Thursday, 14 May 2009
WHO Investigates Claim that Swine Flu Virus May have Been Created… By Mistake
Found on http://www.dvorak.org/blog
Bloomberg- The World Health Organization is investigating a claim by an Australian researcher that the swine flu virus circling the globe may have been created as a result of human error.
Adrian Gibbs, 75, who collaborated on research that led to the development of Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu drug, said in an interview that he intends to publish a report suggesting the new strain may have accidentally evolved in eggs scientists use to grow viruses and drugmakers use to make vaccines. Gibbs said he came to his conclusion as part of an effort to trace the virus’s origins by analyzing its genetic blueprint.
“One of the simplest explanations is that it’s a laboratory escape,” Gibbs said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. “But there are lots of others.” The World Health Organization received the study last weekend and is reviewing it, Keiji Fukuda, the agency’s assistant director-general of health security and environment, said in an interview May 11. Gibbs, who has studied germ evolution for four decades, is one of the first scientists to analyze the genetic makeup of the virus that was identified three weeks ago in Mexico and threatens to touch off the first flu pandemic since 1968.
A virus that resulted from lab experimentation or vaccine production may indicate a greater need for security, Fukuda said. By pinpointing the source of the virus, scientists also may better understand the microbe’s potential for spreading and causing illness, Gibbs said. The sooner we get to grips with where it’s come from, the safer things might become,” Gibbs said by phone from Canberra yesterday. “It could be a mistake” that occurred at a vaccine production facility or the virus could have jumped from a pig to another mammal or a bird before reaching humans, he said.
Gibbs and two colleagues analyzed the publicly available sequences of hundreds of amino acids coded by each of the flu virus’s eight genes. He said he aims to submit his three-page paper today for publication in a medical journal.
“You really want a very sober assessment” of the science behind the claim, Fukuda said May 11 at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters. “My guess is that the picture should be a lot clearer over the next few days,” Fukuda said. “We have asked a lot of people to look at this.” Gibbs wrote or co-authored more than 250 scientific publications on viruses during his 39-year career at the Australian National University in Canberra, according to biographical information on the university’s Web site.