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Lethal Virus from 1918 Genetically Reconstructed
The Sunshine Project ^ | 9 October 2003

Posted on 10/31/2003 12:10:53 PM PST by GluteusMax

Lethal Virus from 1918 Genetically Reconstructed
US Army scientists create "Spanish Flu" virus in laboratory - medical benefit questionable

(Austin and Hamburg, 9 October 2003) – The 'Spanish Flu' influenza virus that killed 20-40 million people in 1918 is currently under reconstruction. Several genes of the extraordinarily lethal 1918 flu virus have been isolated and introduced into contemporary flu strains. These proved to be lethal for mice, while virus constructs with genes from a current flu virus types had hardly any effect. These experiments may easily be abused for military purposes, but provide little benefit from a medical or public health point of view.

The 1918 Spanish Flu was highly infectious and – in comparison to contemporary flu viruses – killed a very high percentage of those infected, including many younger people. The Spanish Flu alone caused the medium life expectancy in the US in 1918 to drop by 10 years. Hence, flu viruses are perceived today as a serious biological warfare threat. Just two weeks ago, a 15 million dollar research grant was awarded in the US to develop protective measures especially against a bioterrorist attack with flu viruses.

Despite the very dangerous nature of the 1918 virus, efforts to reconstruct it started in the mid 1990s, when Dr Jeffrey Taubenberger from the US Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington DC succeeded in recovering and sequencing fragments of the viral RNA from preserved tissues of 1918 victims. In the current issue of the scientific journal Emerging Infectious Diseases new genetic details of the 1918 flu virus will be published.

But after (partially) unravelling the genetic sequence of the virus, the scientists went a step further and began bringing the Spanish flu back to life. Unnoticed by the public, they succeeded in creating a live virus containing two 1918 genes that proved to be very lethal in animal experiments. This experiment is only one genetic step away from taking the 1918 demon entirely out of the bottle.

A resuscitation of the Spanish flu is neither necessary nor warranted from a public health point of view. Allegedly, the recent experiments sought to test the efficacy of existing antiviral drugs on the 1918 construct. But there is little need for antiviral drugs against the 1918 strain if the 1918 strain had not been recreated in the first place "It simply does not make any scientific sense to create a new threat just to develop new countermeasures against it." says Jan van Aken, biologist with the Sunshine Project, "Genetic characterization of influenza strains has important biomedical applications. But it is not justifiable to recreate this particularly dangerous eradicated strain that could wreak havoc if released, deliberately or accidentally."

Construction of new maximum security (BSL-4) laboratories for biodefense research has been justified in part by citing the potential of the Spanish Flu as a biological weapon. Influenza usually requires a low level of containment; but when scientists begin recombining virulence-related genes, the danger dramatically increases. The University of Texas Medical Branch's BSL-4 plans influenza 'gene reassortment' experiments in maximum containment. "This kind of research is creating a vicious circle, and could prompt a race by biodefense scientists to genetic engineer unthinkable diseases", says Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project, "What disease comes after influenza? Biodefense laboratories must not become self-fulfilling prophesy centers. The world does not need biodefense programs to create a 'genetically engineered disease gap'."

From an arms control perspective it appears to be particularly sensitive if a military research institution embarks on a project that aims at constructing more dangerous pathogens. "If Jeffery Taubenberger worked in a Chinese, Russian or Iranian laboratory, his work might well be seen as the 'smoking gun' of an offensive biowarfare program," says van Aken.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: bioterror; bioweapons; hammond; spanishflu; taubenberger; virus
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But there is little need for antiviral drugs against the 1918 strain if the 1918 strain had not been recreated in the first place "It simply does not make any scientific sense to create a new threat just to develop new countermeasures against it."

No kidding. This is insanity.

1 posted on 10/31/2003 12:10:53 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: GluteusMax
The world does not need biodefense programs to create a 'genetically engineered disease gap'."

Ugh. Just flashed back to the 60s...

2 posted on 10/31/2003 12:18:05 PM PST by Eala (FR Trad Anglican Directory: http://eala.freeservers.com/anglican - Proud member VIOC)
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To: GluteusMax
Boy am I glad they're playing around with this...(/ sarcasm)
3 posted on 10/31/2003 12:20:11 PM PST by xrp
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To: GluteusMax
"From an arms control perspective it appears to be particularly sensitive if a military research institution embarks on a project that aims at constructing more dangerous pathogens. "If Jeffery Taubenberger worked in a Chinese, Russian or Iranian laboratory, his work might well be seen as the 'smoking gun' of an offensive biowarfare program," says van Aken."

The problem is:......

Who says that the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, (whowever) are NOT working on this as a weapons program? It may be hypocricy to work on this, but it could be used to create antibiotics to fight it. The truth is: bioweapons are not useful, because they will also kill your side, but we could also be looking at an "Army of the Twelve Monkeys" scenario. A suicidal terrorist would love to get his creepy hands on this stuff.

4 posted on 10/31/2003 12:25:58 PM PST by You Gotta Be Kidding Me
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To: GluteusMax
Everyone seems to be assuming that no other government could possibly have resurrected the Spanish flu. North Korea and any number of other rogue states could have done this, and they would be less likely to talk about it than the US Army would.

In short, there could be a very good reason for pursuing this line of research.

5 posted on 10/31/2003 12:26:07 PM PST by Montfort
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To: GluteusMax
I thought the purpose of a weapon was to kill your enemy, NOT yourself. The way that the flu spreads, this was be just as lethal to us as to the enemy.
6 posted on 10/31/2003 12:27:38 PM PST by jim_trent
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To: GluteusMax
There is/was some thought that much of the virulence of the Spanish flu [which probably originated in Fort Riley, Kansas may have been due to a bacterium which accompanied it [perhaps Haemophilus influenzae].
7 posted on 10/31/2003 12:30:10 PM PST by curmudgeonII
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To: jim_trent
Not if you had been vacinated for this paticular strain. So, they might be growing it to develop a vacine.
8 posted on 10/31/2003 12:30:29 PM PST by Leisler
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To: GluteusMax
It is important to our national security to have the ability to deal with these diseases, should they be loosed on us. We can't invent a cure/vaccine/etc. without having the disease to study.
9 posted on 10/31/2003 12:31:37 PM PST by xm177e2 (Stalinists, Maoists, Ba'athists, Pacifists: Why are they always on the same side?)
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To: jim_trent
The Army needs to stay away from this kind of work. The Russians were light years ahead of us and fortunately realized that they could develop something so deadly and uncontrollable that they stopped research and destroyed their samples. All it takes is for one accidentally infected researcher to take a deadly virus home with him and you can have something on your hands that makes the most unimagineable horror seem like kids stuff!
10 posted on 10/31/2003 12:32:34 PM PST by tripod
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To: xrp
Boy am I glad they're playing around with this...(/ sarcasm)

I can't see a plausible justification for actively seeking out surviving tissue samples (requiring several attempts to find viable virii) from lungs of corpses.

How gullible must one be to really believe Moslem terrorists could get access to records of dead Western soldiers who died from the 1918 Spanish flu, exhume them, successfully identify and find the RNA they were seeking and then pull off a successful genome mapping?

11 posted on 10/31/2003 12:33:33 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: GluteusMax
This is insane. Shades of Jurassic Park...
12 posted on 10/31/2003 12:34:25 PM PST by Steely Glint ("Communists are just Democrats in a big hurry.")
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To: GluteusMax
No kidding. This is insanity.

I can't say that I agree. The quoted language--"It simply does not make any scientific sense to create a new threat just to develop new countermeasures against it"--is too cute. It assumes that noone else can accomplish the same thing as the researchers did. But if the researchers can do it, so can NK, China and Iran. Don't you think it would be a good idea to understand the genome of this killer for countermeasures?

13 posted on 10/31/2003 12:34:57 PM PST by ModelBreaker
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To: Steely Glint
We actually ARE all gonna die.
14 posted on 10/31/2003 12:36:47 PM PST by Lazamataz (PROUDLY POSTING WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE SINCE 1999 !!!!)
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To: GluteusMax
What's not said in the article is that the "Sunshine Project" is a leftist group that would prefer to see us vulnerable to whatever bio-nasties our friends in Cuba, China,or the Middle East can come up with.

They were also opposed to the destruction of chemical weapon stocks, and tried to create a panic: apparently preferring to expose those around the arms depots to insanely higher risks; meanwhile, promoting "safety equipment" ( gas masks, sheets of polyvinyl, etc.) at inflated prices, via website links.

They know quite well you have to use live viruses to create vaccines, and they use the presence of these viruses to create panic.

It would not surprise me to learn they ( or some of their more ardent followers ) have been behind some of the "unusual incidents" in some of the biolabs.

15 posted on 10/31/2003 12:36:52 PM PST by genefromjersey (So little time - so many FLAMES to light !!)
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To: Steely Glint
This is insane. Shades of Jurassic Park...

More like "The Stand" by Stephen King (or at least the beginning of it).

16 posted on 10/31/2003 12:38:46 PM PST by The_Victor
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To: tripod
Powder..Patch..Ball FIRE!

All it takes is for one accidentally infected researcher to take a deadly virus home with him and you can have something on your hands that makes the most unimagineable horror seem like kids stuff

You should send Stephen King a email telling him about this..
He might write a book using it as the plot line!!!!!:+0

17 posted on 10/31/2003 12:38:46 PM PST by BallandPowder
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To: GluteusMax
m o o n, that spells deadly virus
18 posted on 10/31/2003 12:39:00 PM PST by week 71
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To: Montfort
Everyone seems to be assuming that no other government could possibly have resurrected the Spanish flu. North Korea and any number of other rogue states could have done this, and they would be less likely to talk about it than the US Army would.

In short, there could be a very good reason for pursuing this line of research.

The problem with that line of thinking is that a bioweapon is by design not the original virus. Researchers seek to identify what made the 1918 bug so deadly and then splice that sequence in and try it on mice. They do this till they get the "results" they are looking for. (Ghoulish) If a rogue state went after the especially virulent features of the 1918 variant to incorporate into a modern influenza strain, who says our conjecture on their choice would be correct? We may be immunized against something that doesn't exist in the enemy arsenal.

19 posted on 10/31/2003 12:41:42 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: GluteusMax
Does the Army have any 'Muslim Chaplains' assigned to these labs?
20 posted on 10/31/2003 12:43:45 PM PST by Semper Paratus
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To: genefromjersey
It would not surprise me to learn they ( or some of their more ardent followers ) have been behind some of the "unusual incidents" in some of the biolabs.

It would not surprise me if some lefty group with an enviromentalist bent purposely releashed something like this to "cleanse mother earth of evil humanity." Which is precisely why it is insanity to isolate the virulent elements of a dead strain of a virus we are now presumably immune to and attach it to a modern strain we are not immune to.

21 posted on 10/31/2003 12:48:03 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: Lazamataz
"We actually ARE all gonna die."

Yeah, but I wanna pony first!

22 posted on 10/31/2003 12:48:35 PM PST by Mad Dawgg (French: old Europe word meaning surrender)
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To: aristeides
Ping.
23 posted on 10/31/2003 12:49:13 PM PST by Lucy Lake
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To: GluteusMax
This seems like one of those 'not good' ideas.
24 posted on 10/31/2003 12:50:16 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: GluteusMax
But there is little need for antiviral drugs against the 1918 strain if the 1918 strain had not been recreated in the first place...

The 1918 virus is already "out of the bottle." It wasn't recreated, it was found in in bodies in permafrost. And there is no reason on earth why it, or something like it, couldn't come back. And if it does, and we haven't done any research on it, what does the Sunshine Project propose to tell the survivors?

25 posted on 10/31/2003 12:52:32 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: ModelBreaker
No kidding. This is insanity.

I can't say that I agree. The quoted language--"It simply does not make any scientific sense to create a new threat just to develop new countermeasures against it"--is too cute. It assumes that noone else can accomplish the same thing as the researchers did. But if the researchers can do it, so can NK, China and Iran. Don't you think it would be a good idea to understand the genome of this killer for countermeasures?

I have no doubt a few of the more developed totalitarian regimes could duplicate this kind of research. However, unless a western nation supplied the tissue samples, i.e. knew precisely where to exhume a soldier buried in permafrost, I find it somewhat unlikely that North Korea would embark on finding 1918 flu to work with. Ebola or something equally heinous perhaps would be more readily exploited. The choice of weaponizing Spanish Flu just seems strange for "terrorists" but does sound more plausible for a Western government to choose. Not to deny the possibility that OBL or someone may not see the usefulness of weaponized 1918 flu, but we shouldn't do the groundwork for him.

26 posted on 10/31/2003 12:58:40 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: All
Eventually a flu similar to the 1918 strain will appear again, that is a certainty. Knowing why the strain is so deadly may help fight it when it shows up, then again, I don't see why we wouldn't just develop a vaccine against it like we do for other flu.

What is really scary is that there were 2 efforts in the 90's of scientists trying to get samples of this virus from victims buried in permafrost. These yahoos were doing this with little protective equipment or containment facilites. Just a couple of scientists working alone. If they had found live virus they might have started another outbreak that could have killed millions.
27 posted on 10/31/2003 12:59:01 PM PST by BadAndy
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To: grizzfan; CathyRyan; Mother Abigail; Dog Gone; Petronski; per loin; riri; flutters; Judith Anne; ...
I wonder how dangerous this strain is. Isn't it likely that current or recent strains of flu are related to it, so that most people have substantial immunity to it?
28 posted on 10/31/2003 12:59:08 PM PST by aristeides
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To: GluteusMax
But there is little need for antiviral drugs against the 1918 strain if the 1918 strain had not been recreated in the first place "It simply does not make any scientific sense to create a new threat just to develop new countermeasures against it."

No kidding. This is insanity.

Fine, but what if the Chinese or worse North Koreans reconstruct the 1918 virus? Plus we also have learned about another weapon, then we can create a vacination against it so only our enemy dies.

29 posted on 10/31/2003 1:06:11 PM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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To: aristeides
Much of the research on the original flu points to it having jumped from swine, to birds, to humans. Sound familiar? (SARS) That's why this research is vital - it will happen again without man's intervention - this way we can be prepared.
30 posted on 10/31/2003 1:07:24 PM PST by 11B3 (Use the Gitmo prisoners for bayonnet course target dummies.)
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To: aristeides
There are 64 variants of the Orthomyxo virus that causes the flu. One variant causes the Spanish Flu. There is a phenomenon called the "Original Antigenic Sin" that means that your immunological system cannot tell the difference between small drifts of the viral antigen, meaning that if a person was first exposed to an orthomyxo, if it is close to another strain you produce antibody to the first one you were exposed. Now if there is a significant shift, antibody will not be formed to the strain anyway. One has a 1 in 64 chance of being immune to the strain that is currently being passed around. The vaccine is a prediction to the specific strain that is guessed to occur this year. In other words, fat chance to cross immunity.
31 posted on 10/31/2003 1:09:46 PM PST by vetvetdoug
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To: RandallFlagg
PING!!!
32 posted on 10/31/2003 1:09:53 PM PST by 11B3 (Use the Gitmo prisoners for bayonnet course target dummies.)
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To: The_Victor
"Captain Trips"
33 posted on 10/31/2003 1:11:15 PM PST by Slicksadick
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To: GluteusMax
I don't understand why a western nation would have to supply a tissue sample. The Spanish Flu like most flu's went world wide. Even if not, I am sure there are some samples of this flu somewhere else in this world.
34 posted on 10/31/2003 1:13:30 PM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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To: BadAndy
Pretty sure the virus was long dead. Can't die from or spread a dead virus. What they did was to take the DNA from the virus and create new virus from it.

Did you know you can clone a dead person? Creepy!
35 posted on 10/31/2003 1:17:05 PM PST by ItsTheMediaStupid
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To: aristeides
I can understand the desire to study this bug from a public health point of view, but at the same time it is the perfect "poor man's nuke" and would arguably be devastating if released into the public once again.
36 posted on 10/31/2003 1:19:38 PM PST by Prince Charles
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To: GluteusMax
you are assuming that the muslims do not have
unofficial sponsorship from one of the bigger countries:
china, russia,...

china has always wanted to replace the US as the dominant
power, and they may succeed if we are always distracted
with the muslims.

Is it not ironic that we did the same thing to the
the Soviets in afghanistan and now it is happening to us.

37 posted on 10/31/2003 1:29:13 PM PST by vp_cal
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To: bonesmccoy; David Hunter; Jim Noble
Ping!
38 posted on 10/31/2003 1:31:53 PM PST by Paleo Conservative (Do not remove this tag under penalty of law.)
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To: vp_cal
You make a good point. China would be the most likely suspect in supplying bioweapons. Unless we have specific intelligence that they are weaponizing 1918 flu however, why would be resurrecting it? Also, if we did have specific intelligence that 1918 was being weaponized for use against us, you and me would not be reading about our counter efforts. It would be conducted in DOD labs, not by some yahoos in the private sector. The whole thing seems odd.
39 posted on 10/31/2003 1:38:28 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: Montfort
"...In short, there could be a very good reason for pursuing this line of research. "

And further who is to say that research on a killer flu like this would not provide knowledge to combat other such outbreaks, or similar things like SARS.

Sounds like more US military baiting to me.
40 posted on 10/31/2003 1:50:09 PM PST by battousai (What's the only thing more irrelavent than a RAT presidential candidate?.....France of course.)
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To: Montfort
Everyone seems to be assuming that no other government could possibly have resurrected the Spanish flu.

May 8, 2002 INTERNATIONAL IMMUNIZATION NEWS

"British Scientists Hope to Exhume 1918 Flu Victim" Reuters (www.reuters.com) (05/06/02)

British scientists from St. Bartholomew's hospital in London hope to exhume the body of a 20-year-old woman who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 40 million people worldwide. Researchers believe the flu virus still exists in the lead-lined coffin, and it can be used to get information to prevent future pandemics. Currently, researchers are trying to contact the woman's family for permission to exhume her body and are considering applying to the Home Office for approval.

41 posted on 10/31/2003 1:53:25 PM PST by Capt. Tom (anything done in moderation shows a lack of interest -Capt. Tom circa 1948)
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To: aristeides
Isn't it likely that current or recent strains of flu are related to it, so that most people have substantial immunity to it?

The answer must be yes, or we would all be dead from it by now. I'm less concerned about the Spanish Flu than something brand new.

42 posted on 10/31/2003 2:20:16 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: You Gotta Be Kidding Me
Consider number of genes in virus and number that can be recombined...chance of preempting such is nearly impossible and impractical...but if US do this and it do, it has no right to call other nations on WMD creation...where is moral high ground for attack against small nation that do exactly what you do? If nothing it spur small nation to work much harder getting WMD knowing it is in hypocriticol system.
43 posted on 10/31/2003 3:02:54 PM PST by RussianConservative (Hristos: the Light of the World)
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To: GluteusMax
But islam on cusp of technological genius...why Koran tell them how to do it.
44 posted on 10/31/2003 3:05:20 PM PST by RussianConservative (Hristos: the Light of the World)
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To: tripod

45 posted on 10/31/2003 3:11:31 PM PST by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: GluteusMax
This is criminal;and is conceived from a evil and twisted mind. Reviving a defeated foe makes no sense and is dangerous and un called for. BURN-IT and be done with it!
46 posted on 10/31/2003 3:47:46 PM PST by winker
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To: GluteusMax
Unless we have specific intelligence that they are weaponizing 1918 flu however, why would be resurrecting it?

Ok, in the first place you do not play "catch up" with bio-weapons. You assume that the enemy has it and you develop a defense before it becomes a problem. You wait and you might be dead.

In the second place is that there are a lot of things about the 1918 bug that we do not understand and understanding it is the first step to prevent it from happening again.

47 posted on 10/31/2003 3:58:18 PM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (There's enough guilt in the world to go around without grabbing for more.)
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To: Billthedrill
The 1918 virus is already "out of the bottle." It wasn't recreated, it was found in in bodies in permafrost. And there is no reason on earth why it, or something like it, couldn't come back. And if it does, and we haven't done any research on it, what does the Sunshine Project propose to tell the survivors?

From the other articles I read today, it sounds like it isn't the 'stock' 1918 virus that is the problem, rather it's the components they have identified in the original 1918 genome that made it nasty that are now spliced into another virus.

(I don't know who these Sunshine people are, but the article was interesting.)

48 posted on 10/31/2003 4:20:32 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: GluteusMax; All
More interesting info:

Flu bioweapon fears

Influenza as a bioweapon

Deadly flu evades body's defences

49 posted on 10/31/2003 4:40:13 PM PST by GluteusMax
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To: GluteusMax
Some NITWIT at the army lab needs to get a friggen clue the object of the exercise is to PREVENT/CURE disease not create new genetically engineered bugs .
50 posted on 10/31/2003 9:17:22 PM PST by Nebr FAL owner (.308 "reach out and thump someone " & .50 cal Browning "reach out & CRUSH someone")
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