Researcher Tweaks 2009 Pandemic Flu Virus to Make It More Lethal

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
Global Security Newswire Staff
July 3, 2014, 9:03 a.m.

A re­search­er has mod­i­fied the 2009 pan­dem­ic flu vir­us to al­low it to evade the an­ti­bod­ies that hu­mans have de­veloped against it.

Uni­versity of Wis­con­sin-Madis­on sci­ent­ist Yoshi­hiro Kawaoka has slightly altered the ge­net­ic makeup of the H1N1 in­flu­enza strain in or­der to en­able it to break free of the im­mune sys­tem re­sponses that hu­mans have de­veloped to­ward the vir­us in re­cent years, the Lon­don Daily Tele­graph re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

Kawaoka has not yet pub­lished his re­search but said it is ready to be sub­mit­ted to a sci­entif­ic journ­al.

“Through se­lec­tion of im­mune es­cape vir­uses in the labor­at­ory un­der ap­pro­pri­ate con­tain­ment con­di­tions, we were able to identi­fy the key re­gions [that] would en­able 2009 H1N1 vir­uses to es­cape im­munity,” the re­search­er wrote in an email.

Kawaoka has car­ried out a num­ber of con­tro­ver­sial stud­ies in­volving flu vir­uses. He led a team of re­search­ers at the Uni­versity of Wis­con­sin in re­pro­du­cing nearly the en­tire vir­us that caused the deadly 1918 Span­ish flu out­break. He also con­duc­ted a study that mod­i­fied the H5N1 vir­us to make it more eas­ily trans­fer­rable between mam­mals.

The flu spe­cial­ist’s most re­cent re­search was ap­proved by Wis­con­sin’s In­sti­tu­tion­al Biosafety Com­mit­tee. Re­becca Mor­itz, who is tasked with mon­it­or­ing re­search in the state done on “se­lect agents,” said Kawaoka’s work on the H1N1 flu strain would in­form un­der­stand­ing about how the vir­us could mutate in the fu­ture, pos­sibly mak­ing cur­rent vac­cines in­ef­fect­ive.

“This work is not to cre­ate a new strain of in­flu­enza with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial, but [to] mod­el the im­mune-pres­sure the vir­us is cur­rently fa­cing in our bod­ies to es­cape our de­fenses,” she said.

Kawaoka ac­know­ledged the safety con­cerns about his re­search but said, “There are risks in all re­search. … As for all the re­search on in­flu­enza vir­uses in my labor­at­ory, this work is per­formed by ex­per­i­enced re­search­ers un­der ap­pro­pri­ate con­tain­ment and with full re­view and pri­or ap­prov­al by the [biosafety com­mit­tee].”

What We're Following See More »
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
6 hours ago

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
7 hours ago

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

Government Sues Fiat Chrysler Over Emissions
8 hours ago

The government alleges the company put eight “software-based features” on diesel engines in nearly 104,000 Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2014 to 2016 model years, which allowed the vehicles to emit fewer pollutants during EPA lab tests than during normal driving conditions.

MacArthur Resigns As Tuesday Group Co-Chair
11 hours ago

Rep. Tom MacArthur resigned Tuesday from his position as co-chair of the Tuesday Group, the House caucus of more moderate GOP members. MacArthur was one of the key engineers in getting an Obamacare replacement plan passed through the House of Representatives, which has caused a rift within the Tuesday Group. "You can't lead people where they don't want to go," MacArthur told POLITICO New Jersey. "I think some people in the group just have a different view of what governing is."

Brennan Saw Russia Intelligence “Worthy” of Investigation
12 hours ago

At an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA chief John Brennan said he saw information on Trump-Russia contacts that were worth a further look. "Having been involved in many counterintelligence cases in the past, I know what the Russians do. They try to suborn individuals," Brennan said. "And they try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf, whether wittingly or unwittingly. And I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons, and so therefore by the time I left office ... I had unresolved questions in my mind."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.