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Science experiments with deadly viruses risk decimating humankind, warn experts


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(NaturalNews) Is a viral pandemic capable of emerging from a laboratory? New Harvard and Yale research suggests that a new viral outbreak is inevitable within the next 10 years, and it may accidentally be derived from laboratories. As scientists experiment with viruses to develop new vaccines, it may only be a matter of time before the inevitable occurs.

Scientific communities around the world are racing against the clock to alter and even create virus strains, as they study viral evolution and immunology. Two studies released in 2012 basically published a recipe for mutant bird flu, which can be passed from ferrets to humans. This brings up the possibility that viruses may one day fall into the wrong hands and be intentionally released onto groups of unsuspecting people. Devious scientists may want to see how these new mutant virus strains spread in real time.

The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, a panel of the Department of Health and Human Services, sees the risk of mutant virus recipes getting in the wrong hands. In 2012, the panel ruled that the two studies on mutant bird flu from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam and the University of Wisconsin could not be published because of security reasons. Worried that the recipe for mutant bird flu could fall into the hands of terrorists, the Biosecurity panel blocked the publishing. However, after months of delay, the two controversial studies were released, provoking further research of their kind. Interestingly enough, this research is primarily funded by none other than the US government.

Harvard and Yale epidemiologists show a 20 percent risk of viral pandemic in next 10 years

Public health officials now warn that experiments on mutant viruses at high-containment labs could reap an accidental pandemic, putting countless human lives at risk. Are experimenters pushing their limits and tempting humanity's fate?

Theoretically, lab-created pathogen strains could escape without anyone ever knowing, moving from their Petri dish to their host, as they spread to the world outside. Researchers at Harvard and Yale Universities are now concerned about this inevitable reality, showing how the benefits of studying viruses are outweighed by the risks. Two epidemiologists performed a risk assessment that shows an inevitable outbreak in the US within the next 10 years.

"We are not saying this is going to happen, but when the potential is a pandemic, even a small chance is something you have to weigh very heavily," said Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, who wrote the report with Alison Galvani, an epidemiologist at Yale.

According to the two epidemiologists, within a decade, the chance of one person becoming infected from one of the 10 high-containment labs in the US is nearly 20 percent. The infected person could easily spread the virus to their surrounding community and beyond. Lipsitch and Galvani believe that a flu strain which eventually traveled around the world between 1977 and 2009 actually originated from a laboratory accident.

Gain of function studies used to justify development of new vaccines, funded by US government

Lipsitch and Galavani are concerned that the government isn't using discretion as it moves in support of new gain of function virus studies. These studies are conducted in high-security laboratories and examine the genetic codes of viruses. By understanding the genetic codes, scientists can learn how the virus strains perform specific functions in the human body. For example, a respiratory virus can be made more transferable through coughing when designed to lodge specifically in people's throats.

Of course, studies like these are used to help vaccine manufacturers develop new products to sell. Basically, viruses can be created in labs so vaccines can be manufactured and sold as preventative measures against the fabricated strains. This tactic is rooted in what scientists call "improving surveillance." This method involves investigating which mutations exist in natural strains, allowing them to identify which mutations are more dangerous to people. This method is almost always used to encourage the manufacture of new vaccines and is a sad justification for their development. Lipsitch and Galavani denounce this scientific method.

On the other hand, Ron Fouchier and Yoshiro Kawaoka, two of the leading scientists for government-funded gain-of-function studies, believe that accidents at laboratories have never happened and never will. They believe that Lipsitch and Galavani's new report is misleading.

"[T]he proof of the pudding will need to come from gain-of-function studies using infectious viruses. This is why the department of health and human services has approved our research, taking into account all ethical, safety and security issues, and weighing the risks of the research against the benefits," Fouchier said.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.theguardian.com

http://www.theguardian.com

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