Chinese researchers criticized for creating new flu strains

Top scientists have slammed Chinese researchers for their “appalling irresponsibility” after they deliberately created new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory.

Chinese researchers criticized for creating new flu strains

World Bulletin/New Desk

Top scientists have slammed Chinese researchers for their “appalling irresponsibility” after they deliberately created new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory, British media reported this week.

Should the new viral strains, built through the mixing of bird flu virus with human influenza, escape from the lab, they could cause a global pandemic threatening the lives of millions of people, the scientists warned, according to The Independent.

Former government chief scientist and past president of the Royal Society Lord May of Oxford has dismissed the study published in the journal Science as useless in the prevention of flu pandemics.

“They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like,” Lord May told the newspaper. “In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever.”

“The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring,” he said. “They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible.”

A team led by Professor Hualan Chen, director of China’s National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, mixed the H5N1 bird flu virus, a highly lethal virus that is not easily transmitted between humans, with a 2009 strain of H1N1 flu virus, which is highly infectious to people.

Chen said her team tried to emulate what happens in nature when animals are co-infected with two different virus strains.

Professor Simon Wain-Hobson, a prominent virologist at Paris’s Pasteur Institute, said it is possible that hybrids could easily be transmitted between humans and be lethal.

“It’s a fabulous piece of virology by the Chinese group and it’s very impressive, but they haven’t been thinking clearly about what they are doing,” he added. “It’s very worrying.”

“The virological basis of this work is not strong. It is of no use for vaccine development and the benefit in terms of surveillance for new flu viruses is oversold,” the professor was quoted as saying by The Independent.      

Last Mod: 04 Mayıs 2013, 18:03
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