipedia article and the top hits on google on any topic give them the full picture. So, you are undereducated and fair and competent coverage, that is filtering out manipulative interests is almost inaccessible to you. How are you not going to become a "luddite" in some fashion or other?

Add to this the growing disconnect between politics, where more and more things is internationally and behind closed doors, and you can understand why people distrust the "official" line more and more, and turn to "the fringe" -- all these movements that we here usually laugh at. Unlike the "official" coverage, the fringe is cozy, warm, easy to understand, and sounds plausible to most in the audience. You can find friends who think like you and join your own misinformation bubble, deepening the problem above and adding psychological support and motivation that further solidifies your "luddite" attitude.

This is your recipe for the dark ages, and, sadly, it starts with your government screwing up the public education and your corporations converting journalism in a platform for sales enhancement.

Re:Handwringers & luddites (2)

emilper (826945) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766460)

quoth one of the fine article: "investigators have proved that viruses possessing a haemagglutinin (HA) protein from highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses can become transmissible in ferrets" ... translation: haemagglutinin are proteins found on the surface of the virus and which help them bind to the attacked cell; they managed to get some viruses to infect a mammal, not H5N1, but _other virus_ that have _one_ of the "attack proteins" in common with the H5N1 virus.

So, how come that the H5N1 virus did not infect foxes, dogs, cats or whatever hunts birds in the area where the virus in found ? How come they find the virus only in Anatidae when they want to wipe out poultry farms in some unimportant country far away ?

I call this "desperate plea for more funding because we're getting nowhere with it but the job is cozy" or "let's keep the marks scared stiff and coughing money".

If it was real they would do epidemiological studies among predators, but that means you have to go outside in unpleasant places and try to catch toothed animals that don't want to be caught, and risk discovering that H5N1 in it's wild and pristine form does not mutate in the wild enough to infect mammals.

Shit. (2)

DC2088 (2343764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765298)

I'm going to dream about an old woman in a cornfield on a porch soon, aren't I?

Re:Shit. (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765398)

Well, that or you'll be one of the 99.9% of the people who just die.

Re:Shit. (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765448)

I'm going to dream about an old woman in a cornfield on a porch soon, aren't I?

Too funny, I thought the same thing. Well, I guess it is better than dreaming about the dark man, Flagg.

Re:Shit. (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765474)

Just don't ask that fella for a tarot reading. Unless you really like naps.

Re:Shit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765502)

Then again, Las Vegas or the Republic of Boulder. I don't know which is worse.

Re:Shit. (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765676)

I thought the same thing too. For those who didn't catch it - it's a reference to Stephen King's "The Stand".

Now I have Blue Oyster Cult stuck in my head...

Re:Shit. (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766210)

Funny, I have The Alarm! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Shit. (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766326)

Thanks! Now Blue Oyster Cult is out of my head. "Come on down and meet your maker, come on down and make your stand..." Crap!

Physically separated research (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765306)

Research with dangerous things works much better in self-limiting environments. There wouldn't be much risk of trouble if they were on a moon or space base. We're really playing with fire when we test things that could wipe us out.

Re:Physically separated research (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765392)

Well there we have it, we need a moon base.

Re:Physically separated research (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766104)

I'm pretty sure they aren't doing this research in the local park or at the mall.

Re:Physically separated research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766358)

They should be doing it at the CDC in Atlanta -- I hear they have an automatic incineration procedure with absolutely no risk of massive distribution of pathogens in the big fireball. But they need to reinforce the windows first -- too vulnerable to a Chekov Grenade.

Never trust a tube rat! (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765370)

I knew those ferrets where up to something. They must be stopped!

I would rather.... (5, Insightful)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765432)

...have someone studying it now rather than having them start when its already too late. It can take months or years to create a vaccine, then more time to manufacture/distribute it to the public. By this time a large proportion of the world's population could be infected.

Re:I would rather.... (2)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765760)

assuming whatever they made up in the lab was in someway close enough to the naturally evolved pathogen. of coarse how could anyone know what that even means.

Re:I would rather.... (1)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765900)

Presumably sequencing the RNA (which is pretty quick these days I understand) along with some knowledge of the method by which the virus interfaces with the cells would allow the researchers to compare how similar the natural and lab varieties? I am not a biologist but I would think this kind of thing is pretty routine for things as simple as viruses.

Re:I would rather.... (1)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766840)

yeah, but the point is , does anyone know the likelood that the similarities would be enough to be useful in creating a vaccine for the wild one?

Re:I would rather.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765782)

They are not creating a vaccine they are creating a version that is airborne and kills 60% of those infected.

Re:I would rather.... (1)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765934)

Providing the wild variety has the slightest chance of mutating into something like this, I reiterate my point that I would rather have it studied now and not later. That's not to say I don't think caution is necessary.

Re:I would rather.... (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766238)

What difference does it make if the wild variety has no chance to mutate to the human-engineered form? The people are making this extremely dangerous variety who's escape could kill millions of people. And the upside to creating this dangerous virus is what exactly? You don't know, but are already OK with letting the experiment continue?

Re:I would rather.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766516)

Because that's based on a false premise. We can predict with some success what sorts of mutations are likely to happen in the wild by ourselves understanding the organism. We might find that certain areas are more prone to mutation than others, and that some areas are prone to certain types of mutation, and that those areas are a few steps away from a super bug.

Re:I would rather.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766056)

YES!

This thing is HIGHLY contagious and HIGHLY capable of evolving through the right mutations.
Not researching this is the stupid thing.
To have such a horribly destructive disease come about in times like this would be disastrous, mainly because most of the human race are ignorant and will spread the damn thing like wildfire!
And these are the very same people who would scream at the researchers trying to protect their ignorant asses!

Re:I would rather.... (5, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766296)

I dont think the argument is over whether it should be studied or not. After a little digging, the argument seems to be over the fact that they are studying it in Biosafety Level 3 facilities, instead of BSL4. As my post below states, BSL3 is for treatable diseases, and BSL4 is for untreatable ones. This one isn't, and should be in BSL4 according to those rules.

Too short? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765434)

'But he thinks that the duration of the pause is too short. “The 60 days will likely not be adequate in terms of getting a truly workable international policy and applying that. I just don't think that's realistic,” he says. '

Is it really too short, or are the parties involved not interested enough to put their time into resolving it quickly? Because if they aren't really interested in coming to a resolution, the scientists have just wasted 60 days of their lives for people who don't actually care.

And I admit I don't know the difference between level 3 and level 4 facilities, but if it really could cause a pandemic, why is it not under the highest security? That's my life you're taking a chance on and claiming you're being cautious enough. I think anything you could learn from it is not worth the risk of my life.

I'm all for science and progress, but scientists are known for forgetting the stakes of what they're doing and claiming that progress is necessary, no matter the risk. It sounds to me like they need some oversight, and that's what this is.

Re:Too short? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765822)

And I admit I don't know the difference between level 3 and level 4 facilities

I'm a catastrophic movie lover and I can knowledgeably tell you that level 3 facilities only require you to have a face mask, glasses, gloves and being extra careful with your test tubes, whereas level 4 facilities involve a sci-fi-like separated building with an imposing airlock controlled by an handprint-operated electronic lock making cool noises, inside which scientists work in awesome-looking spacesuits!

Re:Too short? (2)

godIsaDJ (644331) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766204)

Or we can just, you know, look it up [wikipedia.org]

Re:Too short? (3, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766262)

lol If that's even remotely true, then I definitely want any pandemic-capable viruses worked on in level 4 labs.

You inspired me to look it up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosafety_level [wikipedia.org]

"Biosafety level 3
This level is applicable to clinical, diagnostic, teaching, research, or production facilities in which work is done with indigenous or exotic agents which may cause serious or potentially lethal disease after inhalation.[7] It includes various bacteria, parasites and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans but for which treatments exist, such as" ... blah blah blah. Key words, "treatments exist."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_A_virus_subtype_H5N1 [wikipedia.org]

60% fatal, vaccine being developed. In other words, no treatments exist, and it's highly deadly.

Yeah, let's go with BSL4, please.

Akin to people walking out with data... (5, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765440)

We would like to assure the public that these experiments have been conducted with appropriate regulatory oversight in secure containment facilities by highly trained and responsible personnel to minimize any risk of accidental release.

Why does this remind me of all the stories where some contractor walked out of a "secure $organization facility" with highly sensitive data/source code/credit_card numbers etc...?

Should we be surprised when we read a story one day that says that some Chinese researcher walked out the door with a container of some highly contagious strain of Ferret Flu...

Re:Akin to people walking out with data... (1)

vencs (1937504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765484)

Thats' how Ethan Hunt in MI:2 becomes a savior and sets up a new religion - oh wait!

Works on Ferrets to. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765450)

A virus more deadly than Humans? Works on Ferrets to.

Cull the herd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765494)

We could use a couple good ones.

Think of the terrorists! (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765546)

Would somebody please think of the poor terrorists? Everybody knows they are not smart enough to do this sort of research on their own. Without real scientists helping them create doomsday weapons like this one, how will they ever take over the world?

Why these experiments shouldn't be avoided (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765556)

The experiment is so low-tech that anyone with access to the virus could do it. They literally exposed one ferret to another, several times, and the virus strain that successfully transmitted was, well, transmissible.

Which means people should know how easily this can be done.

It kind of puts a burden on these guys to prove it can be done so they can warn people, for the same reason that we want security researchers to, hey, research security. And to tell people when they find security problems.

Re:Why these experiments shouldn't be avoided (1)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765816)

yeah , but we don't want security research to create viruses and that might get released into the net just so they can figure out what 'might' happen, that and if every computer on the whole earth crashed , that is nothing compared the the economic, cultural and human destruction that would take place if a strong strain of this bug gets loose.

Sustainability (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765566)

What they are working on is a way to create a sustainable world with a far smaller population. You can't just line people up against the wall and shoot them or poison them as the Nazis did but a global epidemic accidentally released from a laboratory will serve just as well and with a far smaller number of people that need to be held accountable.

60 days (5, Funny)

phrostie (121428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765572)

and that should give us time to find that Damn ferret.

Time Out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765576)

If I was a mutant, I would take some time off from researching the flu, too.

Of COURSE I didn't RTFA!

sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765718)

my mom

Mutant flu? (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765758)

Who really cares if mutants get the flu? The less monsters the better, I say.

Ignorant comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765842)

If these are the same people who flipped their shit over H1N1, their importance = 0.
Otherwise, whatever.

Follow up to "Pause on avian flu studies" (2)

NikeHerc (694644) | more than 2 years ago | (#38765880)

Hello, Ron A. M. Fouchier and 38 co-authors here. I want to assure everyone that our work on a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza will have no

er...

hold a moment...

we aren't feeling too well..

can someone please #$%^

NO CARRIER

Perhaps this shouldn't be done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38765924)

Personally, I feel that if these scientists insist they have the right to create a highly infectious agent that is airborne and kills 60% of those infected, the public has the right to kill these scientists.

aThis gets SO old (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766098)

It seems like both right and left want to stop research in science depending on RELIGIOUS POVs. The evangelicals, want to stop genetic research, deny evolution as well as Global Warming. The left, with their own brand of religion, want to stop nuclear research and now this.

it is hard to believe that America was at one time, the leading nation in science. Since the likes of reagan onwards, we have suffered over and over by both extremist on right and left wings.

Why does the virus have to be both? (5, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766172)

I see no reason for an experimental virus to be both highly contagious and deadly at the same time. Couldn't you learn the same thing from two viruses. One that was very contagious but not dangerous and another that was very deadly but not contagious?

Why put the warhead in the missile if you don't intend to kill people? if you want to test the missile, put a dummy warhead in it. If you want to test the warhead, then detonate without the delivery mechanism.

Viral researchers do this sort of thing all the time. They test contagious viruses with harmless strains to watch how they get into the body. Deadly strains are typically injected. They're not airborne.

Maybe I don't understand what they're doing but the whole thing smells like a germ warfare lab if they're combining the two and trying to make them more deadly. That's a weaponization program.

Because when you weaponise it (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766416)

The military are going to want something which is both easy to pass on and effective at taking out the enemy population.
 

Basically... (1)

qeveren (318805) | more than 2 years ago | (#38766256)

... it's biotechnology as usual, only this time the public got to hear about it and now, being utterly ignorant of anything, they're in a panic.

Adult Supervision (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38766468)

It seems to me that these researchers need adult supervision. Forgetting about 'terrorism' for the moment, the consequences of a small mistake or small misunderstanding are far too large. They appear to be thinking like little children playing with cap guns than like adults working with technologies that could possibly lead to either another human population bottleneck or, indeed, extinction.

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