Thursday, February 24, 2005

Influenza and Bioterror

Dr. Henry Niman has suggested that the WSN/33 influenza sequence circulating in South Korea contains genes from an engineered laboratory strain of the virus, and may have been released accidentally or intentionally:

If the sequences are real, and no credible evidence has been presented to show that they are not, then at a minimum there was a major laboratory lapse that allowed a dangerous human virus to escape and infect swine in conjunction with avian flu viruses.
He follows up on this important story here, here, and here.

I'm not a virologist or anything like it, so I'm in no position to judge whether he's correct or not. But it seems to me that the ongoing official vagueness and confusion about the existence of this sequence - let alone its origin - is problematic, no matter what the truth turns out to be. As Dr. Niman says,
The inability to resolve the existence of the sequence after being in the public domain for almost 3 months...raises serious bioterrorism preparedness issues.

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