Saturday, April 6, 2013

Deadly new bird flu vindicates controversial research

By Kate Kelland, Health
and Science Correspondent
Posted 2013/04/04 at 10:27 am EDT

Above all else, what the world needs to know about this new strain of H7N9 bird flu is how likely it is to be able to spread efficiently among human populations.
And according to Ab Osterhaus, a world leading flu researcher who is head of viroscience of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, studies his team and another in the United States have been doing are the best way to find out.
"At the moment we don't know whether we should go for a full-blown alert or whether we can sit back and say this is just a minor thing," Osterhaus told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"(To answer that) we need to know what this virus needs to become transmissible."
Osterhaus, who has looked at genetic sequencing data from the new H7N9 bird flu strain samples in China and found some worrisome mutations have already occurred in the H7N9 strain, says such concerns are far outweighed by the fear of not knowing the potential risk of an emerging new virus.
"This virus might be on the brink of gaining function of transmissibility (in humans). I think it's crucial to know the rules of the game."

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