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Researchers Reconstruct 1918 Flu Virus

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the what's-your-function dept.

Science 321

Gnpatton writes "CNN is running a story on how researchers have recreated the gene sequence for the 1918 virus which claimed 50 million lives. The mapping for the gene sequence was found on a victim frozen in Alaskan permafrost. From the article: 'Using a technique called reverse genetics, the Mount Sinai researchers used the genetic coding to create microscopic, virus-like strings of genes, called plasmids.'" Researchers are hoping that reconstructing a virus like this will help them to better understand similar problems. The structure was originally determined earlier this year.

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Sick and should be forbidden... (-1, Flamebait)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725653)

... (no pun intended). What in earth can make scientists behave so irresponsible. They eliminated smallpox [who.int] from almost all laboratories a few years ago to make sure it could never be used again. Now they are reviving an old virus that was completely eradicated. This does not make sense, other than for the nobel-prize signs in the scientists eyes (which they should not get).

What if this secured facility gets compromised, an accident happens that leads to the infection of one of the staff, testtubes are improperly sterilized. I could name hundreds of things that could go wrong, and will not even start wildly speculating what would happen if 5HN1 somehow mutates with this virus.

Ofcourse, I am not a biomedical researcher, but some common sense tells me one thing: don't start digging in shit if you can't stand the smell.
I am in favor of medical progress, but recreating extinct live viri should be absolutely banned.

Then again, this article is hugely outdated, as a simple wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] tells us they recreated the virus in 2002 already. That leads to an even more doubtful stance on the exact reasons for creating this particular strain today...
Maybe we should start detonating H-bombs above ground again to see if we can learn something new from that ?

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (5, Interesting)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725686)

FUD. Science must progress and if testing with 'real' virii is the answer and the risk than what are the choices, really? We wait for the research to be done on us but by the wrong people? I for one welcome my forward leaning overloads.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725793)

Science must progress and if testing with 'real' virii is the answer

I don't question that science must move forward, and this means taking risk. however, I'm a bit at a lose to what, exactly, this is the answer TO?

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (5, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725713)

What the fuck is wrong with you?

What if this secured facility gets compromised, an accident happens that leads to the infection of one of the staff, testtubes are improperly sterilized. I could name hundreds of things that could go wrong, and will not even start wildly speculating what would happen if 5HN1 somehow mutates with this virus.

You can make this argument about any virus. Your argument, taken to its logical conclusion, implies that we should not do any research on any harmful micro-organism for fear of it getting out. Ignoring harmful things and hoping they go away is not an intelligent strategy.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725749)

Except this time there is on demand world travel. You have to be quite insane to think it would be a good idea to recreate one of the most contagious deadly agents in history. What could possibly be gained beyond the extinction of humans because someone made an oops.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (2, Interesting)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725788)

I am sure someone who actually knows about biology will correct me if I'm wrong... but surely the reason we are alive today is because we are descended from the people who were immune to the original strain of the virus?

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (4, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725818)

I am sure someone who actually knows about biology will correct me if I'm wrong... but surely the reason we are alive today is because we are descended from the people who were immune to the original strain of the virus?

More likely because our parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were either not infected or lived after becoming infected. Doing a quick search find that the mortality rate was 2.5%. That means that 2.5% of all those who became infected died. Given that 50 million people died, that's 2 billion people that were infected. Chances are you foreparents had it.

So are we immune? No. Did we descend from the lucky ones? Yes.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725825)

Evolution doesn't occur much in a span of a century. We are alive today because some people contracted the original strain of the virus and got sick, but lived. Other lucky individuals never contracted it in the first place.

Maybe a handful of people were truly, genetically resistant to the virus prior to exposure. However, there were enough survivors *not* fitting into that category to make evolution a non-factor here.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1)

stinkwinkerton (609110) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725826)

This is obviously a troll, but I'll bite:
Supposing your scenario comes true, it does not mean that everyone on earth is going to die. It means that the people who get sick with the flu will be at a much higher risk of death. It may mean that almost all of those people die, although my personal opinion is that this will not be the case, and you are probably looking at maybe 50% of the people, but I ain't a scientist.

However, not everyone gets the flu. And some people get the flu and it isn't nearly as bad as everyone else.

With or without air travel, if the 1918 flu killed everyone that even had contact with a person who had the flu, entire societies would have been wiped off the earth. I am pretty sure that didn't happen then, and dont think it happen now.

This is not to make light of the situation, a pandemic, if/when it occurs, will suck incredibly badly for a society and for families and measures will need to be taken to prevent the spread.

But extinction? C'mon. Get a grip. This isn't "The Stand."

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (3, Informative)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725891)

"With or without air travel, if the 1918 flu killed everyone that even had contact with a person who had the flu, entire societies would have been wiped off the earth. I am pretty sure that didn't happen then, and dont think it happen now."

Actually I think that I heard the idea that some viruses are too strong for their own good, for example Ebola. If they have 100% death rate (Ebola is close) they kill themselves -- viruses need to leave people alive to get spread or need to have very long incubation period. A virus that kills 100% of the people it infects in 1 day is less dangerous than a virus that kills 60% in 2 weeks.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1)

stinkwinkerton (609110) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726042)

That makes a lot of sense. My comment was meant to address the fact that, either way, the odds of mass extinction of the species due to this virus are fairly slim, or none.

I did not say ignore... (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725857)

...I said pursue medical interest with caution. And I did put in the subject of retesting H-bombs above ground again for a reason: This is not ANY virus, this is a virus that killed of millions of people, our ancestors so to speak. You can test live viri, just stay clear of some of them.
As a compromise: at least put forward your testing before a medical and ethical committee before you start your experiments...
Being ignorant in experimenting with death is illogical.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725861)

What the fuck is wrong with you that you can't use civilized language?

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725943)

Luddite Nonsense! Welcome to the "ban everything that sounds scary to the ignorant and uninformed" brainless chicken-little crowd. Understanding this virus will go a long way toward prevention and treatment of possible recurrence of both that virus and other flu viruses. You ought to be worrying about something more real. The 1918 epidemic had a fatality rate of only about 2.5% but infected a huge number - hence the number of deaths. The H5N1 (current bird flu) has a fatality rate between 30% and 80% - if that develops a similar rate of transmission in humans by genetic reassortment then we really do have something to worry about and any knowledge will be helpful.

Yeah but... (1)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726054)

"You can make this argument about any virus."

Yeah but this particular virus killed over 50 million people.... Not quite the same as playing around with a virus that will only give you the sniffles.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725714)

Curiosity once killed a continent.

Captain Tripps (1)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725720)

We all know where this will lead...

Re:Captain Tripps (4, Funny)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725781)

Other researchers in the field have questioned the scientific benefits of bringing back the lethal virus which once took an estimated 50 million lives. Counterterrorism experts have described a potential doomsday scenario for this virus which the population is no longer as immune to, wherein it once again ends up being spread among the general population.

Asked for comment, Dr. Jeffrey Tauenberger, who led the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology team that restored the virus, cackled "Fools! I'll destroy them all!"

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725737)

In otherwords, rather than studying this virus in a controlled environment, you propose waiting until a similar virus capable of killing millions appears all on its own.

Your reasoning is that terrorists (who so far have only ever managed to kill a few thousand people at any one time) might somehow acquire the virus, when they haven't yet managed to acquire and use one of thousands of other deadly agents.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1)

_pi-away (308135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725769)

From the article.

The public health risk of resurrecting the virus is minimal, U.S. health officials said. People around the world developed immunity to the deadly 1918 virus after the pandemic, and a certain degree of immunity is believed to persist today. Also, in previous research, scientists concluded that modern antiviral medicines are effective against Spanish flu-like viruses.

Hope I didn't rain on your FUD, but I'm sure most of it won't get through your tinfoil hat.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725908)

a certain degree of immunity is believed to persist today.

What if their belief is wrong?
Oh well?

Scientists are never wrong on conclusions either, so lets get some!

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (5, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725780)

Then again, this article is hugely outdated, as a simple wikipedia article tells us they recreated the virus in 2002 already. That leads to an even more doubtful stance on the exact reasons for creating this particular strain today...

You misread it: In an experiment, published in October 2002, they were successful in creating a virus with two 1918 genes.

It does not say they recreated the original virus. The 1918 virus occured before flu vaccines had come about. As such, we currently have no vaccine against that particular strain. The researchers think that by studying the 1918 virus they can learn some information that may help with the current avian flu 5HN1.

Does the 1918 virus scare the shit out of me? Yes, just as much as the idea of 5HN1 infecting humans. But if studying the 1918 flu help combat 5HN1, I'm all for it.

Two points... (4, Informative)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725790)

> They eliminated smallpox [who.int] from almost all laboratories a few years ago to make sure it could never be used again.

"Almost" doesn't cut it. And if you think the former Soviet Union (and former United States) really eliminated their last reserves of the virus, you're seriously deluded.

> Now they are reviving an old virus that was completely eradicated. This does not make sense, other than for the nobel-prize signs in the scientists eyes (which they should not get).

The 1918 pandemic strain killed off the most vulnerable portion of the population three or four generations ago. Subsequently, mutations to that strain that were less virulent than the original appeared. These less-virulent strains didn't kill their hosts as quickly (and often, didn't kill the host at all!), and turned out to be better-adapted to their environment than the original. These less-virulent strains worked their way throughout the rest of the population. The world ended up with a not-so-bad version of the flu, and a relatively high resistance in the surviving population. All in all, a lousy environment for the original or the less-virulent strains to propagate.

Don't worry about the 1918 flu getting out. First, it almost certainly won't. Second, if it does, it won't be nearly as bad as it was in 1918, largely due to the fact that anyone who was highly vulnerable to it had been ejected from the gene pool by 1920.

> I could name hundreds of things that could go wrong, and will not even start wildly speculating what would happen if 5HN1 somehow mutates with this virus.

Don't worry about an H5N1 recombination (or reassortment) with the 1918 flu. You'd need someone to be simultaneously infected with both viruses. The probability of that is vanishingly small. (As is the probability of the 1918 flu escaping and setting up a reservoir population in birds or pigs.)

Worry about a human-to-human transmissible evolution of H5N1. If the strain currently fiddling around Jakarta [recombinomics.com] is reproducing by means of human to human transmission, and if that strain is doing so via casual contact (to date, it appears that most cases from this cluster involve zoo visitors, their immediate families, and health care workers -- so we don't yet have confirmation of h2h transmission, let alone via casual contact), then worry.

If a human-to-human transmissible of H5N1 shows up, and if it's as lethal to humans as the version currently floating around Asia, you're looking at somewhere between 100M and 300M dead before a weaker variant evolves.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725802)

Time to change your meds dude. It's far far easier to make deadly bioweapons out of more common bacteria and viruses than it is to build one of these guys from scratch. You are also not taking into account that deadly strains of influenza do in fact pop up now and then entirely on their own (as this one did almost a century ago). Recustructing the virus will enable us to take measures against it by allowing us to design vacines for it.

It would make more sense to build a weapon out of something you're likely to find in your own backyard than incurring the expense of constructing a virus from it's constituent bases.

I used to make oligonucleotides for a living (some for PCR, others for probes etc) and it's a bitch to make things longer than a few hundred bases. Moreso if you've got to do trasnscription and trnaslation to get the ultimate product (we didn't do that).

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you shouldn't comment on something when you don't understand it. Lack of understanding leads to fear, and fear to stupid descisions being made.

Leave science to scientists.

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725806)

Next I think they should revive some extinct species of mosquito.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (3, Funny)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725811)

Maybe we should start detonating H-bombs above ground again to see if we can learn something new from that ?

It might be fun actually. I think that we should to atmospheric nuclear tests on big holidays. It could be like fireworks, only much more entertaining.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (4, Insightful)

Mercaptan (257186) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725816)

I understand your intuition that reviving a killed off deadly strain of the flu could be dangerous, but given the mutability of flu viruses, the potential for new deadly strains is very much real and we have to study our epidemiological history to avoid them.

Studying viruses is very difficult, as you can only tell so much from examining the raw sequence information or using simulations. Everything from the exact mechanism of transmission to how this flu caused so many deaths to (and this is probably the most important) how this bug made it from animals to humans is still not precisely known. In order to learn such things, you'd have to directly infect some test organisms or cells and observe the effects and do other lab studies using a live viruses. There is just no substitute. (Another controversial approach involves deliberately crossing human and avian and porcine flus to try and generate one that will cross between the species)

The justification for doing so is clear, and goes beyond a desire for Nobel glory, many scientists agree that we are just a day away from another deadly and widespread flu epidemic. If we are going to predict and prevent such an epidemic, we need to really understand the kinds of features that made the "Spanish" flu possible and so potent. Another massive problem we have is the utter lack of real epidemiological surveillance in large domesticated animal populations (on chicken and pig farms, for example). Not only do we need to do this, but we need to understand the viral features that we need to look for.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725868)

Ofcourse, I am not a biomedical researcher, but some common sense tells me one thing: don't start digging in shit if you can't stand the smell. I am in favor of medical progress, but recreating extinct live viri should be absolutely banned.

Why? How else are we supposed to understand the capabilities of the virus that will cause the next pandemic, if we don't observe a virus that caused a previous one? The nature of influenza viruses, and particularly the highly virulant ones, must be fully mapped to give us the knowledge to understand where they come from, how they spread, and hopefully, how to develop vaccines and other treatments to prevent another 1918-like outbreak.

Or we can just go "that's scary", bury are heads in the sand and be taken out when another uber-virulent bird flu makes the leap from cross-species infection to human-to-human infection.

Oh come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725886)

It would only kill some obese Americans anyway. Not like anybody gives a fuck.

Re:Sick and should be forbidden... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725929)

Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Cricheton. Michael Cricheton, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. He'll be here all week.

What are they smoking? (-1, Troll)

PopeOptimusPrime (875888) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725668)

Because, you know, it's a good idea to recreate things that took millions of deaths to defeat.

Re:What are they smoking? (1)

gunpowda (825571) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725724)

Justification used for every hack-job of some random program to run on some obscure unintended platform:

Because they can!

Re:What are they smoking? (2, Informative)

imemyself (757318) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725759)

And likely would take millions of deaths to defeat again if we don't learn anything about how it works/is similar to current bird flu's(whats the plural form of flu?). The CDC probably has enough viruses and diseases that something like this is the least of anybodies concern if something happened at the CDC and stuff got out.

Re:What are they smoking? (4, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725849)

The 1918 flu didn't kill very many people directly. What killed was secondary infections such as pneumonia. Modern medicine may not be much better than 1918 medicine at dealing with viruses, but treatment of bacterial infections has come a long way since then. Besides, we don't have an entire generation of young men who were exposed to poison gas this time around.

I don't think that the 1918 flu would be the major killer now that it was originally.

Re:What are they smoking? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725911)

Even the best-funded medical systems are not capable of handling the load of an enormous fraction of the population heading in for antibiotics at once. Even less virulent flu seasons have lead to serious strain on hospitals, and if there a virus as vicious as the 1918 one, even if a shot of tetracycline is all it takes to get rid of any secondary infections, having thousands of people rushing their children, their elderly and themselves into emergency rooms and clinics is going to simply break the system.

Re:What are they smoking? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725914)

The 1918 flu didn't kill very many people directly. What killed was secondary infections such as pneumonia. Modern medicine may not be much better than 1918 medicine at dealing with viruses, but treatment of bacterial infections has come a long way since then. Besides, we don't have an entire generation of young men who were exposed to poison gas this time around. I don't think that the 1918 flu would be the major killer now that it was originally.

Additionaly, medical science now recognizes hte need to cover the nose. The 1918 flu was airborne and I remember seeing a video of an old film recording from the 1918 flu where a leading nurse "corrected" a lower nurses mask so that it did not cover her nose and only covered her mouth. (Back then they used scarf like cloths for masks). So even if it did get out, we have a couple more ways to help keep from getting infected.

Re:What are they smoking? (2, Informative)

sessamoid (165542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726012)

The 1918 flu didn't kill very many people directly. What killed was secondary infections such as pneumonia.

While that's true for most flu seasons, the 1918 pandemic strain was unusual. A fair number of deaths occured from primary influenza infections in 1918. At first, scientists had assumed that the bacterial Haemophilus influenza was the cause of the pandemic (later implicated as one of the more common causes of bacterial meningitis in children).

After the influenza virus was discovered, many still believed that it only killed because it allowed secondary infections. As it turns out, the 1918 pandemic strain had many clinical features similar to SARS as well as influenza (bloody sputum, hemorrhagic pneumonia, overwhelming inflammatory response, and disseminated intravascular coagulation) from influenza alone. The most dangerous of the secondary infections was (and remains) Strep pneumoniae.

Besides, we don't have an entire generation of young men who were exposed to poison gas this time around.
Poison gas had little to nothing to do with influenza deaths in 1918. The majority of influenza deaths among the American military occurred in state-side barracks before they even had a chance to be shipped to Europe.

The lab manager: (1)

BlackMesaLabs (893043) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725669)

"reconstruct any virus you like guys.. NO NOT THAT ONE!!! ARGH!"

Who Fucking Cares? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725671)

Bill gates can fix this quicker than the Linux Community. You assholes.

in soviet permafrost... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725676)

you infect the flu!

Science has a fatal flaw (0, Troll)

seabreezemm (577723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725680)

They never consider if they should do something only if they can do it. This bug could end life on the planet Earth for man if it were to escape during this time of frequent flights and fast travel.

Re:Science has a fatal flaw (3, Informative)

s20451 (410424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725735)

This bug could end life on the planet Earth for man if it were to escape during this time of frequent flights and fast travel.

How would that occur, exactly, if its mortality rate less than 5 per cent (and those who recover are immune)?

Re:Science has a fatal flaw (1)

core plexus (599119) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725954)

This bug could end life on the planet Earth for man if it were to escape during this time of frequent flights and fast travel.

And, speaking as an Alaskan, how could it get me if I run to the hills?

I could stay there for years. I already have a place set up.

Re:Science has a fatal flaw (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725791)

The pandemic of 1918 was nightmarish (the young and healthy were particularly prone to fatal infection) but I'm not sure contemporary travel would have further aggrivated the outbreak.

The soldiers returning from the fronts of the First World War possibly spread the infection as well as any buisness class traveller could today. Also, this disease is an airborne pathogen (it reproduces in lung tissue), and in its day managed to sweep the globe incredibly quickly.

One additional point made today by researchers is that the 1918 influenza was almost surely an avian flu that mutated and infected humans. It's not too different from the current superbug that everyone is eyeing warily. Perhaps some of the benefit of this research is studying how a virus mutates and crosses the lines from one species to another. Theoretically it could better prepare us to resist an impending pandemic.

One question - aren't most contemporary humans immune to the 1918 bug?

Re:Science has a fatal flaw (2, Interesting)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725799)

You're exaggerating. It can kill millions and throw much of the world into a panic, just as it did in 1918, but it can't wipe everyone out like in "The Stand." Here, let me give you a little flu remedy: mix 24oz of water, add 2 tbsp ground fresh ginger, 1 tbsp cayenne pepper, 6 oz lemon juice. Mind you, these are approximations. Heat the mixture to just about boiling, let it cool just enough to take internally. Drink it--all of it. The shit tastes terrible, but it works.

Re:Science has a fatal flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725976)

2.5% mortality, it means that even if all the classmates in a typical school get sicks there is a 1/3 to 1/4 chance that one person will die. Sad, but not the end of the world at all.
  Usually, the danger with viruses is the panic they create. This applies both to biological and computer viruses. How many people go nuts after finding one infected file, and spend a day or two rebuilding the system, checking old files, etc, instead of sanely scanning for the virus in the logical places (if it's a boot virus, don't worry about .exes, for example).
  Just read The Stand, by Stephen King, the end of the world virus in that book is spread by people breaking through quarantines (ok, it'd probably get through anyway, since it's sent by god or satan or the flying spaghetti monster).

Re:Science has a fatal flaw (1)

ManufacturedMirth (920685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726007)

They never consider if they should do something only if they can do it

Not to be a pedant, but we're actually talking about an issue with technology, not science. :P

Ok... (2, Insightful)

tktk (540564) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725682)

I'm all for tinkering, and hacking and doing stuff just because you can.

But...please try to stick to things that can easily be killed with the tip of well-placed soldering iron.

Plasmids (3, Informative)

Zouden (232738) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725782)

Indeed. Well, just to head off about 90% of the comments which will be "oh noes the scientists will kill us all!", they are putting the DNA into plasmids, not a virus capsule. The only way this presents a danger is if they put ALL the DNA in together with the correct promoter and deliberately infected it into a mammalian host, and even then there's little chance.

Put another way, we are much more at risk from Asian Bird Flu than we are from this virus.
Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america? Here in Aus we don't hear much, even though I (and the WHO) are convinced it's the next big pandemic.
Personally I'm much more scared of avian flu than terrorists...

Re:Plasmids (4, Informative)

ObjetDart (700355) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725887)

Well, just to head off about 90% of the comments which will be "oh noes the scientists will kill us all!", they are putting the DNA into plasmids, not a virus capsule.

But...but...from TFA:

"The plasmids then were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where they were inserted into human kidney cells for the final step in the virus reconstruction."

Re:Plasmids (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725889)

Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america?

Regularly... and with loads and loads of fear-mongering. Everyone's tired of hearing how the world could be destroyed at any moment by a giant projectile from space. It's successor, the "super volcano" scare compaign didn't really pan-out, so bird flu is the big thing.

Here in Aus we don't hear much, even though I (and the WHO) are convinced it's the next big pandemic.

To that sentiment, allow me to just say:

SARS!!! SARS!!! Oh God, won't someone please think of the children!!! SARS!!!

*ahem*... Sorry about that.

Re:Plasmids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725894)

we are much more at risk from Asian Bird Flu than we are from this virus.

This is true only until it isn't true. If it ever isn't true, the all the 'I told you so's won't help anyone.
I have zero chance of creating a virus that harms humanity, they have 'little chance'. I prefer zero.

Re:Plasmids (1)

Kluge66 (801510) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725936)

Actually, if you read the article, they put reconstructed viral chromosomes into cells and *did* make whole (presumably infectious) virus.

But the virus is under lock and key at the CDC and there are no plans to allow it to be shipped elsewhere.

Avian Flu fearmongering (1)

RapmasterT (787426) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726033)

You ask how the avian flu is being reported in the US, and to that I'd answer "badly".

There was a report a couple of weeks ago that the first fatalities due to the avian flu in the US had occured. Way into the report it came out that both victims were in their 80's. A stiff breeze would have finished them off.

It must really disappoint the media when stuff like this doesn't rack up the body coutn. Hell, you'd think they'd have learned a lesson when SARS made them look like assholes, but I guess not.

Re:Plasmids (4, Funny)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726038)

Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america?

GW Bush used one of the questions in his press conference to jump into a little sidestream about bringing out the troops if the Republican majority was in jeop^W^W^W^W^W^W... uh, if there was an avian flu epidemic. In fact, he even said he'd use them to quarantine all of the voters in the blue^W^W^W^W... people in those cities where the outbreak occurred.

Asian Bird Flu (3, Informative)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726039)

Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america? Here in Aus we don't hear much, even though I (and the WHO) are convinced it's the next big pandemic.

The press doesn't harp on it much, but anytime they mention it they call it the next big pandemic. National Geographic covers it in the current issue, and they've got a little presentation about it [nationalgeographic.com] on their website.

They infected chicken eggs (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726046)

which were killed by the viruses. Nuff sed.

Re:Plasmids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13726049)

Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america?

The which??

Remember (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725684)

Zombies Require headshots, headshots, headshots!

George Bush hates liberals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725697)

So creation of a custom tailored flu has been authorized to make sure there is an eradication of any opposition to the conservative agenda

additional coverage (2, Informative)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725700)

Heres another article at the BBC

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4308872.stm [bbc.co.uk]

and another one from ABC news, about how they in their enlightened wisdom (read fearmongering) think that the asian birdflu will result in similar problems.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Flu/story?id=1183172& page=1 [go.com]

i would have posted as ANON but aparently 212 minutes since i last posted a comment is not enough time to wait between comments :(

Who funded it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725707)

Didn't RTFA of course, but was it the CIA or Al Queda?

What caught my eye in the summary was the comment, "Researchers are hoping that reconstructing a virus like this will help them to better understand similar problems."

Yea, like reconstructing some other plague? Just what we all need.

I would be much more interested... (3, Funny)

boobox (673856) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725712)

.. in getting them to cure the darn cold I currently have.

Re:I would be much more interested... (1)

Namronorman (901664) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725913)

A rhinovirus is a virus member of the family Picornaviridae. The rhinoviruses are single stranded positive sense RNA viruses. They are the most common viral infective agents in humans. The most well known disease caused by rhinoviruses is the common cold. There are over 100 serologic virus types which cause cold symptoms and rhinoviruses are responsible for around 50% of all cases.

The name comes from the Greek rhin, which means "nose".

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinovirus [wikipedia.org]

Re:I would be much more interested... (1)

kat11v (848737) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725965)

Incidentally, they *are* somewhat on the path at looking to cure the flu because according to TFA, the flu going around now is descendant from the Spanish Influenza that they are studying. And yes, for everyone who feels a bit of panic at the thought, the lab facility is a biosafety level 3 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I would be much more interested... (3, Insightful)

Frangible (881728) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725985)

Not a cure, but... got garlic? [nih.gov]

One hundred forty-six volunteers were randomized to receive a placebo or an allicin-containing garlic supplement, one capsule daily, over a 12-week period between November and February. They used a five-point scale to assess their health and recorded any common cold infections and symptoms in a daily diary. The active-treatment group had significantly fewer colds than the placebo group (24 vs 65, P

Hmm... (0, Troll)

Pollux (102520) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725716)

Let's see here...

God creates man.
God creates flu.
Flu kills man.
God creates new man.
New man creates flu. ...

And what do you think comes next?

Seriously, this is really borderline sadistic when scientists recreate a virus responsible for killing 50 million people to "better understand the threat of a future worldwide epidemic from bird flu." Why don't we at the same time resurrect Hitler so that we can "better understand the threat of a future worldwide sadistic totalitarian dictator/terrorist"? Hmm? How would that sound to the public?

Re:Hmm... (1)

HeavyMS (820705) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725817)

God did not create anything...

Re:Hmm... (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725828)

If we can recreate this virus in a controlled environment and keep it contained whilst studying it then I am all for it .
If there are any scientific grounds to the claims that it can be used to help combat a future epidemic that would kill a further 50 million+ then this is a very good idea .

Also If we had the ability to resurrect Hitler , keep him in a lab and experiment on him,find a way to prevent a new Hitler ever taking power.I would not really object to that . Though the scientific grounds for that one are a bit more shaky

Re:Hmm... (4, Funny)

game kid (805301) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725841)

God creates man.
God creates flu.
Flu kills man.
God creates new man.
New man creates flu. ...

And what do you think comes next?

Notice the emerging pattern (1->2, 1->3, 3X2, 1->2, 2->3); next will be 3X1, or Flu kills God. Like, duh. ;)

--whoa, the flu can kill God?!? *head explodes*

Re:Hmm... (3, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725899)

"New man creates flu.

And what do you think comes next?"


New man whips up flu vaccine for known flu strain.

It's not like we're talking about AIDS or some other untreatable disease, once we know what strain we're dealing with, the only problem we have left is distributing the flu vaccine. And I'm under the impression that, unless we dig up an example of the strain that caused the 1918 pandemic, we can't easily create a vaccine to defend against it.

Welcome to the Twenty-First Century.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725989)

Let's see here...

God creates man.
God creates flu.
Flu kills man.
God creates new man.
New man creates flu. ...

And what do you think comes next?


Profit?

ah! (3, Interesting)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725725)

time to read up on Stephen King's "The Stand", to catch up on those survival techniques.... now here's hoping I'm one of that particulat fraction of society..

B.

Re:ah! (4, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726017)

Yeah. Let's also hope an old black woman with telepathic ability can draw all the non-evil people together so they can wage battle with the evil survivors.

Dan East

How do they verify their "creation"? (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725745)

Rebuilding an entire genetic sequence like this seems like a lot of room for mishaps. It's one thing to modify an existing sequence, and another to build up from scratch. How will researchers confirm that their new "baby" isn't some mutant Frankenstein-monster strain? Will they infect someone and then watch the symptoms, to compare against the epidemic accounts?

Re: How do they verify their "creation"? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725856)

> How will researchers confirm that their new "baby" isn't some mutant Frankenstein-monster strain?

As if the original wasn't already a mutant monster.

Re:How do they verify their "creation"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725973)

The likelyhood of any random changes increasing the danger from this, or any strain is very small. The reason harmfull changes occur is that lots and lots of random changes happen and the effective ones survive. We tend not to like the effective ones. Though they are generally less effective when they kill their hosts. If there is a mistake it is just one random set of changes among vast numbers. If one is going to be worried then one should be more worried about their getting it right, an error would probably make it less harmful.

Greaaaat...... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725747)

It's in my very own city.

I'll let everyone know how everything goes if it ev

Re:Greaaaat...... (2, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725862)

It's in my very own city. I'll let everyone know how everything goes if it ev

Gesundheit :)

Are we immune ? (2, Insightful)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725764)

Being the exceedingly paranoid type, let me ask this - if we found a victim frozen in the permafrost, and viruses don't die by freezing - is it likely that some guy might actually contract this virus again and cause another catastrophe ?. Maybe some warm summer it gets into the water table or something.

However safe the experiment in itself might have been, external contamination if the virus is out there is a serious concern. Half of Europe is immune to some strains of typhoid and plague, thanks to natural selection. But these days viruses can travel on jet airliners , in business class - they are not limited to the region of previous occurrence.

Hopefully the current healthy diets, good healtcare and lack of a recent war should ensure that another Spanish Flu breakout cannot happen.

Re:Are we immune ? A: Yes (3, Informative)

Gnpatton (796694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725950)

A: Yes. In TFA it says that one of the reasons this was approved is because it is believed that human's still poses immunity which was passed down from our ancestors in 1918.

Regenesis (3, Informative)

nettdata (88196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725784)

There's an interesting TV show (Canadian, no less) called Regenesis [imdb.com] that featured just such a concept.

Hooked me for a few episodes.

Re:Regenesis (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725827)

I was just about to comment on the same show. It was a little goofy, but I very much enjoyed watching it. Better than most anything on american TV.

Bad idea (0, Troll)

Murakami (919969) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725786)


What were they thinking? That this is an amazingly bad idea is so clear I just can't help believing in the ramifications. As things weren't bad enough with the pandemia risk of the bird's flu [wikipedia.org] !

--
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Re:Bad idea (1)

Siergen (607001) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725844)

So, you're suggesting that we don't study the sample we found under controled conditions, and instead hope that no other flu-victim bodies up in the permafrost ever thaw and release the virus back into the environment? And that's assuming that the 1918 flu *only* exists today frozen in the permafrost; it's possible it is actually present (and mutating) in some non-human species today, and may jump-sepcies back to us at some point...

Re:Bad idea (2, Insightful)

CupBeEmpty (720791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725871)

Once again as someone that work in the field of virology/microbiology I am a little suprised by the sensationalism that gets attached to these things, especially considering the rather skeptical crowd here. I am not overly worried about the chance of this one getting out and killing a billion people. First, they have simply made the gene, there is a lot more that is required before you have infectious virus. Second, labs that work with potentially dangerous/infectious do have safety precautions (despite the general cynicism of /.'ers) and the incidence of scientists getting infected with what they work with is very low. Third, there have been MASSIVE leaps in medical treatment and sanitation since 1918. This is not to say that we should not worry about big pandemics because we should, but so far we have been able to survive.

The final bit that doesn't make me worry about these scientists reverse engineering the gene is the simple fact that this doesn't change anything as far as pandemic risk goes. We are just as likely to get a horrendous pandemic from a "wild" source as we are from this flu strain infecting a scientist who suddenly goes on a globe trotting spree of some kind. At this point in our global development as a species it is really only a matter of time before we get a big pandemic a la 1918. I mean AIDS is already a pandemic and if we get something that is more acute the death toll will simply be more noticable. It is far more important to study how to defend against viruses that could cause pandemics. It is not often that scientists can get a virus that they know for certain has caused one. The research that can be done now is much more beneficial than the potential risks.

Re:Bad idea (2, Insightful)

woah (781250) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725921)

The current outbreak of the bird flu is primary reason they are doing this. The data gathered from this may well save a lot of people if the bird flu mutates starts spreading rapidly.

I read in a another article that the they found a number of striking similarities between the 1918 virus and the mutations that are starting to appear in the bird flu virus. What's more worrying is that these are the kind of mutations that caused the outbreak in 1918.

You can probably do a Google search on this.

Does this just seem stupid or is it just me!? (-1, Troll)

GecKo213 (890491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725852)

Why would you want to re-create anything like that!? It killed lots of people before it was stopped and they're recreating it!? Who's next, Terrorists saying, "Shit, we don't need to steal any of the last remaining small pox from the lab! We'll just create our own and unleash it on all infadels!"

Gentlemen, let me applaud your tenacity, know how, and stupidity! May you be the first to suffer death from your new creation as a reminder that you shouldn't try to play God.

Um... is this a good idea? (1, Insightful)

surfcow (169572) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725860)

I understand the potential gains we can make from this study. I know the work is important. But I don't trust the people doing the research. The military. These are the same bozos that brought us weaponized anthrax nerve gas and the nuclear bomb a host of other clever things.

You let this jeanie out of the bottle, even a little bit, even with the best intentions and you have potential to depopulate a good chunk of the planet. Last time it killed more people than died in WWII. And they didn't have modern air-travel. Just what is the cost / risk ratio here?

And this assumes good intntions. What if some military committee decides to "study" weaponizing it? In the name is national security, of course. And in secret.

We just learned how to do this stuff. Let's think twice before actually doing it. Measure twice, cut once.

Paraphrasing Oppenheimer: We spent so much energy thinking about *how* to make the bomb, that we didn't stop to ask *whether* we should do it at all.

Spreading like a plague. (1)

zwilliams07 (840650) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725903)

Ahhhhhhhhhh Choooooo!!!!!

*sniffle*

What?

Army of the Twelve Monkeys? (2, Interesting)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725924)

Just curious, what's the security around places like this? If these guys can hack a virus strain like this, what's the keep someone from stealing the virus and releasing back into the wild?

In Communist Russia.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13725927)

In Communist Russia The Flu Virus Reconstructs YOU.

Irresponsible (1)

Hrodvitnir (101283) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725967)

This is exactly the kind of situation that leads to things like the T-Virus.

Time to brush up on a little reading [thinkgeek.com] .

ahchooo (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726011)

cough cough cough ahchooo cough cough

I for one, Welcome our Influenza Overlords (1)

layer3switch (783864) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726036)

Isn't this epidemic researched to "death" already?

Anyway, this research seems to be pretty safe knowing we are already immune or have access to anti-viral for it.

How about the bigotry/blindness of 2000-current? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13726053)

  1. Yanno where the poor don't matter.
  2. The non-whites matter even less, compounded if poor.
  3. Separation of church and state is imaginary and always successful when heavily mixed, see Iran for details.
  4. Sexual orientation can make you a second class citizen or sub-human depriving you of rights and liberties.
  5. Exchanging blood for oil and other wealth opportunities that only benefit the already wealthy is acceptable.
  6. Lies are acceptable.
  7. Apologies are highly optionable.
  8. Doing nothing and making up excuses is acceptable.
  9. Not accepting responsbility for your failures and irresponsibilities is acceptable.
  10. Sending the poor to die for illegal and unjust causes is now considered "patriotic".
  11. Imaginary friends approve of killing and hostilities if you kill in the name of.
  12. There is no more "America" or "Americans," rather we are divided between "red" and "blue" and then further with "left" and "right" with those labels and stereotypes freely handed out as a defense or debate.

Now finding out that the 1918 outbreak was related to avian flu is great, but even if that helps to create medicines that slow/stop the spread or symptoms we have other critical issues to worry about. If we cannot even work together for our fellow citizens and for what is left of our Constitution, then what makes somebody think a pandemic situtation would be anything short of another critical failure? Sure the medical side for advances would be nice, but we still have major foundation issues to address. It may be a good thing to put out a fire burning in your speeding car, but that really won't matter when you speed right off an unfinished bridge into a deep chasm.
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