The ethics of deliberate flu infection

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Omai
Omai's picture
The ethics of deliberate flu infection

Dutch researchers hope to infect wild birds with H4N6 flu virus to study the effect of infection on migration and feeding habits in the hopes of discovering more information on avian flu, or H5N1. H4N6 is fairly ubiquitous and lowly pathogenic, however is lab infection and release into the wild aqn ethical experiment? It seems unneccessarily dangerous considering our current level of understanding of the movement and mutation of the flu in the wild.
Here is the link:
www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/323/5912/324a
I welcome any other comments.
 
Omai

Jason King
Jason King's picture
Would the researchers be able

Would the researchers be able to distinguish between their virus and existing viruses in the environment? ie. Could they follow the spread of the lab virus or are they just going to follow up on the behaviour of their leg-tagged birds? Would be interesting to tag the virus but I guess this would have the potential danger of endowing the virus with some advantage that could result in a Michael Crichton type senario.

heehawmcduff
heehawmcduff's picture
Wow - thanks for posting this

Wow - thanks for posting this.  I haven't had a chance to read it yet but my immediate reaction is that I would suspect it's a bad idea for two reasons:
Firstly, I was under the impression that highly pathogenic avian influenza had a very high mortality rate in waterfowl and other birds and therefore would inherently affect the feeding/migration patterns of the birds it has infected in a fairly severe way.  The pathogenicity of the virus itself may naturally limit the spread because of rapid damage to the host.  Am I right in thinking that using a flu virus of lower pathogenicity would not accurately reflect the H5N1 strain because it would affect the host in a completely different way.
Secondly, surely there is a ridiculously detailed amount of data on avian migration/feeding patterns and mathematical modelling could provide a much more accurate way of predicting the spread of a virus without releasing yet another flu virus into the wild.
I wonder what other people think?

heehawmcduff
heehawmcduff's picture
And furthermore - I wonder

And furthermore - I wonder what the CDC thinks of this

Kvachhani
Kvachhani's picture
but, this avian influanza

but, this avian influanza virus can change their pathogenicity from non pathogenic to highly pathogenic when its transfer the spp. i mean from migratory bird to water bird and than pig to again bird.
This is very deingerious experiment. needs careful and continous watch.

Omai
Omai's picture
I have another question, if

I have another question, if the flu they are using is fairly ubiquitous in the population, and nonpathogenic, how do they know that their experimental animals are not already infected?
 
Omai

Kvachhani
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By antibody titer against

By antibody titer against that strain in that population we can get status weather that population is affected or not.

Kvachhani
Kvachhani's picture
<p>By antibody titer against

<p>By antibody titer against that strain in that population we can get status weather that population is affected or not.</p>