"Scientists Create Bird Flu That Spreads Easily Among Mammals"

"Amid debate over the safety of publishing such research, a study in Science outlines how lab teams engineered the contagious strains of H5N1, and concludes that the deadly virus could cause a global pandemic."

"Scientists have created versions of the H5N1 bird flu that spread easily among mammals through droplets in sneezes and have concluded that it is certainly possible the deadly virus could trigger a global pandemic in humans.

Writing in Friday's edition of the journal Science, Dutch researchers laid out for their fellow scientists — and the public — precisely how they engineered bird flu strains that were contagious in ferrets, laboratory animals often used as proxies for people in influenza research. As few as five mutations, generated by passing the virus from ferret to ferret to ferret just 10 times, may be enough to allow the bug to infect new hosts through the air, said virologist Ron Fouchier, lead author of the controversial report.

'We assume also in humans it would only take a low number of transmission events for these mutations to accumulate,' he said."

Eryn Brown reports for the Los Angeles Times June 21, 2012.

SEE ALSO:

"Bird Flu Paper Is Published After Debate" (New York Times)

Friday, June 22, 2012