A United States scientist has purposely created a deadly new flu strain that is said to be able to invade and destroy the human immune system.
Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has reportedly created a super virus unlike any other after an experiment he conducted in which he genetically manipulated the 2009 strain of pandemic flu in order to make it resistant to the immune system’s antibodies, reports The Independent. Humans are thought to be “defenseless” against the strain, and it would be even more dangerous than H1N1, which killed about 500,000 people.
Kawaoka has kept private about his research, but admitted to the public on Tuesday that his intention was to keep tabs on the changes that could take place in the deadly strain of flu so that vaccines could be created to protect against them. He said his work is complete.
“Through selection of immune escape viruses in the laboratory under appropriate containment conditions, we were able to identify key regions [that] would enable 2009 H1N1 viruses to escape immunity,” Kawaoka said in an email statement. “Viruses in clinical isolated have been identified that have these same changes in the [viral protein]. This show that escape viruses emerge in nature and laboratory studies like ours have relevance to what occurs in nature.”
But concerns have emerged among scientists who criticize the work he has done, as well as the level-2 biosafety in which it was performed – which is one level below the top safety level used for most dangerous pathogens, reports Business Insider. The university claims there is little to no risk that the deadly virus strain could escape the lab, but recent reports that scientists were exposed to possible anthrax infections at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has more people on high alert.
Despite Kawaoka receiving clearance for his experiment by Wisconsin’s Institutional Biosafety Committee, some of his colleagues had some choice words for the professor.
“He used a flu virus that is known to infect humans and then manipulated it in such a way that it would effectively leave the global population defenseless if it ever escaped from his laboratory,” one scientist said. “He’s basically got a known pandemic strain that is now resistant to vaccination. Everything he did before is dangerous, but this is even madder. This is the virus.”