Genetic switch to guard against escaped 'superviruses'
H7N9 is out of the poultry market. The deadly bird flu that emerged in China in February this year has been passed from person to person for the first time. Until now, humans had only been infected after coming into contact with infected birds (BMJ, doi.org/nf3). The news comes as the debate intensifies over whether to carry out “gain of function” experiments on H7N9, with 24 proponents writing to the journals Science and Nature to put their case forward. They argue that such experiments, which involve artificially making the virus more lethal, will offer vital information that may help us defend against a pandemic. Others argue that the experiments could provide a weapon to bioterrorists. Artificially making the flu virus more dangerous could help us defend against a pandemic A similar furore erupted in late 2011 surrounding experiments on another avian influenza strain: H5N1. It delayed the publication of the work by nine months. This article appeared in print under the headline “Bird flu furore” More on these topics: