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tsunami bird flu concerns

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    In the wake of the Tsunami that devastated the Indian Ocean basin, you have to be concerned over disease outbreaks. One of the more potentially devastating outbreaks could occur with Avian Flu virus, which is present in Thailand, one of the more hard hit areas from the quake and Tsunami. Before the Tsuanmi, researchers at the CDC and elsewhere had planned a series of research tests, where they would cross existing avian flu with other known human pathogens, in essence creating a superflu on purpose, to see how likely it might be for the Avian influenza to mutate and cause a pandemic.

    from the long article :
    "CDC researchers have already made hybrid viruses with H5N1, using versions of the virus isolated after it first caused human infections in 1997 in Hong Kong.

    "Some gene combinations could be produced and others were not," is all Cox will reveal of that as-yet unpublished work.

    Even if, in this new round of experiments, CDC's researchers fail to produce a single viable hybrid virus, that doesn't prove H5N1 won't reassort in nature, experts say.

    For one thing, flu viruses are constantly evolving. The viruses that the CDC will work with now - isolated in 2004 - are not identical to those from the 1997 outbreak. A combination that fails with the 1997 virus might work with a 2004 virus - or a 2005 version.

    "Things in nature can happen that you can't replicate in the lab necessarily," stresses Plummer, whose lab is working on producing reassortments of H7N3, the strain behind last spring's avian flu outbreak in British Columbia.

    "Can you be sure that all possible virus reassortments have occurred? No. And fairly minor changes in viruses can make really huge differences in their biologic properties."

    Scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will soon begin experiments designed to see how likely it is for the H5N1 avian influenza virus to ignite a human flu pandemic. "

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