The American CDC has had an apparent change of policy that will allow scientists broader access to the 1918 Spanish Flu virus, prompting fears that
the virus may escape. Concerns have also been raised that labs outside the USA which are not bound by select agent rules, may obtain the virus. The
reasearch into the newly constructed virus has created a security and safety problem according to the director of the Sunshine project, Edward
Hammond. Some scientists now believe with the new raised security fears, that the virus should not have been recreated. The CDC has said that are not
planning to ship the virus at this point.
The long-lost virus --- which killed an estimated 50 million people around the world in 11 months --- was reconstructed earlier this year in a
high-security biotech lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta with the help of research teams from New York and
When the CDC announced the re-creation Oct. 5, Director Julie Gerberding said the agency would not share the virus with other research teams unless
they agreed to work in the CDC's Atlanta labs.
Now, however, the CDC may have changed its mind. The journal Nature reports today that the agency has agreed to send the virus to labs that take
appropriate biosafety precautions and register under the federal government's "select agents" program, which sets rules for handling dangerous
organisms and potential bioterror agents.
In a separate editorial, Nature warns: "The 1918 flu virus is hard to contain and is capable of spreading rapidly between people. . . . The threat of
an accidental release is real."
But the reconstructed virus's listing as a select agent, which occurred Oct. 20 in the Federal Register, might open the way to sharing the virus.
"If there are requests to obtain the virus, they will be taken on a case-by-case basis," Roebuck said. "We will ask, How is this advancing
Dr. C.J. Peters, director for biodefense at the University of Texas Medical Branch's Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases --- and
former head of the CDC's Special Pathogens unit, which operates agency labs with the highest biosecurity level, dubbed BSL-4 --- said sharing the
virus under select agent rules might provide the best means of control, given that the viral "recipe," its genetic sequence, has been published.
"If you put it under select agent rules, you have control over its movement and over who works with it," he said. "If you didn't make it a select
agent, and just tried to keep it at the CDC, people would make it on their own."
Some analysts said the concern over increased access proves the virus should never have been made.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
In another report fears are being raised over the Spanish Flu virus being sent to scientists by mail.
< subscription Only.
The need to know versus the risk factor. In this case I think they should have let sleeping dogs lie.
[edit on 10-11-2005 by Mayet]