Having made H5N1 transmissible, scientists intend to do the same with H7N9
After stirring up controversy by creating airborne-transmissible versions of one deadly bird flu virus, scientists intend to do it again with another. This time, the experiments will involve H7N9, a new strain of avian influenza that infected 134 people in China this year, killing 43.
The experiments involve mutating the virus or mixing it with other flu viruses to create ones that can do things the existing virus can’t currently do, such as spread through the air from person to person. Information gained from the experiments could help scientists understand how bird flu adapts to live in people, the potential of the virus to cause a pandemic and how best to design vaccines and antiviral therapies, say Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and 20 coauthors. Similar research on the H5N1 virus by Fouchier and Kawaoka went unpublished for half a year due