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11 Jun 2014 12 Respondents
+2XPVote NowBoard
By Amanda Lees
VX Community
Mega Mind (39846 XP)


What lengths should scientists go to to protect us from future pandemic threats?

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have recreated an extinct influenza virus to show how easily a deadly virus strain could reappear today.

The study "involved infecting laboratory ferrets with close copies of the 1918 virus – which was responsible for the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people."

They claim it is essential research as it is vital to be able to better understand potential pandemic outbreaks so that the science community can predict transmission trends and the public can be better prepared. Alternative methods for attaining this knowledge may not be as effective.

While they claim they have stringent safety measures in place other researchers have serious concerns for this study and the implications should anything go wrong.

"Critics said that any benefits of the attempts to recreate 1918-like flu viruses from existing avian flu strains do not justify the catastrophic risks if such a genetically engineered virus were to escape either deliberately or accidentally from the laboratory and cause a deadly influenza pandemic."

Academics such as Harvard Professor of epidemiology Marc Lipsitch have concerns: "This is a risky activity, even in the safest labs."

Robert Kolter, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, said: “The scientists doing this work are so immersed in their own self-aggrandisement, they have become completely blind to the irresponsibility of their acts."

But is their research irresponsible or essential?

We do not know for certain whether we will face a global pandemic; predictions are that it is likely.

When or in what form this would be is unknown.

It seems prudent to prepare the best we can utilising the scientific knowledge that is available.

However acquiring this knowledge presents real risks if the created virus strains were to be released through error or as a terrorist weapon.

How should we balance the importance of preparing for future health threats with the need to be protected from those doing the preparing?

Image: www.doktorspinn.com
It is proposed that to better prepare for a future pandemic scientists should recreate extinct influenza strains