Sunday, April 1, 2012

Good news all around

The NSABB has decided to allow the two transmissible H5N1papers to be published in full after new versions of the papers were reviewed. Very little is known about the Kawaoka experiments. However, the limited information on the Fouchier experiments seem to point to a virus that is lethal when large doses are applied directly to the lungs, but non-lethal when infection is initiated by “natural” aerosol transmission. Typically this route of infection leads to smaller doses that end up in the upper respiratory tract(nose, trachea) as opposed to the lower respiratory tract (lungs). WARNING: pure speculation ahead ~*I am guessing that the revised version of the paper will clearly point this out and will include data from experiments carried out since the original submission of the findings. As far as dual use is concerned, its would be prohibitively hard for terrorists to get large doses of a virus into target humans lungs and even then there would be no lethal transmission. Makes for a pretty bad bioweapon.*~

The board voted unanimously to allow for publication of the Kawaoka paper with a 12-6 decision on the Fouchier paper. Comments made by some members of the board several weeks ago suggested that the issue the board had was with the transmissibility of the virus, not necessarily the lethality.

“The central issue for me is the transmissibility. Unless Ron [Fouchier] gets up there and says this is no longer mammalian transmissible," NSABB member Arturo Casadevall [would not change his mind].

“The issue is you have a virus generated in laboratory that's now transmissible [in mammals],” says Casadevall, “This virus has the capacity to recombine, and we have no idea what will come out.”

“They not only changed the host range of a dangerous pathogen, they also changed its mode of transmission… All the other differences in methods, or new or clarified work on virulence in ferrets, does nothing to change those facts." Lynn Enquist.

Despite those two comments, it appears (at least in the Kawaoka case) the board did in fact change their minds about a transmissible H5. I am very curious about the differences between the two papers that led to the different voting records. Also, its unfortunate that we will never get to see what was revised in the manuscripts. It would be interesting to see what the board was thinking and what led to the reversal of position.

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