A report in the journal Science is exposing a research group in China that is creating hybrid super-viruses that could cause a mass pandemic should they be released into the world.
Professor Hualan Chen, director of China’s National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, lead the team that mixed highly lethal strains of flu with others that are more readily spread between humans.
For example, the scientists combined the highly lethal H5N1 bird flu, which does not transmit easily between humans, with the H1N1 virus which is highly contagious among humans. Of the 127 different strains of the hybrid created in the lab, five of them were confirmed to be transferred through the air between guinea pigs.
“Nobody can extrapolate to humans except to conclude that the five viruses would probably transmit reasonable well between humans,” Professor Simon Wain-Hobson, virologist with the Pasteur Institute in Paris said. “We don’t know the pathogenicity [lethality] in man and hopefully we will never know. But if the case fatality rate was between 0.1 and 20 per cent, and a pandemic affected 500 million people, you could estimate anything between 500,000 and 100 million deaths,” he said.
Despite the claims of the Chinese team that the research was done to create new vaccines should the virus ever organically mutate in nature, worldwide scientists said that the possibility was so remote that it was irresponsible of the Chinese to undertake the research.
ional Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute.