H5N1 Wake Up Call
Bruce Alberts says that the research shows that it is very easy for lethal bird flu to develop and it should act as a “real wake up call to the world”.
He added: “This is likely to happen at some point in the wild because these viruses are mutating very actively in the wild.”
Kudos to Science for cutting to the chase on the H5N1 transmission issues. The two papers are game changes with regard to the understanding of the risk of a natural and evolving H5N1. Prior “experts” had claimed that H5N1 would never transmit in humans because it is an “avian” virus, and had not jumped to humans, in spite of many opportunities since the outbreaks in Hong Kong in 1997, and rapid expansion in Asia in 2004, and throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in 2006.
However, two different groups using two distinct sub-clades had achieved efficient transmission in a ferret model involving a small number of natural changes, highlighting the near term potential for efficient transmission.