It never ceases to amaze me how scientists feel that they have some insatiable need to actually create things that will kill us. Not maybe kill us but really, really, kill us. I mean who in their right mind would say to themselves “Hey I think I could create an even more deadly flu and make it super contagious to boot“, and then go ahead and actually do it.
Well it seems that virologist Ron Fouchier from the Erasmus Medical Center is one of those researchers because he has gone and taken the already deadly H5N1 flu virus, considered to be one of the most deadly flues known to man, and made it even more deadly and even more contagious than it already was.
After experimenting with ferrets, because apparently the effects of the flu virus on their respiratory system is very similar to that of humans, Foucier found that it took only five mutations the make H5N1 extremely contagious.
Now it is one thing to discover this kind of thing but it is another kettle of dead humans altogether when you want to publish your findings for the whole world to read – even the bad guys looking to create the next great bio weapon.
It is exactly this fear that is causing other scientists to question the sanity of Fouchier publishing his work in the science journals. The idea of publishing what amounts to a blueprint for the next pandemic strikes fear into any sane human being let alone the normally detached scientists of the world.
Paul Keim, chairman of U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) had this to say about Fouchier’s work
I can’t think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one. I don’t think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.
Ya. I think this is definitely one of those “just because we can doesn’t mean we should” moments.