The bird flu virus strain that engulfed China months ago is about to be tested in a controversial way, as researchers are planning to make laboratory specimens of the strain for “ease in spreading”.
Ron Fouchier, a researcher of the Department of Virology in Netherlands’ Erasmus University, joined a team of researchers from Hong Kong, UK and the US to plan out a laboratory-scale creation of the H7N9 bird flu virus strain. Their purpose: to simulate development of stronger virus strains for preventive action. “We cannot prevent epidemics or pandemics, but we can accumulate critical knowledge ahead of time,” according to Fouchier in a news item.
Through the study, the research team hopes to open up knowledge about the virus strain, mainly on determining the virus mutations and their impact on public health. With the simulation, health experts can check the potential spread of the virus and develop vaccines ahead of time.
As noble as the motive seems to be, the research plan doesn’t sit well with the US government. In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, plans to create easy-to-spread virus strains will undergo a stringent review to assess the pros and cons of the research. “If the risk is felt to be too high by this outside review, they will recommend it won’t be done and we won’t fund it,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.