Researchers: Some Bird Flu Strains Only Three Mutations Away From A Pandemic
The study looked at five mutations identified previously in the controversial bird flu studies published in the journals Nature and Science—led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, respectively—which would make it possible for bird flu to spread from human to human.
In those studies, the researchers experimented with bird flu strains to show which mutations would be necessary for the virus to evolve to become transmissible between mammals.
The papers revealed with only five mutations (amino acid substitutions), or four mutations plus reassortment, bird flu can become transmissible between mammals – and potentially humans. Currently, bird flu can be transmitted from birds to humans, but not from humans to humans.
U.S. federal officials initially asked the journals to withhold publishing the papers, based on bioterrorism fears, but relented after an independent panel of experts determined there was no threat to public health.
Now, in an accompanying study, led by Professor Derek Smith and Dr. Colin Russell at the University of Cambridge, researchers analyzed all the surveillance data available on avian H5N1 flu viruses in the past 15 years and discovered two of the five mutations needed to make bird flu transmissible between mammals had already occurred in numerous avian flu strains that exist in nature.
Not only that, but a number of the virus strains had both of the mutations, the researchers added.” Read more.
Flashback: Bioterror Chief: There’s No Way to Stop Leak of Deadly New H5N1 Flu Strain, It’s ‘Going to Get Out’ Eventually – “The bioterrorism expert responsible for censoring scientific research which could lead to the creation of a devastating pandemic has admitted the information ‘is going to get out’ eventually. Professor Paul Keim, chairman of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, controversially recommended that researchers be stopped from publishing the precise mutations needed to transform the H5N1 strain of birdflu virus into a human-transmissible version.” Read more.