Hi everyone, in our next session on Tuesday, the 24th of June at 8 pm (BST) we will look at the following paper:

“Circulating Avian Influenza Viruses Closely Related to the 1918 VirusHave Pandemic Potential” by Watanabe et al from Japan & the US published on the 11th of June 2014 in cell Host&Microbe available here:

http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/pdf/S1931-3128(14)00163-2.pdf

SUMMARY:

Wild birds harbor a large gene pool of influenza A viruses that have the potential to cause influenza pandemics. Foreseeing and understanding this potentialis important for effective surveillance. Our phylogenetic and geographic analyses revealed the global prevalence of avian influenza virus genes whose proteins differ only a few amino acids from the 1918 pandemic influenza virus, suggesting that 1918-like pandemic viruses may emerge in the future. To assess this risk, we generated and characterized a virus composed of avian influenza viral segments with high homology to the 1918 virus. This virus exhibited pathogenicity in mice and ferrets higher than that in an authentic avian influenza virus. Further, acquisition of seven amino acid substitutions in the viral polymerases and the hemagglutinin surface glycoprotein conferred respiratory droplet transmission to the 1918-like avian virus in ferrets, demonstrating that contemporary avian influenza viruses with 1918 virus-like proteins may have pandemic potential.

The paper also got some news coverage, some examples can be found here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611131551.htm

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/american-scientists-controversially-recreate-deadly-spanish-flu-virus-9529707.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2655227/Bird-flu-viruses-unleash-pandemic-ferocious-one-killed-50-MILLION-people-1918-study-shows.html

Discussion points:

1. Was the publication written for an easy understanding?

2. Are the methods chosen appropiately?

3. Is the data well presented?

4. Does the paper achieve what the authors set it out?

5. What do you think of this research? Is it ethically to perform this high-risk research? Or would it be better to study it only theoretically? (to include the public discussion aspect)

Hope to see many of you there,

@Janitensen

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