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One of Two Hotly Debated Avian Flu Papers Finally Published

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the terrorist-handbook dept.

Science 52

daveschroeder writes "After a marathon debate over a pair of studies that show how the avian H5N1 influenza virus could become transmissible in mammals, and an unprecedented recommendation by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication, and its subsequent reversal, a study by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin–Madison was finally and fully published today. 'Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets' appears in the journal Nature."

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52 comments

Death (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872523)

I don't want to sound fatalistic, but one day or another one of those guys makes a mistake and then 90% percent of mankind is going to die.

Re:Death (5, Insightful)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39872549)

The key insight escaped you: It won't be a mistake.

Re:Death (1)

justin12345 (846440) | about 2 years ago | (#39875019)

Well, look on the bright side: no one will have to worry about those Facebook timelines. With any luck there is a test tube somewhere ensuring we'll all be dead before the IPO when they'll actually raise the money to debug that shit.

Re:Death (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872559)

I hate to break it to you but 100% of mankind is going to die... ...eventually. Not all at once we hope.

We're constantly flirting with extinction (4, Insightful)

bobwrit (1232148) | about 2 years ago | (#39872605)

This isn't particularly new for the human race. Look at MAD, for example(which is still fairly real - We still do have enough nukes to wipe out all life on the planet fairly effectively). One person, with their finger on the trigger, could slip up and 'accidentally' push the button, and cause not only the death of Humans, but also others. I'm sure there are other examples of humans having a large amount of control over the advancement of the human race, but that's the one that popped into mind. As we grow, and advance technologically, we'll keep developing even better ways of effectively causing ourselves/other species to become extinct. We're a violent race, when you think about it. While I don't like it, I'm just trying to be realistic as far as looking at humanities tendencies.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (-1, Flamebait)

captinkid (1224428) | about 2 years ago | (#39872805)

We still do have enough nukes to wipe out all life on the planet fairly effectively.

Citation needed.

Shitty Karma Whore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872879)

We still do have enough nukes to wipe out all life on the planet fairly effectively.

Citation needed.

What a shitty job of Karma Whoring!

If you were a real whore - good enough to be a part of the Guild, you would have posted this [fas.org]

But no. You posted "citation needed" (said in a condescending nasally voice).

Geek card revoked. You don't belong here. AND a REAL geek would have even more cites than what I posted as an example, btw.

Loser.

Re:Shitty Karma Whore (1)

barv (1382797) | about 2 years ago | (#39887279)

Crap. We never had enough nukes to "wipe out all life on the planet fairly effectively". In fact I very much doubt that we ever had enough nukes to do any more than set back human civilization more than a century or so.

Just give a citation instead of this alarmist crap. You probably also think CO2 will "end civilization" which i would look up except you hide behind the "anonymous coward" nom de plume.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872915)

You are a posterchild for just how retarded the slashdot community has become. You are really fucking stupid.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39876915)

Are you protesting just a bit much? Are your strings showing?

He is right. The most effective (potential)weapon in the Cold War was propaganda. Which was and still is bought whole line and sinker by millions of sheep the world over.

I've seen the calcs, and a modern nuke dropped in the middle of my (modest - barely 1 million)city might leave me a bit warm(burbs), but that's about it. We'd probably need new windows. Of course, fallout is a problem, but that depends largely on the wind direction. You may think, yea so BFD?....but I remember the stories and supposed "facts" they told us in school. One of which was clothing melting to your exposed body at a distance of 300+KM *OUTSIDE* the city...as it turns out, only the largest nuke(Tsar) ever built could come close to achieving that, and there's no way the Russians would've been dropping those willy nilly because they were inefficient. Thus the MIRV.
We were also told our city(a prime NA oil producer) was a definite target in the event of nuclear war. This was in Elementary school, roughly grade 4/5. Can you imagine what that does to a kid?

Geeks indeed...your "community" is and has been rotten for a long time now.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872931)

Apparently not. [informatio...utiful.net] Of course, that link ignores nuclear winter [wikipedia.org] , which would do sufficient damage to Earth's ecosystem to most likely wipe out humanity along with most other species, although some very radiation-hardened otherwise hardy life would probably survive.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (2)

rve (4436) | about 2 years ago | (#39873319)

Apparently not. [informatio...utiful.net] Of course, that link ignores nuclear winter [wikipedia.org] , which would do sufficient damage to Earth's ecosystem to most likely wipe out humanity along with most other species, although some very radiation-hardened otherwise hardy life would probably survive.

The Criticism and debate [wikipedia.org] section is the most interesting part...

My generation was brought up with the common knowledge that there were enough nukes to destroy all life on the planet many times over, and that the radiation of a nuclear blast would make a spot uninhabitable for thousands of years.

I remember how shocked and surprised I was as a teenager (don't laugh, there were no discovery channel, google or wikipedia) when I learned that neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki are abandoned lifeless nuclear wastelands today. An important part of the common knowledge was clearly based in fact. As that informationisbeautiful link you quoted shows, a simple thought experiment quickly shows that the part about destroying all life on the planet is bogus too.

This puts the whole MAD meme in a different light. The only way to win is not to play? The military probably did the same calcs on a paper napkin and came to a different conclusion. They never stopped planning to fight and win a nuclear war.

I take all common knowledge with a grain of salt these days. For lots of things everybody 'knows' there is actually no evidence, or even evidence to the contrary (see the health benefits of vitamin C supplements or dietary fiber).

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

Dusty101 (765661) | about 2 years ago | (#39874137)

In all fairness, though, the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs (terrible though they were) were relatively small atomic devices, not the much larger nuclear weapons that still number in the thousands today.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39875741)

This puts the whole MAD meme in a different light. The only way to win is not to play? The military probably did the same calcs on a paper napkin and came to a different conclusion. They never stopped planning to fight and win a nuclear war.

The only winning move [mac.com] is to make sure both sides [mac.com] mutually agree not to play [mac.com] .

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | about 2 years ago | (#39883631)

Actually nuclear winter is far from proven. Your own wiki link talks about all the conflicting computer models. One computer model assumption would result in a nuclear winter. Another would result in only very temporary local cooling only at the bomb sites. The actual bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as evidence from nuclear tests seem to indicate that the climate effects would not be so severe.

With enough ICBMs you could target every major city in the world and reduce the earth's population by 80 or 90 percent, but whether you would wipe out humanity is far from certain. People living in remote areas would probably survive. And would anyone bother to bomb Africa or Australia or Indonesia?

Of course the effects from the fallout on a global scale are hard to predict. There's really only one way to find out. You have to try it. No doubt many people would die from the indirect effects of the radioactive material.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 2 years ago | (#39873021)

It would end civilization as we know it. But there would still be patches of families and clans roaming about even if they're reduced to a nomadic lifestyle.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#39873607)

Wouldn't even do that.

The missiles are aimed at something. There won't be time to re-aim them between hostile launch and loss of your missiles.

So, while the USA and Russia might be able to ruin each other, and France and the UK can each pick out a country at random to nuke if they desire, the majority of the world will read about it in the paper the next day.

Or read it real time on Twitter....

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

cffrost (885375) | about 2 years ago | (#39887511)

So, while the USA and Russia might be able to ruin each other, and France and the UK can each pick out a country at random to nuke if they desire, the majority of the world will read about it in the paper the next day.

Or read it real time on Twitter....

A localized nuclear exchange of sufficient yield would most likely have a severe impact on the remaining global population.

Scientific American published a (currently pay-walled) article on 2009-12-30 entitled "South Asian Threat? Local Nuclear War = Global Suffering." [scientificamerican.com] Quoting the summary:

Nuclear bombs dropped on cities and industrial areas in a fight between India and Pakistan would start firestorms that would put massive amounts of smoke into the upper atmosphere.

The particles would remain there for years, blocking the sun, making the earth’s surface cold, dark and dry. Agricultural collapse and mass starvation could follow. Hence, global cooling could result from a regional war, not just a conflict between the U.S. and Russia.

Cooling scenarios are based on computer models. But observations of volcanic eruptions, forest fire smoke and other phenomena provide confidence that the models are correct.

The article is based on a 2007 Rutgers study by the same authors: "Nuclear Winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: Still catastrophic consequences." [rutgers.edu]

Three additional papers on these implications, examining the range from nuclear terrorism to global nuclear war are available here: http://www.envsci.rutgers.edu/~gera/ [rutgers.edu]

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

Uzuri (906298) | about 2 years ago | (#40020867)

So in other words, we should nuke some place to turn back global warming? ;)

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

doston (2372830) | about 2 years ago | (#39881525)

It would end civilization as we know it. But there would still be patches of families and clans roaming about even if they're reduced to a nomadic lifestyle.

More like elevated to.

Re:We're constantly flirting with extinction (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#39876751)

The problem with the "enough nukes to end all life on earth" argument is than it assumes we set out to carpet-bomb the planet, which is almost certainly not what would happen. The actual plan would be to simultaneously fire enough nukes at each important target to vaporize it several times over in the hopes that enough missiles would get past your enemy's defenses to at least cripple it. The worst-case scenario would be both sides defenses crumble under the onslaught and the targets (at a guess? all major military, industrial, and population centers, in that order) become massive white-hot craters that continue glowing for a very long time. More likely some or even most missiles are intercepted before detonation and most of the targets only become red-hot craters that continue to glow for a while.

Either way most of the planet's surface still probably falls into the category of "target poor" or "minimally involved third party" and you don't waste many of your missiles on it, because you only get one shot at this and every missile you fire at a cornfield in Idaho is a missile that might have been the only one that makes it through to an important target. As a result there's plenty of room left for the survivors. Fallout is still a bitch, but conveniently most of the heavily-involved parties are likely to be in the northern hemisphere and weather patterns are such that most of the contaminants will fall back to earth before crossing the equator and the southern hemisphere might escape relatively unscathed. Even in the northern hemisphere massive regions of Canada and the former USSR are basically arctic wilderness and would be far enough from the interesting targets to escape the worst of it. Sure, it wouldn't be an easy life, and cancer and mutation rates might skyrocket for a few centuries, but no real harm there (from a species survival context) As long as most of the girls survive long enough to have a few children, 15 or so is probably old enough, we'll be fine in the long run. Look at the Chernobyl exclusion zone, you can get almost within practically within hailing distance of the reactor before you hit the dead zone, and a few hundred yards outside that life is doing okay.

Re:Death (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#39872855)

Biologists have always been risking our extinction. I mean, the Cuban Sniffle Crisis? Hello? Didn't we learn ANYTHING from that?

I'm sorry, what's that? Cuban MISSILE crisis? Humanity has been flirting with it's own extinction through science for quite a while now? We still have enough nukes to destroy the world several times over, and this virus hasn't even been created yet?

Well, I mean, still, DEADLY DISEASES, we've never played around with that before, that's unique! What are we thinking?

What? The US continues to maintain smallpox stocks long after it's been eliminated in the wild for no obvious reason? And a naturally-occurring disease like Ebola could get into a major international airport and have much the same effect?

Hmm... so there's not really much to be scared about with this specific paper, we're constantly on the edge of catastrophe? Well then... that's oddly reassuring, kinda...

Re:Death (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | about 2 years ago | (#39883795)

And a naturally-occurring disease like Ebola could get into a major international airport and have much the same effect?

We now have a pretty effective Ebola vaccine [sciencedaily.com] and even before the vaccine the virus just wasn't all that contagious. People sick with the disease have traveled in crowded cities and crowded aircraft without a single recorded case of transmission.

Ebola is a very nasty disease if you haven't had the vaccine and certain varieties have very high mortality rates, but all of the outbreaks have been self-limiting and there haven't been any confirmed cases of airborne transmission of any of the strains that affect humans.

Smallpox would be make a very nasty weapon, but remember that humanity has dealt with the disease before. It did not wipe out our species. And because it only affects human beings it is vulnerable to mass vaccination programs. We killed it off once. We may be able to do so again.

Re:Death (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#39872881)

I don't want to sound fatalistic, but one day or another one of those guys makes a mistake and then 90% percent of mankind is going to die.

On the bright side, Al Gore will finally be correct. The debate regarding AWG will truly be over...

Among the remaining 10% of the population. Nature will have shown us it's solution. Not that anyone will be giving it any thought at that point. ;-)

Re:Death (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 2 years ago | (#39873157)

Nature will have shown us it's solution.

Nature by means of human scientists and genetic engineering?

Re:Death (2)

compro01 (777531) | about 2 years ago | (#39873499)

AFAICT, this isn't genetic engineering, just old fashioned selective breeding.

And if selective breeding can manage it, it can happen on its own if the proper selection pressure comes into play.

Re:Death (1)

pesho (843750) | about 2 years ago | (#39873359)

Yeah, that's what biologist spend their time on. Trying to figure out how to make bug deadlier to humans. I suggest we get rid of them scientist and go back to the good old small pox/black death/polyo days.

Re:Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39873443)

"I don't want to sound fatalistic, but one day or another one of those guys makes a mistake and then 90% percent of mankind is going to die."

You make it sound like you think that would be a bad thing.

This is (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872547)

FIRST! Because I rule.

Re:This is (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872801)

I mean... uh... the other first post. That was us. Me. For sure.

oh great (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39872555)

'Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets'

I'll be sad to see the ferrets go, but I fail to see how this rises to the level of NSABB.

Re:oh great (4, Informative)

g0es (614709) | about 2 years ago | (#39872615)

Human influenza can pass between ferrets and humans. http://www.petmd.com/ferret/conditions/respiratory/c_ft_human_influenza_virus [petmd.com]

Re:oh great (2)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39872643)

Solution: don't share saliva with a ferret.

Re:oh great (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872889)

>Solution: don't share saliva with a ferret.

You act like it's so simple.

Re:oh great (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#39876875)

Easy enough if there's no ferrets around, but if there are all it takes if one ferret-cough to send the virus airborne, and then good luck dodging it.

And the fact that human influenza can jump the species gap is all it needs to be scary, even if the human-fatal ferret flu couldn't. Viruses are way better at sexual reproduction (i.e. recombinant DNA exchange) than anything else on the planet, and influenza has a reputation as one of the more "adventurous" strains. If two or more compatible viruses happen to infect the same cell the result is thousands of new viruses made by mixing and matching the parent genomes every which way, at least few of them are liable to be better than any of their parents, for pretty much any definition of better you care to use. Including "Has the human infection mechanism and the ferret lethality variant"

hurry up (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 2 years ago | (#39872583)

i too eagerly await the publication of the step-by-step recipes for making transmissible flu i have those cool alton brown bed bath and beyond measuring cylinders and everything

Re:hurry up (1)

pesho (843750) | about 2 years ago | (#39872989)

You will be wasting your time, unless you also know how to make it resistant to current vaccines and neuraminidase inhibitors:

To assess whether current control measures may be effective against the H5 transmissible reassortant mutant virus, we examined the reactivity of sera from individuals vaccinated with an H5N1 prototype vaccine38 against a virus possessing the N158D/N224K/Q226L/T318I mutations in HA. We found that pooled human sera from individuals immunized with this vaccine reacted with the virus possessing the mutant H5 HA (N158D/N224K/Q226L/T318I) at a higher titre than with a wild-type H5 HA virus (VN1203/PR8; Supplementary Table 6), indicating that current H5N1 vaccines would be efficacious against the H5 transmissible reassortant mutant virus. In addition, the H5 transmissible reassortant mutant virus (HA(N158D/N224K/Q226L/T318I)/CA04) was highly susceptible to a licensed NA inhibitor, oseltamivir (Supplementary Table 7). These experiments show that appropriate control measures would be available to combat the transmissible virus described in this study.

Good science or bad science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872727)

Don't ask if this is good science or bad science or even if it is just good or bad. Instead ask how can we slap 5 asses onto that monkey. Don't ask why, just ask how. Sheeesh, f*cking scientists.

But I tought science was already dead (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#39872841)

Guess that doing a risk analysis before releasing the papers wasn't the end of the world after all.

Good Job.. isnt it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39872993)

after all information shoudl be free and all that right?

Plese keep in mind that the islamists and their like do not invent a single thing they use to kill others with.

that should not matter. they would love you for your sense of making things free and liberal. like that guy theo van something..

Re:Good Job.. isnt it? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39873053)

Plese keep in mind that the islamists and their like do not invent a single thing they use to kill others with.

You, sir, have obviously never seen the roadside bombs they place on our convoy routes.

Not that I support their goals, but I do admire the ingenuity of the little goat-fuckers when it comes to building deadly explosives out of trash they've found littered about.

What nobody seems to get (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#39873509)

What nobody seems to get is that by suppressing research into viruses and how they spread guarantees that MomNature, when she comes up with one, will make a virus to kill us all while we are standing around unprepared.

MomNature, unlike terrorists, doesn't sleep. Ever. Because evolution, baby.

Sure, use that "Ahmed the Goatfucker Terrorist" bad-movie-plot to justify silencing science. It will eventually come around to bite all of us in the ass.

...[B]ecause the grim reaper bears no doubt, cares not if you have prepared your way, and leaves crushed Zagnut nodules in the carpet. --Blair

--
BMO

Suckers (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | about 2 years ago | (#39873619)

Far too many people have bought into the War on Terror horseshit. There is nothing new here unless you have never in your life visited a scientific library. The stacks are full of the vast body of science, centuries of it. An enormous fraction of can be used for mischief by those who are skilled in the relevant arts. This paper breaks no new ground in that regard, hysterical public hype notwithstanding.

Beware of assuming that pundits or authorities are generally correct or that they have your best interests at heart. The War on Terror is a perverse, treacherous gravy train owned and operated by international mobsters and war criminals. They most certainly do not have your best interests at heart, unless your self image is that of a mindless beast of burden. Wake the fuck up.

Exactly what the Muslims want (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39876735)

90% of an advanced western country killed = collapse of civilisation.

90% of a Muslim country killed as an effect on striking the west = 90% become martyrs (and overtime at Allah's virgin factory)

Resulting chaos, lawlessness, tribes fighting for survival is the environment that cruel elitist beliefs like Islam excel in, this is why they try to overthrow any form of government

If they could do it I am sure they would. In teh aftermath you can be sure that they will be the ones prepared, rounding up the survivors and giving the "convert or be beheaded" ultimatum.

Re:Exactly what the Muslims want (2)

LeDopore (898286) | about 2 years ago | (#39877629)

Nice troll there. Sorry to the community that I'm feeding you, but I can't just sit there seeing your comment at +2 without pointing a few things out.

I'm an atheist, but I think I wouldn't be if I were born in a Muslim country. There are places in the world where if you're not a Muslim (or a Catholic, etc.) you're a social pariah. Many people have to at least pay lip service to a creed, and even if they would rather become atheist given the freedom of choice, they're not going to alienate themselves from their family and social support structure by "outing" themselves in a declaration of a radically different/nonexistent faith.

Comments like yours therefore discriminate against people not only by choices, but by where they were born. That's pretty narrow.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that the way a faith is interpreted is way more important than what the letter of the sacred texts might say. The Bible praises people for killing a man found gathering firewood on a Sabbath. Obviously, most sane Christians don't choose to follow that part of the Bible. Sane Muslims don't want to kill us. People who are currently insane Muslims would probably be insane atheists if Islam were to disappear overnight.

Similarly, every Muslim I've met is sane, friendly and understanding. If I had to make generalizations, I'd even say that Persian culture (at least the fragment that's escaped from Iran's bizarre regime) encourages contemplative meekness, not the crazy Jihad-spewing vitriol that the US South's pundits would have us believe is mandatory for every follower of Allah.

As an individual, you want to be judged by your actions as an individual. Please extend the same courtesy to Muslims individually, which means refraining from labeling them collectively as aggressive nut cases bent on world destruction.

Re:Exactly what the Muslims want (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39880851)

As an individual, you want to be judged by your actions as an individual. Please extend the same courtesy to Muslims individually, which means refraining from labeling them collectively as aggressive nut cases bent on world destruction.

But as an individual I also want to be lazy and take easy mental shortcuts to understanding complex situations. How can I do both?!

Re:Exactly what the Muslims want (1)

barv (1382797) | about 2 years ago | (#39887453)

You are mostly right.

But.

The sacred text of Christianity is the new testament, which is about the life of Jesus told by his disciples. The sacred text of the Muslims is the Koran (which are Mahommed's recitals of what God said to him in the desert). In addition to the Koran there are books written about Mahommed's life, and Mahommed's did a lot of contentious things (like committing genocide against a Jewish tribe in Medina, or taking a tithe from terrorism, or dealing in slaves).

I am quite sure that lots of Nazis were "sane, friendly and understanding", but "judge by their actions, not their words".

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