Scientists Create “artificial” Human Bird-Flu Virus!

Scientists have mutated a protein of the H5N1 virus to identify changes which could make the virus capable of passing between humans.

Even an artificial Bird-Flu virus, which could infect humans easily, is really scary at this time.

What with all the goings on at the Pirbright Research laboratory, in Surrey, England, which is said to be linked to the recent Foot-And-Mouth outbreak in the UK.

An initial, report from the Government investigators into the outbreak in Surrey England says, that humans are to blame for carrying the foot and mouth virus from laboratories in Pirbright.

The initial report from the Health and Safety Executive says there is a “strong probability” that the origin was either the government-funded Institute of Animal Health laboratory or the commercial Merial facility, which share the same site.

Both were working on the strain involved in the farm outbreak, although Merial was producing it in large quantities while the IAH was using tiny amounts for research. So you see  what I mean?Very scary stuff this!

Any way, they are saying that this “artificial” human H5N1 virus could help find a real solution for the Bird-Flu problem so fingers crossed hope every thing would be OK.

Here is an excerpt from the news item via SciDev: 

Scientists have mutated a protein of the H5N1 virus to identify changes which could make the virus capable of passing between humans.

The findings are reported by Yang Zhi-Yong and colleagues in the 10 August issue of Science.

Scientists believe that for the H5N1 virus to spread among humans, a mutation must occur in the protein spikes on its surface, known as haemagglutinin (HA).

Scientists at the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) created specific mutations in the RBD of H5N1 and then tested the ability of the mutated RBD structure to recognise bird and human cells.

Rather than using real H5N1 virus, the researchers altered the RBD of HA protein in artificial forms of the virus –– called pseudoviruses –– which do not cause disease but are otherwise a good model of H5N1.

The researchers believe the method can guide the development of vaccines and therapeutic antibodies “that can be evaluated before the emergence of human-adapted H5N1 strains”.

“There is no guarantee that we will find the precise mutations needed to adapt to human [cells], but we can be prepared for most of them and there are probably a limited number of ways the virus can adapt to recognise the receptor [of human cells],” corresponding author Gary J. Nabel of NIAID told SciDev.Net.

He adds that new virus variants made in the study could be used to generate vaccine stocks against possible H5N1 virus mutants.

Dong Xiaoping of the Institute of Virology who chairs China’s ongoing development of human H5N1 vaccine, at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control welcomed the study.

Diagram of an influenza virus (Paul Digard)



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