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Thread: A scary perspective on "bird flu"...

  1. #1
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    This guy is a reknowned doctor and Pulitzer prize-winning political columnist; he is not known, however, as an alarmist.

    These are his thoughts about the implications of the several circumstances which have arisen.


    Life-and-death flu

    Oct 14, 2005
    by Charles Krauthammer

    WASHINGTON -- While official Washington has been poring over Harriet Miers' long-ago doings on the Dallas City Council and parsing the Byzantine comings and goings of the Fitzgerald grand jury, relatively unnoticed was perhaps the most momentous event of our lifetime -- what is left of it, as I shall explain. It was announced last week that American scientists have just created a living, killing copy of the 1918 "Spanish'' flu.

    This is big. Very big.

    First, it is a scientific achievement of staggering proportions. The Spanish flu has not been seen on this blue planet for 85 years. Its re-creation is a story of enterprise, ingenuity, serendipity, hard work and sheer brilliance. It involves finding deep in the bowels of a military hospital in Washington a couple of tissue samples from the lungs of soldiers who died in 1918 (in an autopsy collection first ordered into existence by Abraham Lincoln), and the disinterment of an Alaskan Eskimo who died of the flu and whose remains had been preserved by the permafrost. Then, using slicing and dicing techniques only Michael Crichton could imagine, they pulled off a microbiological Jurassic Park: the first ever resurrection of an ancient pathogen. And not just any ancient pathogen, explained virologist Eddie Holmes, but ``the agent of the most important disease pandemic in human history.''

    Which brings us to the second element of this story: Beyond the brilliance lies the sheer terror. We have quite literally brought back to life an agent of near-biblical destruction. It killed more people in six months than were killed in the four years of the First World War. It killed more humans than any other disease of similar duration in the history of the world, says Alfred W. Crosby, who wrote a history of the 1918 pandemic. And, notes The New Scientist, when the re-created virus was given to mice in heavily quarantined laboratories in Atlanta, it killed the mice more quickly than any other flu virus ever tested.

    Now that I have your attention, consider, with appropriate trepidation, the third element of this story: What to do with this knowledge? Not only has the virus been physically re-created. But its entire genome has now been published for the whole world, good people and very bad, to see.

    The decision to publish was a very close and terrifying call.

    On the one hand, we need the knowledge disseminated. We've learned from this research that the 1918 flu was bird flu, ``the most bird-like of all mammalian flu viruses,'' says Jeffery Taubenberger, lead researcher in unraveling the genome. There is a bird flu epidemic right now in Asia that has infected 117 people and killed 60. It has already developed a few of the genomic changes that permit transmission to humans. Therefore, you want to put out the knowledge of the structure of the 1918 flu, which made the full jump from birds to humans, so that every researcher in the world can immediately start looking for ways to anticipate, monitor, prevent and counteract similar changes in today's bird flu.

    We are essentially in a life-and-death race with the bird flu. Can we figure out how to pre-empt it before it figures out how to evolve into a transmittable form with 1918 lethality that will decimate humanity? To run that race we need the genetic sequence universally known -- not just to inform and guide but to galvanize new research.

    On the other hand, resurrection of the virus and publication of its structure opens the gates of hell. Anybody, bad guys included, can now create it. Biological knowledge is far easier to acquire for Osama and friends than nuclear knowledge. And if you can't make this stuff yourself, you can simply order up DNA sequences from commercial laboratories around the world that will make it and ship it to you on demand. Taubenberger himself admits that ``the technology is available.''

    And if the bad guys can't make the flu themselves, they could try to steal it. That's not easy. But the incentive to do so from a secure facility could not be greater. Nature, which published the full genome sequence, cites Rutgers bacteriologist Richard Ebright as warning that there is a significant risk ``verging on inevitability'' of accidental release into the human population or of theft by a ``disgruntled, disturbed or extremist laboratory employee.''

    One batch of 1918 flu has the capacity for mass destruction that no Bond villain could ever dream of. Why try to steal loose nukes in Russia? A nuke can only destroy a city. The flu virus, properly evolved, is potentially a destroyer of civilizations.

    We might have just given it to our enemies.

    Have a nice day.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    Barbarossa's Avatar mostly harmless
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    The world's laboratories contain all sorts of nasty and lethal things. Just add this to the list.

    I do think this is rather sensationalist. The current outbreak is likely to spark off the next pandemic anyway, without any help from "disgruntled laboratory employees" or any of Al Qaeda's top genetic engineers (?)....

    We just have to make sure we're prepared for it when it comes, to be able to minimize the impact. It is inevitable that many people will die, but I don't think it will be on the same scale as in 1918; Medicine and treatment is much improved since then, and remember that in 1918 the world was in complete turmoil following the Great War. Today at least, we have some warning.

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    Quote Originally Posted by j2k4
    It has already developed a few of the genomic changes that permit transmission to humans. .... Can we figure out how to pre-empt it before it figures out how to evolve into a transmittable form with 1918 lethality that will decimate humanity?
    viruses evolve? but... but... what about intelligent design?
    Last edited by 3RA1N1AC; 10-27-2005 at 09:36 AM.

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    manker's Avatar effendi
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    If this guy isn't an 'alarmist', he's doing a damn fine imitation of one.

    The genome was released, one presumes, such that the finest good guy minds can get funding, begin researching the virus and thus develop some defence against any outbreaks. The finest bad guy minds will not have access to anything like the facilities that the good guy minds have.

    The smallpox genome is available, with it being erradicated everywhere since the early eighties, there would be millions of fatalities in a country wide pandemic before proper antidotes could be produced and administered.

    The bad guys haven't bothered. Probably because even if they could synthesise a quantity of a virus, a genome does not include information on how to cultivate, store and disseminate the virus. I imagine the powers that be would think twice if all you had to do after making a virus was place a few drops of it in a reservoir or something.

    As it is, biological weapons of this nature are incredibly problematic and quite clearly the 'bad guys' don't have the first clue in how to administer them.

    Releasing virus genomes for study is a good thing.
    I plan on beating him to death with his kids. I'll use them as a bludgeon on his face. -

    --Good for them if they survive.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    manker's Avatar effendi
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    Quote Originally Posted by me
    millions of fatalities
    Well, thousands anyway

    Maybe I was being a tad alarmist there.
    I plan on beating him to death with his kids. I'll use them as a bludgeon on his face. -

    --Good for them if they survive.

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    GepperRankins's Avatar we want your oil!
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    maybe we should launch some pre emptive nukes at china, burn the virus up before it spreads (and get rid of the US's only rival : )


    ps, i don't believe anyone's gonna try and use this as a weapon

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Gripper's Avatar Dexter's Apprentice.
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    Millions of people get flu every year and thousands die of it worldwide,this is your ordainary flu,why are they worrying about a flu that may make the jump or not.

    All spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in my post's are intentional.

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    manker's Avatar effendi
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    Quote Originally Posted by gripper103.2
    Millions of people get flu every year and thousands die of it worldwide,this is your ordainary flu,why are they worrying about a flu that may make the jump or not.
    Normal influenza performs necessary services to humanity; thinning out the old and infirm herd, also taking out a proportion of those that live in poverty - who have weakened immune systems - such that there is more food to go around.

    This new and improved flu might kill healthy and affluent people who are important to society, like politicians and accountants.

    It must be stopped!
    I plan on beating him to death with his kids. I'll use them as a bludgeon on his face. -

    --Good for them if they survive.

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    Busyman's Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!!!
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    They won't release the fucking virus over here because it would be a MAD.
    Silly bitch, your weapons cannot harm me. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, Bitchhhh!

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  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    Quote Originally Posted by GepperRankins
    maybe we should launch some pre emptive nukes at china, burn the virus up before it spreads (and get rid of the US's only rival : )


    ps, i don't believe anyone's gonna try and use this as a weapon
    I'm not so sure, the other day there were some communist pigeons in Washington saying "coup coup"

    it’s an election with no Democrats, in one of the whitest states in the union, where rich candidates pay $35 for your votes. Or, as Republicans call it, their vision for the future.

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