Saturday, March 24, 2012

The danger of amateur biologists

This interesting article from the New York Times ponders the threats that amateur biologists might pose to public health. With the falling costs of biotech and lab equipment, and the possibilities of outsourcing DNA synthesis and other processes to companies who don't pass judgment on the safety of various sequences, someone in a garage lab could theoretically produce a more pathogenic flu strain, says this article. There exist such things as "community biotech labs," which seems like a bad idea unless there is a very stringent safety and security protocol in place. Trained virologists/biologists who read the papers about the most recent flu pathognization uproar could make pathogenic flu viruses several different ways on their own.

The main point of this article is that 1) it's worryingly easy to make dangerous biological agents, whether on purpose or accidentally, to those who have access to the right technology and 2) we really need a flu vaccine that works for all flu strains.

--Sarah Kaewert

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