The latest in dual-use gain of function research, Yoshihiro Kawaoka and his team seem to be intent on one-upping Ron Fouchier when it comes to spurious research. This time, the group used reverse genetics to cobble together a “1918-flu like virus, composed of avian influenza virus segments.” The new virus demonstrates higher pathogenicity in ferrets than the case-fatality rate of the original 1918 flu virus. For reference, the 1918 pandemic killed 50 million people.
The summary of the article:
- Current circulating avian flu viruses encode proteins similar to the 1918 virus
- A 1918-like virus composed of avian influenza virus segments was generated
- The 1918-like virus is more pathogenic in mammals than an authentic avian flu virus
- Seven amino acid substitutions were sufficient to confer transmission in ferrets.
In a commentary in the Guardian, the same types of justifications were rolled out by Kawaoka: awareness, medical countermeasures, and surveillance. Still lacking an argument as to why gain-of-function really promotes these, over other (less dangerous) research if at all.