Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wisconsin-Madison Flu Study Censored for Security Measures

Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka's recent flu study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Toronto is under review after his lab created a more contagious form of the H5N1 avian flu. This study has been compared to that of Dr. Fouchier's H5N1 study at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. The main difference being that Dr. Fouchier's lab created a more contagious and a super-lethal strain of H5N1 that killed over 50% of the ferrets it infected. Dr. Kawaoka's strain is highly contagious, but has not been shown to be lethal- not to mention, the current flu vaccine remains effective against his mutated strain. This contagious H5N1 virus strain is a result of four point mutations that occurred after the team of researchers attached the hemagglutining gene of the H5N1 virus to seven genes of the H1N1 2009 virus.
In opposition to research involving genetically engineered flu viruses, Richard Ebright, a chemistry professor at Rutgers University stated, "this virus will not be the endpoint; the first experiment that will be done with it will be an effort to enhance its lethality." Many researchers are concerned that the gene-manipulation techniques as well as intermediate mutations are potentially as dangerous as the end products, which is why certain aspects of this research should be censored.
Censoring this research will make the reproduction of these studies difficult (if not impossible)- which brings into question the importance of reproducing studies in order to validate their results.

-Angela Cesena


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