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How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the this-one-goes-to-11 dept.

Medicine 218

Lasrick (2629253) writes "A scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison published an article in June revealing that he had taken genes from the deadly human 1918 Spanish Flu and inserted them into the H5N1 avian flu to make a new virus—one which was both far deadlier and far more capable of spreading than the original avian strain. In July it was revealed that the same scientist was conducting another study in which he genetically altered the 2009 strain of flu to enable it to evade immune responses, 'effectively making the human population defenseless against re-emergence.' In the U.S. alone, biosafety incidents involving pathogens happen more than twice per week. These 'gain-of-function' experiments are accidents waiting to happen, with the possibility of starting deadly pandemics that could kill millions. It isn't as if it hasn't happened before: in 2009, a group of Chinese scientists created a viral strain of flu virus that escaped the lab and created a pandemic, killing thousands of people. 'Against this backdrop, the growing use of gain-of-function approaches for research requires more careful examination. And the potential consequences keep getting more catastrophic.' This article explores the history of lab-created pandemics and outlines recommendations for a safer approach to this type of research."

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Hacker culture in the lab (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670935)

It's not just for electronics and code anymore.

Re:Hacker culture in the lab (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671755)

It isn't as if it hasn't happened before: in 2009, a group of Chinese scientists created a viral strain of flu virus that escaped the lab and created a pandemic, killing thousands of people.

Lasrick, you dumb motherfucker.

The actual quote, which you linked to but obviously misread, states:

Such situations are not confined to the United States; China’s poor track record for laboratory containment means that it was "appallingly irresponsible" (in Lord May’s words) for a team of Chinese scientists to create a hybrid viral strain between the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the H1N1 human flu virus that triggered a pandemic in 2009 and claimed several thousand lives.

Link. [thebulletin.org]

The Chinese researchers didn't CAUSE the 2009 pandemic. In the paragraph above, "that triggered a pandemic in 2009 and claimed several thousand lives" refers to the H1N1 virus, not to the hybrid which they created. Try some basic research yourself before you post something so inflammatory and egregiously wrong. Where the hell are the editors? Oh, wait, never mind ....

Homeland security would like a word... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670941)

Someone put this scientist on the no fly list. That's some Twelve Monkeys shit he's pulling right there.

Re:Homeland security would like a word... (2)

magarity (164372) | about 4 months ago | (#47671083)

Someone put this scientist on the no fly list. That's some Twelve Monkeys shit he's pulling right there.

But if they're on the no fly list they won't be able to get a sample of the original virus.

Re:Homeland security would like a word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671351)

If he's on the no fly list he can't get the new virus to federal agency that asked for it to be created.

Re:Homeland security would like a word... (3, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | about 4 months ago | (#47671591)

The thing that boggles my mind about this is that apparently nobody in the chain of command at the university thinks there's anything wrong with what this brilliant idiot has done. If I were the prosecutor here, I would charge everybody who know about the experiment with a billion counts of attempted murder (just a back-of-the-envelope estimate), and throw the fuckers in the can for life. Unbelievable.

Re:Homeland security would like a word... (-1, Flamebait)

Barack Nigama (3779375) | about 4 months ago | (#47671903)

Well, it's a good thing you're not a fucking prosecutor then. Because we don't prosecute thought-crimes in this country.

Fucking fag.

Re:Homeland security would like a word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671937)

Attempted murder for doing some experiments in a lab? Life in prison? Did he ATTEMPT to release the virus into the population?

I'm sure glad you have no ties to our legal system in the United States. The other poster that called you a "fucking fag" understated it.

Re:Homeland security would like a word... (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 4 months ago | (#47671869)

Do you really believe that this is some rogue mad scientist? If so, why is the article not discussing the arrest of said mad scientist and how they are destroying all of their creations?

What's that old saying? "Absolute power corrupts absolutely.", and this is the real state of affairs with the US Federal Government. These projects are being funded and approved by that same source. It's right on par with dumping radiation on impoverished cities in the US in the 50s and 60s, giving ethnic minorities syphilis and studying how it corrodes the brain over time, or using depleted uranium munitions all over the middle east (but don't worry, the birth defects are only happening to those brown skilled people).

So ... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47670947)

They essentially are making biological weapons in violation of international treaties, but they're saying it's all OK because it's for research?

Sorry, but what? If someone in Iran was doing this people would be calling for airstrikes.

The hubris of thinking "it's OK, I'm a trained professional, nothing bad can happen" is mind boggling.

How is it even legal to be making deadlier strains of viruses?

Re:So ... (1)

symes (835608) | about 4 months ago | (#47670997)

There has to be a balance between the risks associated with this research and possible gains. Given the potential cost to human life it is hard to understand why this research should continue. Particularly as it is the community in which the lab is based that will inevitably suffer most should there be an incident.

Re:So ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671175)

Particularly as it is the community in which the lab is based that will inevitably suffer most should there be an incident.

A weapons-grade bioagent lab in the middle of downtown Boston? Sure, why not! [mit.edu]

Re:So ... (5, Insightful)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 4 months ago | (#47671005)

Yes that has to be it. It couldn't possibly be because biological research is amazingly difficult, and of the tools we have to study cells (few) we have even fewer to study viruses.

The entire point of gain-of-function studies is that you need to do them in order to confirm a hypothesis about what genes in a virus are actually doing. If you don't do them, you can't know. Knock-out studies aren't enough - you can easily break a certain system, but it doesn't tell you that you actually understand how it functions.

Sensationalist articles like this are incredibly stupid and dangerous to boot. We only have the slim number of effective anti-viral drugs we do because of research like this. How else do you think they figure out which biological pathways are worth targeting to shutdown a virus?

And that's not all: the other side of gain-of-function is of course to try and predict future vectors. Since treating the common flu is usually a losing prospect at the moment, and it takes time to manufacture things, its important to determine if any given species could trivially gain extra functionality which would make it dangerous - since that affects decisions about what strains to grow up for the yearly flu vaccine.

Re:So ... (5, Interesting)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 4 months ago | (#47671063)

I mean seriously. Skip the stupid article and actually read the abstract:

Wild birds harbor a large gene pool of influenza A viruses that have the potential to cause influenza pandemics. Foreseeing and understanding this potential is important for effective surveillance. Our phylogenetic and geographic analyses revealed the global prevalence of avian influenza virus genes whose proteins differ only a few amino acids from the 1918 pandemic influenza virus, suggesting that 1918-like pandemic viruses may emerge in the future. To assess this risk, we generated and characterized a virus composed of avian influenza viral segments with high homology to the 1918 virus. This virus exhibited pathogenicity in mice and ferrets higher than that in an authentic avian influenza virus. Further, acquisition of seven amino acid substitutions in the viral polymerases and the hemagglutinin surface glycoprotein conferred respiratory droplet transmission to the 1918-like avian virus in ferrets, demonstrating that contemporary avian influenza viruses with 1918 virus-like proteins may have pandemic potential.

The entire point of this research was to test whether we're at risk of something like the 1918 flu virus reoccurring, since the current avian flu virus is strikingly similar. This strikes me as kind of an important thing to know, since it informs almost every aspect of disease-response planning.

The research was about taking avian flu, performing some fairly likely gene splicing of the type we know can happen during viral replication or incubation, and seeing if the observations of similarity are a problem. Turns out they are. But that also suggests that we might be able to make drugs which target the specific genes which confer the worst effects.

Unless of course we do something really stupid, like letting sensationalist bullshit convince people to go all anti-science.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671371)

The problem with both of your conclusions, however, is why don't they destroy the deadly virus they've created after they get their results. They refrigerate it and keep it around so they can use it at some point in the future. In a weapon. Ultimately, the point of these modified diseases is to kill people. Not research.

Re:So ... (1, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 4 months ago | (#47671577)

We already know nature can create deadlier viruses. These are a bunch of irresponsible geeks seeing if they can make the most deadly strain for the mental masturbation and bragging rights. They don't need to do this to plan for disaster. And the only way their biology is likely to be of use is if their own strain escapes. Nature will make its own version which they will need to analyze for possible treatments. You don't need to create a potential civilization killer to learn those techniques either. Hubris is the right word for this.

Re:So ... (1)

mellon (7048) | about 4 months ago | (#47671637)

Um. Yes, it would be nice to know if we were at risk. But if the way to find out if we are at risk is by massively increasing the risk, maybe ignorance really is bliss in this case. That's the point the authors of the article are making, and I think it's an important point.

Re:So ... (4, Insightful)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 4 months ago | (#47671717)

It's not fair at all to link opposition to gain in function research to an "anti-science" mindset. You should be ashamed that you're resorting to that argument.

This is something which is seriously debated in the pages of serious journals, at scientific conferences and by government program managers. To link valid concerns to an "anti-science" crowd is political bullshit maneuvering.

There is a very real and valid cost/benefit analysis to be done on pursuing this work. As biology catches up to the physical sciences in scope and function, you're going to deal with the same issues we have dealt with (I am a physicist). One of those lessons is that scientists don't get to decide the purpose of our work. It doesn't matter what you write in your paper, or what the program manager tells you the purpose of the work is. It doesn't matter WHY someone does the work, all that matters is WHAT the work is. It's extremely naÃve to think an abstract in a research paper can properly define the purpose of a piece of research.

There are experiments and research paths we do not follow because the intellectual benefit does not outweigh the very real possibilities for misuse. You asked how you expect people to validate these hypothesis without the work? Take a page from physical science and learn to use computer modeling and limited experimental work in lieu of full studies. Do some tool development. Don't just throw up your hands and insist this is the only way. It's not.

This will require a cultural change, and there will be lots of hand-wringing over whether new results are valid, but biology will be a more mature field for it.

Re: So ... (3, Insightful)

MmmmAqua (613624) | about 4 months ago | (#47672015)

Okay, I hope I've misunderstood you. I work in genomics research, and your post seems, on its face, misinformed at best. Are you seriously suggesting that the computer modeling common to physics and chemistry can be applied to biological systems? Even in the case of something as "simple" as a virus (which may consist of tens to hundreds of thousands of kb pairs, specifying dozens or hundreds of RNA transcripts), simply modeling the virus is meaningless. You would also have to completely model host organisms and their immediate environments. Not even the NSA has that kind of compute power. You're dealing with emergent behaviors in interdependent systems far beyond the scope of what computer modeling can handle. There is no "model it as a simple sphere" approach in biology that can yield meaningful results at this level. Until we can phone up whatever god you happen to believe in (if any), the only way to find out what changing a virus will do to the virus, is to change the virus. The information gained is valuable enough that it is worth the minor risk involved in gaining it.

Re:So ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671087)

Gain of function can be tested on any virus.

Doing it on a virus known to spread airborne and that easily infects humans is questionable.

You can learn to program editing a "hello world" C++ sample code, or you can learn to program in a "fdisk" sample code.

mistakes on "hello world" will be harmless, yet you'll gonna learn the basics of how the program works.
mistakes on fdisk are not trivial and can render your system useless.

get the point?

Re:So ... (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 4 months ago | (#47671111)

Go and read the actual abstract. Or look above where I posted it. Because the article buries it under "PANIC", whereas the reasons to do this research are actually pretty obvious. I'll give you a hint: they didn't actually add anything. All they did was re-arrange the existing genome, and do some site-specific mutation tests.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671331)

My example is still valid. "Hacking" genome on a virus makes sense from a biological standpoint, choosing influenza virus or any easily transmited -airbore transmited ffs- one is questionable.

Re:So ... (1)

mellon (7048) | about 4 months ago | (#47671651)

Why does it make a difference how they made the virus more transmissible?

Re: So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671367)

...and of course, once the important research is done, written up and understood the experiments are incinerated, right?

Re: So ... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#47671557)

Obviously. All samples are shuttled to the Federal weapons-grade biology incinerator for thorough decontamination. What's that? The incinerator looks suspiciously like a cryonics facility? Don't be ridiculous, you're imagining things.

Re:So ... (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 4 months ago | (#47671067)

It's against the law but people do it anyway. Like going over the speed limit. Of butt fucking in Texas, or wherever there still are anti sodomy laws on the books. No matter what the law says, people will do whatever they want, even if temporarily before the cops catch up with them.

The solution is simple. Run away. To where? Outer space. It's not that far. Then on the space station the vacuum that surrounds you irradiated by UV and cosmic rays is a pretty good protectant against spreading of infection, even if not foolproof, but orders of magnitude better than the interconnected atmosphere down here.

Re:So ... (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 4 months ago | (#47671075)

Make sure you take a piece of mini jungle with you, Noah's Ark style. Other lifeforms may come in handy down the road.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671117)

Sounds like Silent Running.

Re:So ... (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 4 months ago | (#47671881)

Make the orbital facility completely unmanned. If you're worried about the delay in sending control signals to robotic manipulators with which researchers can perform experiments, send the researchers to the space station. If the orbital facility becomes contaminated, destroy it and let the heat of reentry sterilize the pieces or send it on a trajectory into the sun (which again will sterilize it.)

If it is just an unmanned experiment station, I wonder how small and how inexpensive we could make it.

Re:So ... (1)

enjar (249223) | about 4 months ago | (#47671071)

people would be calling for airstrikes.

Let's hit that lab with a high explosive, exposing the pathogen to the environment and letting it leave whatever containment it might be inside in a completely uncontrolled manner. What could possibly go wrong?

If there was military intervention, I'd hope it was a bit more thought out than an air strike.

Re:So ... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#47671567)

So would I. I'm not sure I'd bet on it though.

Re:So ... (1)

wes33 (698200) | about 4 months ago | (#47671835)

nuke the entire site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure

Re:So ... (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 4 months ago | (#47671879)

Fuel-air bomb maybe? Kill it with fire?

Re:So ... (1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 4 months ago | (#47671089)

If someone does it in the US, the USA would have just yet another humanity-endangering weapon. If someone does it in Iran, it would be Iran's only one. Therefore the risk is greater that the weapon will actually be used. And if it were only used as deturrent, Iran would emerge as new power. US already has a UN security council veto chair, so there is nothing to disturb here in the world's country hierarchy.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671127)

so there is nothing to disturb here in the world's country hierarchy

You're right, America is still full of elf entitled douchebags who hold a double standard for what they do versus what someone else does.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671919)

Wait, I thought to sound all Insightful and such around here we're supposed to use oligarchy, not hierarchy. Apparently I went on vacation and missed the memo. At least we're still shitting on the US; it wouldn't be Slashdot if we weren't.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671133)

How is it even legal to be making deadlier strains of viruses?

More lethal, not necessarily deadlier.
For the disease to spread effectively the victim has to be alive long enough to spread it and preferably lack symptoms.
Worldwide common flu kills between 250,000 to 500,000 people every year. Ever since the Black Death was active common flue has killed more people making it "more successful" in that regard.
Creating a supervirus is a tricky balance. If you make it kill off the victim too quickly it won't spread very far.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671169)

in violation of international treaties

You should read the summary again, it states quite clearly that the research is done by the U.S., international treaties do not apply.

Re:So ... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#47671583)

I really hope you're being facetious...

Re:So ... (1)

mellon (7048) | about 4 months ago | (#47671691)

Mod parent "Funny!" Only maybe s/he was serious. Sigh.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671503)

Maybe look into the actual laws and treaties against biological weapons:

"Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:

(1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;

(2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict."

They don't say it is illegal to ever have any such biological agents, only that you can't make it in large quantities, where small quantities are allowed if being used for peaceful research purposes. This is no different than various labs using chemical components of chemical weapons not running afoul of chemical weapons treaties. The treaties are there to stop mass production, stockpiling, and distribution methods. They don't make the agents illegal under any circumstances, especially in small quantities.

Re:So ... (1)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#47671645)

They essentially are making biological weapons in violation of international treaties, but they're saying it's all OK because it's for research?

The difference between using explosive in mining and construction, vs using them to make a bomb, reduces to nothing more than a matter of intent.


The hubris of thinking "it's OK, I'm a trained professional, nothing bad can happen" is mind boggling.

Much better to naively pretend that if random microbiologist guy can do it, ISIS can't?

IMO, only a matter of time before some rogue state or terrorist group manages to breed their own superbug. We therefore have a race occurring that we must win, at all costs. Engaging in this sort of core functionality research gives us a fighting chance when something eventually makes it into the wild. Not doing it means the 1% of the human race that survives the plague won't even know what the hell just happened.

Re:So ... (1)

radtea (464814) | about 4 months ago | (#47671833)

The hubris of thinking "it's OK, I'm a trained professional, nothing bad can happen" is mind boggling.

What is mind-boggling is that anyone takes a virulently anti-science organization like the dishonestly-named "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" seriously as a source of news about anything.

All you have to do is look at the source, and dismiss the claims as hysteria and lies.

This is not to say there might not be a story here, or something worth discussing, but until it is sourced from something other than an outlet for anti-science, anti-technology political shills it is all noise and no signal.

Ethics committee asleep at the wheel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670959)

Hell, common sense MIA.

Tube Neck... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670965)

Did no-one read "The Stand"...

phew! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670971)

I thought for a minute that this was an 'Ask Slashdot' article and that we as a species were screwed.

Re:phew! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671343)

LOL!

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670973)

What is the point of this research? Is there any benefit or are we taking risks for the fun of it?

Re:Why? (1)

mellon (7048) | about 4 months ago | (#47671697)

There is potential benefit. The problem is that the costs appear to outweigh the benefit by many orders of magnitude.

Huh (1)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#47670977)

Link to Chinese lab incidenrt?

Re:Huh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671011)

http://thebulletin.org/making-viruses-lab-deadlier-and-more-able-spread-accident-waiting-happen7374

Re:Huh (3, Insightful)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 4 months ago | (#47671245)

http://thebulletin.org/making-viruses-lab-deadlier-and-more-able-spread-accident-waiting-happen7374

Reading comprehension is such a lost art these days. It was the H1N1 virus that caused the pandemic, which the Chinese scientists used in their research; not the results of the Chinese research that caused the pandemic.

From the cited article:

a team of Chinese scientists to create a hybrid viral strain between the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the H1N1 human flu virus that triggered a pandemic in 2009 and claimed several thousand lives.

For those challenged individuals, this sentence fragment should be parsed as:

(a team of Chinese scientists) ... (create a hybrid viral strain) (BETWEEN) (the H5N1 avian influenza virus) AND (the H1N1 human flu virus that triggered a pandemic in 2009 and claimed several thousand lives).

Re:Huh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671033)

It's a misreading of the (poorly worded) article, which says:

China’s poor track record for laboratory containment means that it was "appallingly irresponsible" (in Lord May’s words) for a team of Chinese scientists to create a hybrid viral strain between the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the H1N1 human flu virus that triggered a pandemic in 2009 and claimed several thousand lives.

It was H1N1 which caused the pandemic in 2009, not the hybrid.

Re:Huh (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 4 months ago | (#47671319)

you must be new here. Slashdot articles have devolved into tabloid trash level sensationalist nonsense. Read for entertainment value.

Re:Huh (1)

RDW (41497) | about 4 months ago | (#47671423)

Slashdot editors - please fix the submitter's grotesque misreading of the linked article in the summary! Creating fictional outbreaks of lab viruses leading to thousands of deaths should be left to bad movies, not 'news' sites. Which isn't to say, of course, that there aren't genuine risks to consider. High level containment of various viruses in China and elsewhere has been breached on a number of occasions in the last few decades, sometimes with fatal consequences, e.g.:

http://thebulletin.org/unaccep... [thebulletin.org]

"... there have already been three escapes from BSL-4 containment since 1990: a Marburg virus laboratory-acquired infection at the Vector facility in the Soviet Union in 1990, a foot and mouth disease virus escape from the Pirbright facility in England, and a SARS virus laboratory-acquired infection from a BSL-4-rated biosafety cabinet in a Taiwan laboratory."

http://thebulletin.org/threate... [thebulletin.org]

"SARS has not re-emerged naturally, but there have been six escapes from virology labs: one each in Singapore and Taiwan, and four separate escapes at the same laboratory in Beijing."

Luckily, none of these incidents involved 'gain of function' strains, but the potential for a catastrophic incident is certainly there.

Re:Huh (1)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#47671593)

As I suspected.

I think this is where they say (2)

Speedcraver (868818) | about 4 months ago | (#47670983)

Just because you can, does not mean you should! I am sure sometimes good things can come out of this type of exercise, but is it worth it once you weigh the risk / benefit ratio?

WHY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670985)

>>he had taken genes from the deadly human 1918 Spanish Flu and inserted them into the H5N1 avian flu to make a new virus—one which was both far deadlier and far more capable of spreading than the original avian strain.

What, why?

>> the same scientist was conducting another study in which he genetically altered the 2009 strain of flu to enable it to evade immune responses, 'effectively making the human population defenseless against re-emergence.'

Whhhyyyyyyy?!

Sounds like a genuine "mad scientist". Next thing we know he'll be demanding millions, if not billions of dollars while holding the whole world ransom. He probably makes laser beams in his free time...

Re:WHY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671957)

From Phineas and Ferb and the Temple of Juatchadoon:

Isabella: Isabella Garcia-Shapiro. Femme fatale, ingenue, amateur archeologist, and licensed tile and grout installer. (A Tarzan-like figure in a loincloth swings from a vine behind them) A girl has to earn a living!
Ohio: Pleased to meet you! Do you know anything about...this? (Removes the amulet from around his neck)
Isabella: (Gasps) The Amulet of Juatchadoon! The legend says it can awaken an evil corn colossus with the power to destroy the world!
Ohio: Makes you wonder why ancient people were always making stuff like that...I mean, what's the upside? (A number of arrows fly behind them)

WHAT? 2009 pandemic came from Mexico, not China (2)

dtolman (688781) | about 4 months ago | (#47670991)

Why should anyone take this seriously when the lede itself contains conspiracy fodder? The 2009 swiine flu outbreak started in Mexico - it wasn't some lab virus and it certainly didn't escape from China.

Re:WHAT? 2009 pandemic came from Mexico, not China (1)

jovius (974690) | about 4 months ago | (#47671135)

Yes, that "thousands of people" doesn't even appear in the referenced articles. In the referenced article [independent.co.uk] it's only speculated that IF the strain would escape from the lab there would be serious consequences. That article is about the justification of doing the said research in the first place, but also quotes the original researchers and their findings.

Re:WHAT? 2009 pandemic came from Mexico, not China (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 months ago | (#47671249)

Can there be only one pandemic in a year or something? The fantastic summary said nothing about swine flu.

The solution is quite simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47670995)

STOP IT!

If they stop creating deadly pathogens, these problems go away.

Re:The solution is quite simple... (4, Insightful)

Alejux (2800513) | about 4 months ago | (#47671093)

No one made the Spanish Flu, yet it appeared and killed millions of people. This type of study, while dangerous if not done safely, will help protect us from future occurrences of similar types of virus. The best way we can protect ourselves from an enemy, if to understand them. This is much needed research.

Re:The solution is quite simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671307)

No one made the Spanish Flu, yet it appeared and killed millions of people. This type of study, while dangerous if not done safely, will help protect us from future occurrences of similar types of virus. The best way we can protect ourselves from an enemy, if to understand them. This is much needed research.

Another good way to protect ourselves from the enemy is to not create a bigger more powerful one, especially when it outgrows any vaccine or cure, intentional or not.

Redundancy or illiterate attempt at intensifiers? (4, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 4 months ago | (#47671003)

in 2009, a group of Chinese scientists created a viral strain of flu virus

a viral strain of flu virus

Well, at least it wasn't a... eukaryotic strain of flu virus?

Re:Redundancy or illiterate attempt at intensifier (1)

Pope (17780) | about 4 months ago | (#47671181)

They just mean that everyone on Twitter and Youtube shared it :D #goviral #yolo

Re:Redundancy or illiterate attempt at intensifier (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about 4 months ago | (#47671509)

Well, at least it wasn't a... eukaryotic strain of flu virus?

Thank you. Now I don't have to post this.

Safest approach (0)

Alioth (221270) | about 4 months ago | (#47671037)

The safest approach is to not fscking do this kind of insanity in the first place.

Re:Safest approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671101)

The safest approach is to nuke the planet from orbit .... it's the only way to be sure.

Re:Safest approach (1)

Alejux (2800513) | about 4 months ago | (#47671147)

The best way to protect the human race from future occurrences of deadly pathogens, such as ebola and Spanish flu, is to study them and understand why they are so deadly so we can find ways we can counteract them if similar epidemics occur in the future.

Re:Safest approach (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#47671185)

The safest approach is to not fscking do this kind of insanity in the first place.

Certainly. If the research is likely to have a public health benefit (likely, not tenuous connection), and there is NO other way to obtain the benefit, then I could see room for debate and careful consideration.

Short of that, this is just playing with fire. It seems like we have more controls over using primates in experiments than creating civilization-destroying viruses...

Kill the researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671045)

It's the only way to make the labs safer.

There's "ZERO" reason to be fucking around with viruses to make them deadlier.

Biological weapons were banned for a reason. Anyone trying to make them deadlier needs to be shot immediately and left to rot.

Re:Kill the researcher (1)

alw53 (702722) | about 4 months ago | (#47671241)

Absolutely agree. This is just bio weapons research under a different name and I'll bet you anything it's funded by DARPA.

Re:Kill the researcher (1)

Alejux (2800513) | about 4 months ago | (#47671317)

This is NOT a fcking biological warfare research! For fucksake, read about the research! It's about understanding why the Spanish Flu was so deadly. This research helped us identify the genes which made that disease so deadly in the first place, so we have a better fighting chance to prevent other similar diseases from killing millions of people like that one did.

Re: Kill the researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671417)

Of course it isn't a bio weapon. It just happens that a byproduct of this importan research is er, a bio weapon

Re: Kill the researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671453)

No officer I wasn't speeding I was just stretching my leg... Well that's ok then

Re:Kill the researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671523)

Biological weapons were banned for a reason.

Biological weapons are only banned in the sense that you can't stockpile or produce biological agents beyond an amount reasonable for peaceful (e.g. research) purposes.

The Holmes quote needs to die (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671077)

U.S. v. Schenck was an atrocious anti free speech case. Brandenburg v. Ohio subsequently overturned any authority from Schenck.
[url]http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/its-time-to-stop-using-the-fire-in-a-crowded-theater-quote/264449/[/url]

Re:The Holmes quote needs to die (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 4 months ago | (#47671661)

Interesting, but completely off-topic.

Viral strain of flu virus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671103)

Isn't "viral" implied by it being a virus?

Typhoid Mary as a scientist rather than a cook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671113)

This guy is the scientific equivalent of the infamous Typhoid Mary.

From Wikipedia:

"Mary Mallon (September 23, 1869 Ã" November 11, 1938), better known as Typhoid Mary, was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. She was presumed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook.[1] She was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoid_Mary

It took public health officials far too long to realize what they needed to do with the utterly irresponsible Mary Mallon. The same, I suspect, might be true for this scientist, although in his case the death toll could run in the millions rather than just three.

By all means read the article that's linked. This guy really does seem to lack both common sense and any moral compass. He's all ambition and little else.

http://thebulletin.org/making-viruses-lab-deadlier-and-more-able-spread-accident-waiting-happen7374

Note especially the closing: "As David Relman of the Stanford School of Medicine recently pointed out in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the time has come for a balanced and dispassionate discussion that 'must include difficult questions, such as whether there are experiments that should not be undertaken because of disproportionately high risk.'"

Haven't they read The Stand??? (0, Redundant)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 4 months ago | (#47671119)

Why are they doing this? there is absolutely *nothing* to be gained from this, except weaponization. (which is against the convention)

Let's say someone does the same in MIddle East, they would be carpet-bombing the place in the name of "but terrorists".

Seriously, could someone explain to me what could be gained from creating a deadlier critter?

While we're at it, let's add anthrax,HIV and Ebola into it, just to be sure it's deadly enough. Hey, let's bring smallpox back (altough I wouldn't be surprised if there was still some in test tubes somewhere)

Re:Haven't they read The Stand??? (4, Informative)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 4 months ago | (#47671165)

Seems pretty obvious you didn't try and click through to the freely available abstract, which explains exactly why they did this. It's linked in the article in the OP (who notably also probably didn't read it).

Re:Haven't they read The Stand??? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#47671463)

Most countries that ratified the Bioweapons Convention [wikipedia.org] just moved all their offensive research under the umbrella of defensive programs.

The difference between "we're making this stuff to kill people" and "we're making this stuff to design defenses against killing people" is one of semantics.

Re:Haven't they read The Stand??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671763)

They may have. They may have also realized that The Stand is a fucking fiction novel written by a cocaine addict and decided that basing their strategies around handling deadly pandemics on Stephen King's wet dream about the apocalypse.

If you seriously believe there is nothing to gain, then you're too ignorant to be participating in the discussion in the first place. It's a pretty damn simple concept. In order to determine how best to treat an infectious disease like the avian flu, they need to know how it works in the first place. How does it spread? What potential mutations could cause it to cross over into the human population? What potential mutations could make it more lethal? There's no way of answering _any_ of those questions by looking at the dead people after the fact. We're still not sure exactly how Ebola is carried from place to place, for example, because it appears, kills so quickly that there's little to no opportunity to even study it, then it disappears again. The only way to practically create a vaccine for ebola is to successfully grow it in a lab...step one, you know how it grows, what makes it grow, what's more likely to make its growth accelerate or decelerate. The only other option, the one you seem to think is more sensible, would be to sit back, let the disease run its course then take guesses at what the hell was happening. That's your solution. That's your plan. I hate to break it to you, but that's also really, really fucking stupid.

Oh sure, I'm guessing you're wrapping more tinfoil around your head as I write this, with the idiotic question still rattling around in your baked potato of a skull -- why make it more lethal than it was in the first place? Again, simple concept. If you don't know what turns a regular, run of the mill flu into the sort of monster that was the Spanish Flu...then you have no idea when that will actually happen, or where, or why. You just know that it will, at some point...and if you're not prepared for it millions of people die. It's the same reason doctors, researchers, the WHO and all have been raising the red flag about overuse of antibiotics and the resistant strains of bacteria that are cropping up as a result... Likely if you have children (and I seriously hope you're not polluting the gene pool at the same time you want it to be protected), they'll grow up in a world where a papercut could kill them from an infection. Fun diseases like syphilis will no longer shrink back in fear from the strongest antibiotics on the shelf, so it will go back from being a minor health threat to the sort of disease that literally leaves the victim's flesh and muscle rotting away from their bones.

Since you seem to like post-apocalypse garbage, how about this line from 28 Days Later? "In order to cure, we must first understand." That means taking controlled risks in order to avoid uncontrollable ones...and yes, that includes making a pre-existing disease more deadly, because it's the only way to find out _how_ it becomes more deadly. Oh sure, we could all take your tree-hugger attitude and do no biological research on any sort of bacteria, virus etc. In your version of the world, we'd study lethal diseases and pathogens by...observing the aftermath? That's your plan? "No, we shouldn't be doing this research, it's dangerous and there's no good reason for it! It's only made for weaponization! We should wait until the bodies start piling up and then...I don't know, take a guess at it. Blame it all on the 'miasma' because we don't have any other credible ideas."

You want a good reason? Here's one. The research they're doing might actually _save_ your worthless life one day, because when some superbug does make its way into the population, if it does spread across the globe...we'll have researchers who have been beating down laboratory-created pathogens ten times as deadly. They'll know what makes it lethal, which is the first step to determining how to make it _less_ lethal, which is one step in the long road toward creating cures or vaccines.

You're welcome, you fucking twat.

Disease - deadly vs wide spread (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 4 months ago | (#47671183)

Most of the time, something that is deadly is by definition NOT dangerous.

Why? Because it kills before it spreads. That is why Ebola is not particularly scary.

The real 'dangerous' virus kill about 20% of the time, and in the rest of the population it just makes sick - so it can be passed along to other people.

Now, there are exceptions. Prime examples are diseases that spread by air and can also reproduce in non-humans. Another prime example is a disease with a long incubation and minimal symptoms until it kills. Aids is a good example of this. It suffers from the difficulty in transmission, but otherwise is dangerous.

But back to the original dangerous virus. Something that kills 20% of the time, but otherwise lives in you without killing you. This is really nasty. Think of one out of every five people you know being killed by something they caught from YOU.

Re:Disease - deadly vs wide spread (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671753)

Most of the time, something that is deadly is by definition NOT dangerous.

Why? Because it kills before it spreads. That is why Ebola is not particularly scary.

Yes, technically you are correct. Ebola is so deadly it works against itself with regards to spreading.

In its current form.

And now that I've stated that , fucking around with viruses like Ebola and end up with a goddamn level-4 airborne pathogen is EXACTLY what would turn it into one of the scariest things mankind has ever come across.

And once something like that goes airborne, good luck even trying to deploy a vaccine before it wipes out half the fucking planet. The speed at which it would kill would turn your pathetic global logistics plans into a comedy routine.

Re:Disease - deadly vs wide spread (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 4 months ago | (#47672017)

Airborne means we quarantine the area and let people die. But the rest of the world lives on. Nasty, but not really dangerous. Isolation kills the disease.

People think that airborne means it wafts from pole to pole. No. Airborne means it travels short distances. Measles for example spreads by air - up to 2 hours. Generally in the same room.

The deadliest virus in the past 100 years was the 1918 Spanish Flu. 75 Million dead. Less than 7% that got sick died. Source [cdc.gov] Over 60% of the population got sick, and most that did die died from complications. Airborne is not super nasty. A toxicity of about 20% would in the US kill 20 Senators, almost 100 congressmen, and 2 Supreme Court Judges (possibly more, SCOTUS are old and fragile).

Twenty percent toxicity would destroy our civilization. The fears of airborne are true, but overblown,

worse than nukes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671221)

Great. Now just leave it to some malevolent group to increase the incubation period to a few months and send a carrier to each major city.

When They Mess With Mother Nature... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671223)

They'll Get Burned

how about ... (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 4 months ago | (#47671229)

not trying to create fucking deadly viruses in the first place?

hopefully someone offs this cocksucker (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671329)

hopefully someone offs this cocksucker

Excellent way to kill off 5 or 6 bil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671335)

And make it look like an "accident"..

Oddly (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671409)

Killing 2/3 of the human population of the planet might make mother nature happier? We are due aren't we?

Vote For Walker (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671515)

This is exactly why a vote for Walker is a vote for Wisconsin. These liberals in Madison have no compunctions about endangering the citizens of the Great State, and despite repeated polite requests, refuse to stop their risky behavior. Like any good leader, Walker took other action to protect the people of Wisconsin, but cutting science and education funding, stopping the problem at its root before more harm could come to us.

deadlier? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671555)

If the lab is safe, how would we know the virus is deadlier?

WhatMeWorry!

shYit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671669)

Halt. Even Emacs While 7h3 project

You call it research... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47671977)

I call it bio-terrorism.

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