Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent 2 hours ago
LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists are to create mutant forms of the H7N9
bird flu virus that has emerged in China so they can gauge the risk of
it becoming a lethal human pandemic.
The genetic modification work will to result in highly transmissible
and deadly forms of H7N9 being made in several high security
laboratories around the world, but it is vital to prepare for the
threat, the scientists say.
The new bird flu virus, which was unknown in humans until February,
has already infected at least 133 people in China and Taiwan, killing 43
of them, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data.
Announcing plans to start the controversial experiments, leading
virologists Ron Fouchier and Yoshihiro Kawaoka said H7N9's pandemic risk
would rise "exponentially" if it gained the ability to spread easily
And the only way to find out how likely that is, and how many
genetic changes would need to take place before it could happen, is to
engineer those mutations in laboratory conditions and test the virus's
potential using animal models, they said.