How A Tilt Toward Safety Stopped A Scientist’s Virus Research

A great piece by NPR.  UNC (woohoo Tarheels!) researcher Ralph Baric had been investigating MERS (Middle East Respiratory Virus) until a recent government moratorium halting that kind of research.

If this virus mutates so that it spreads easily through the air, millions could die. “It would go around the globe quickly, and this would result in high morbidity and mortality, disruption of the economy, and, in some cases, the collapse of governments,” says Baric.

That’s why researchers want to learn as much as they can about MERS. It’s a type of virus called a coronavirus, which is the special focus of Baric’s lab.

However, a recent decision from the Obama administration has decided to stop govt-funded research on this virus, and also on influenza and SARS.

The Obama administration was concerned about any research that could make the viruses more dangerous, so they wanted to stop and review studies to see if they could make these germs capable of causing more disease or spreading easily through the air.

“I don’t think it’s wise or appropriate for us to create large risks that don’t already exist,” saysDavid Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University.

Ad for for Baric,

Asked if his lab is creating any new forms of these viruses that would be more dangerous for people, Baric replied: “Absolutely not. And we do more genetics in than probably anyone else in the world.”

He says he may not ultimately agree with whatever guidelines are put in place, but “if that’s what it takes to continue the research, then that’s what we’ll do. Ultimately we are responsive to the public.”

What do YOU think?  Is this type of research too dangerous? Is the moratorium a good idea? Or is the government overstepping its bounds?  Participate in the poll, and let us know!

 

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Representative Allen West thinks that #Ebola is just a ‘really bad flu bug’ – #ignorant of #science

westbad

According to Rep Allen West, Ebola is a ‘really bad flu bug.’ If that’s true, maybe he would be willing to demonstrate his claims by volunteering to be infected. Oh wait, simple scientific facts prove him completely wrong. First of all, the Ebola virus is very very different in terms of the type of virus it is, and also in the symptoms it causes. The fatality rate of Ebola is somewhere between 50-90% (WHO). That means more than half of people who show symptoms will die from the virus. Even for a pandemic flu, like the infamous Spanish flu of 1918, the fatality rate was only 2%. Most flu pandemics and epidemics have fatality rates considerable below 0.5%. Last I checked, 50-90% fatality is a hell of a lot more than 2% fatality. So I would say Mr. West should do some fact-checking next time before he completely mischaracterizes a virus and its impact.

Seen by CauseScience on Maddow blog, along with a number of other political statements on Ebola!