Chinese Scientists in Hot Water Over Controversial Bird Flu Research

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A research team in China is attracting worldwide criticism for attempting to combine two deadly viruses to create a “superflu," a baffling move given the potential health risks associated with such a project.

The group is currently attempting to combine the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus with the highly-infectious human influenza virus. According to a recent report published by the journal Science, the researchers are claiming the goal of the project is to discover how new strains of flu may pass between humans and animals.

However, international researchers are saying the benefits of such a project are extremely minimal.

The consequences, on the other hand, could be deadly.

 “They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever,” zoologist Lord Robert May of Oxford University told The Independent.“The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring. They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible.”

The team’s leader, Hualan Chen, director of China’s National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, strongly disagreed with May’s remarks.

Chen said the group had produced 127 different hybrids of the two flu strains – five of which were passed between laboratory mammals.

“The studies demonstrated that H5N1 viruses have the potential to acquire mammalian transmissibility by re-assortment with the human influenza viruses,” Chen said in an email to The Independent.

“This tells us that high attention should be paid to monitor the emergence of such mammalian-transmissible virus in nature to prevent a possible pandemic caused by H5N1 virus."

The controversial study was conducted in a veterinary lab with the nation’s second-highest security level to prevent accidental spread.

Sources: NY Daily News, The Independent