Creating A Super Flu Virus: Scientists Set Course For Controversial H7N9 Influenza Experiments

Thursday, August 8, 2013
By Paul Martin

By Nsikan Akpan
Aug 7, 2013

Two letters published in the journals Nature and Science argue for the commencement of research on the H7N9 influenza that may yield more potent strains of the new flu virus that emerged in China earlier this year.

To fully assess the potential risk associated with these novel viruses, there is a need for additional research including experiments that may be classified as “gain-of-function,” wrote virologist Ron Fuchier of Erasmus Medical Center (Netherlands) and 21 other world-renowned scientists.

H7N9 avian influenza jumped from poultry to humans this past spring, causing an international scare, although the virus only infected 134 people in east Asia. The virus’ spread was limited by its inability to easily pass between people. Indeed, the only suspected example of person-to-person transmission occurred between two Asian family members in March, although the details of the case weren’t released until this week. Both individuals were killed by the virus.

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