US-based scientist makes potent version of H1N1 flu

July 2, 2014
H1N1 virus. Credit: C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, CDC

A US-based Japanese scientist said Wednesday he has succeeded in engineering a version of the so-called swine flu virus that would be able to evade the human immune system.

The research on the 2009 H1N1 virus at a high-security lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has not yet been published, but was first made public July 1 by the Independent newspaper in London.

The article described virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, as "controversial" and said "some scientists who are aware of (the experiment) are horrified."

Kawaoka confirmed to AFP that he has been able to make changes in a particular protein that would enable the 2009 H1N1 virus to escape immune protection.

"Through selection of immune escape viruses in the laboratory under appropriate containment conditions, we were able to identify the key regions would enable 2009 H1N1 viruses to escape immunity," he said in an email.

However, he described the Independent's story—which called his research "provocative" because it sought to create a deadly flu from which humans could not escape—as "sensational."

"It is unfortunate that online news outlets choose to manipulate the message in this way to attract readers, with sensational headlines, especially in regard to science and public health matters," he said.

Kawaoka said the reason for the research was to find out how the flu virus might mutate in nature and help scientists devise better vaccines against it.

He also said he has presented his initial findings to a World Health Organization committee and it "was well received."

Controversy erupted in 2011 and 2012 over research on the H5N1 bird flu, after a Dutch and a US team of scientists each found ways to engineer a virus that could pass easily among mammals.

Concerns were raised over the potential to create a deadly pandemic like the Spanish flu of 1918-1919 that killed 50 million people.

A key worry was that bioterrorists could find a way to recreate and release such a virus, or that it could accidently escape from a research lab.

Scientists stopped their work for a time but the details of the experiments were eventually published in major scientific journals.

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3.6 / 5 (7) Jul 02, 2014
Making viruses more able to cause human disease and death is a poor activity.
1.9 / 5 (9) Jul 02, 2014
My stomach turned when I read this. There can simply be no clear reason this research was allowed to be funded, and the virus itself manufactured. The management should have immediately called homeland security after the proposal crossed their desks and, at least bought time by telling whatever lie was necessary to have the researchers on the next plane to Gitmo. That, at least, would have brought time for a more rational plan to have been formulated.

The Genie is out of the bottle, and Pandora's box has beed smashed.
1 / 5 (9) Jul 02, 2014
This type of research should be banned in the public sector.

The only reasno I'd allow the military to research this is in case another country's military is doing this.

If they can make this virus, which we all know they can because they use viruses as agents for certain types of genetic modification and gene therapy, then what's to prevent them from releasing it?

Like I said, big pharmacy doesn't get paid to cure disease, they get paid to treat symptoms.

Scientists stopped their work for a time but the details of the experiments were eventually published in major scientific journals.

This is unfair to the majority population, who gets no say in this matter.

Given human nature and what history has taught us, virtually every technology which can be weaponized HAS been weaponized. You've printed the blueprints for the most deadly weapon humanity has ever seen, and made them public, and for what?!

It only takes one Jihadist muslim...
1 / 5 (9) Jul 02, 2014
If they can do this, which they can, thee's not hing to stop them from engineering new flu viruses, or something else, every year or two, and conveniently the vaccine, to encourage everyoen to buy it.

Viruses and Bacteria are not the same, but it's related here because:

If you make anti-virals, you want more viruses, so you can sell your product more.

If you make antibiotics, you want more bacteria, so you can sell more antibiotics, especially if you are a "corporation" rather than a concerned individual.

Individuals and investment firms may invest in R&D or in Pharmacy with good intentions, but the COMPANY makes money by "treating" disease, not curing it.

The constitution forbids a "religious test," for a post or office, yet rationally there must never be a Muslim in the same building as anyone having access to this technology.

There needs to be a constitutional amendment banning this in the private sector, and banning even military testing of it without independent oversight.
1 / 5 (9) Jul 02, 2014
Do you realize his entire team needs to be placed under house arrest, and a permanent secret service escort for the rest of their lives?!

This is absurd.

It should not be published, neither should the previous one, because anybody with any moral fiber would not publish a complete freaking blueprint for a WMD of this class.

This is worse than ebola.

Natural strains of Flu are already among the largest killers of humans, and this educated FOOL goes and makes an invincible strain.

I gave it a 5 because it needs to be at the top of the list, not because I'm enthusiastic about the development.

This needs to be exposed, and it needs to be brought to the congress attention to move for an amendment to stop this type of genetic research.
1 / 5 (4) Jul 02, 2014
In the mean while, the whole lot of the people involved should be held in the brig of some naval vessel.
1.7 / 5 (3) Jul 02, 2014
I fail to see how this benefits humanity.
1.5 / 5 (6) Jul 02, 2014
Amino acid substitutions of viruses are nutrient-dependent but not pheromone-controlled. The future of all living organisms is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled. Theorists think biodiversity evolved, which is why some viruses are very dangerous to our future..

Kobasa D, Wells K, KawaokaY. Amino Acids Responsible for the Absolute Sialidase Activity of the Influenza A Virus Neuraminidase: Relationship to Growth in Duck Intestine. J Virol (in press).

This is the type of experiment that will show how cell type differentiation occurs in the context of amino acid substitutions that contribute to viral virulence and to the morphological and behavioral phenotypes of living species.

Problems created for humanity will be due to the pseudoscientific nonsense of mutation-initiated natural selection, which somehow supposedly leads to the evolution of biodiversity. The theorists, not the serious scientists, may kill us all with ignorance.
1 / 5 (8) Jul 03, 2014

The virus he's experimenting was a hybridized flu which somehow had characteristics of swine, bird, and human flu.

With the modification he's made, if it's as good at bypassing the human immune system as the article states, this could make humans extinct, and potentially even go a long way towards making birds and swine extinct.

There is no humanitarian use for this experiment.

This is evil.

If he had engineered something which somehow selectively attacked cancer cells, and ONLY cancer cells, I might be thankful, but this experiment is just plain stupid.

So far, everyone who has responded appears to agree.
1 / 5 (7) Jul 03, 2014
Why, oh why, isn't a person of this skill level working on how to make a virus to kill Staphylococcus, or Streptococcus Pneumonia, or Menningococcus?

Why is he doing research into how to make a virtually ideal human-killing machine?

This is EXACTLY what alarmists were afraid of regarding nano-technology and GM, and this idiot goes and makes it.

It doesn't matter if it's contained environment. People screw up. There was a recent accident with an experimental anthrax strain which broke containment...fortunately, nobody was injured.

So DON'T say it can't happen. That was "Ghost" and "Gilligan's" mocking objections to my complaints last time, "Real scientists are aware and take precautions," they said...

What say you two fools to these recent events?

Anthrax isn't even transmitted this easily.

If THIS Flu experiment broke containment it would be the end of humanity, and maybe a few other species too.

Why? Why?
1 / 5 (7) Jul 03, 2014
What pisses me off is he started off with the NEGATIVE applications to his technology, which is rightfully going to get him shunned by both the alarmists, the greens, and also the rational scientists. I mean hell, anybody right of the ridiculously far left is going to be pissed at him now.

If he had started off with the positive applications I discussed above, a Virus able to destroy pathogenic bacteria without hurting humans, then he would have been hailed as a hero, and won a nobel prize.

Instead, he starts off by making a super-weapon, for no reason other than shits and giggles.

That pisses me off just as much as the act of making the virus itself.
3 / 5 (5) Jul 03, 2014
There needs to be a constitutional amendment banning this in the private sector, and banning even military testing of it without independent oversight.
But Lrrkrrr only the 'private sector' has the facilities and the expertise to properly investigate this.
What say you two fools to these recent events?
Well I'd say its easy to believe you know what you are talking about when your system is full of prescription painkillers isn't it? Then, every passing thought is a revelation. And you can type for hours because your fingers are numb.
That pisses me off just as much as the act of making the virus itself.
Dont worry you only get pissed for the 8 minutes or so it takes for you to read the next article. Then you forget all about it. How many posts so far today Lrrkrrr? 20? 30? Have you had breakfast yet or do you not need to eat?
1 / 5 (4) Jul 03, 2014
Putting the research team in the brig serves as warning and keeps the team from disseminating any information.
3 / 5 (4) Jul 03, 2014
... everyone who has responded appears to agree.

If anyone who has responded could understand the conserved molecular mechanisms that link amino acid substitutions to cell type differentiation, they might be able to understand why this work is moving forward -- despite the concerns of the uninformed.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2014
While definitely a practice which requires a LOT of control to prevent misuse in this field, I have to say I agree with the practice. One way to determine how to make improvements on something is to figure out its weaknesses so you can counteract them.

This is similar to how some companies hire hackers to try and breach their security protocols. If one gets through, they can study how it was done and alter their security to prevent such an attack later on. In this case, we're just dealing with our body's immune mechanisms instead of software security protocols.

I don't see it as evil, it's just another method for coming up with improvements. This method is used extensively in other industries, I see no reason why it's so horrible here, as long as the proper control procedures are in place.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2014
Thank you GenjiGear. By seeing how far the virus has to mutate before becoming a major threat, it gives us all sorts of information and a chance to study how to stop it. If this guy can do it, so can a foreign military scientist so we need to be ready for this stuff.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 03, 2014
The conserved molecular mechanisms that link amino acid substitutions to cell type differentiation ensure virulence is not mutation driven. Mutation-initiated natural selection is pseudoscientific nonsense.
2 / 5 (4) Jul 06, 2014
The conserved molecular mechanisms that link amino acid substitutions to cell type differentiation ensure virulence is not mutation driven. Mutation-initiated natural selection is pseudoscientific nonsense.

Well, technically a Virus which has a net benefit on it's host would be the most likely to survive and thrive. A virus which kills and weakens it's host should die out as its hosts die out, or are too weakened to carry it to new locations.

He should nto have done this experiment though.

As I said, he should engineer something to kill Staph or Strep instead. AT least if that broke containment it would actually be beneficial to humanity.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 07, 2014
Making viruses more able to cause human disease and death is a poor activity.

I agree, actually. I think it's pretty irresponsible.

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