New Viral Modification Promises Safer Flu Studies

Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 16, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

A team of sci­ent­ists in New York said it has dis­covered a tech­nique for en­gin­eer­ing in­flu­enza vir­uses that are harm­less to hu­mans but still cap­able of passing through the air between labor­at­ory fer­rets, a de­vel­op­ment that could pave the way for safer patho­gen re­search, the Cen­ter for In­fec­tious Dis­ease Re­search and Policy re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

An­nounce­ment of the find­ings by Mount Sinai Med­ic­al Cen­ter sci­ent­ists came a week after vir­o­lo­gists from around the world cited a need to modi­fy an emer­ging form of avi­an flu in ways that could render the vir­us more trans­miss­ible to people. Fer­rets are routinely used as a mod­els for hu­man trans­mis­sion in such re­search, which pro­ponents ar­gue is ne­ces­sary to help an­ti­cip­ate po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous changes that could oc­cur to vir­uses in nature.

“This group should be com­men­ded for ded­ic­at­ing them­selves to find­ing ad­di­tion­al biosafety meas­ures to en­sure that this re­search can move for­ward,” said Katie Baller­ing, a mi­cro­bi­o­lo­gist and CIDRAP seni­or sci­ent­ist. “I think that this is a large and im­port­ant step in that pro­cess.”

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