Where is the media on the huge story? What would be the implications/ramifications had it not been caught in time? Where are the investigative journalists exposing how WHO inadvertently supplied samples of this WMD to European labs?
SUMMARY of following
articles Hat tip Rocketman
Baxter pharma, of heparin fame, screws up again; this time mixing H5N1 bird flu virus with a human-to-human transmissible but less lethal flu variant and then cheerfully shipping it out to labs across Europe for experimentation. They had to have their error pointed out by the recipients. If this had gotten out into the public, there would have been a distinct chance of spawning the doomsday virus outbreak prematurely. What they shipped out was a monstrous bioweapon. That the ‘milder’ virus allegedly could not replicate is a poor excuse.
H9N2 is circulating in the same Asian population as the very deadly H5N1. A mix of the two would likely result in an easily transmissible flu. H5N1 alone so far has shown poor human-to-human transmission. If the two viruses mix it up in a single organism, the probability of a highly transmissible, highly fatal flu is increased significantly.
WHO mulls stricter transport of bio products
By Andrew Jack
Public health officials are studying the need for tighter controls on the transport of biological products after Baxter, the US pharmaceutical company, inadvertently supplied samples of the H5N1 bird flu virus to a series of European laboratories.
Specialists from the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control are monitoring the case at a time of growing concern that existing international rules to minimise the risks of the spread of pathogens are too weak.
Their scrutiny follows an incident that recently came to light when samples of H5N1 from Baxter’s Austrian labs contaminated batches of the less harmful H3N2 seasonal flu virus that it was supplying under a commercial contract to a customer, Avir Greenhills Biotechnology.
A combination of H3N2, which is highly transmissable between humans, and H5N1, which has killed hundreds of millions of chickens and other animals in recent years, could potentially lead to a mutated virus that forms the basis of a new human pandemic threatening millions of lives, according to scientists.
Baxter stressed that the H3N2 strain had been made “replication defective”, and was handled in tightly controlled laboratories purely for experiments, so there was little chance it could have led to an outbreak threatening humans. It also stressed that all staff potentially exposed were tested and given antiviral treatment to prevent any infection.
Baxter was forced to suspend production last year of Heparin, a blood thinner, after contamination during manufacturing of the primary ingredient in China triggered health alerts in the US, where regulators say it may have contributed to patient deaths. Baxter has refuted the FDA’s claim.
Baxter said the H5N1 samples were provided for its own research into a pandemic vaccine it is developing, and were from a variant of the virus identified in Vietnam and provided to the company by the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
The material was handled appropriately in all steps of the process in the right conditions,” said Chris Bona, a Baxter spokesman. “The experimental material was produced exclusively for laboratory testing, was not used for product production and was not for use in humans.”
It somehow mixed with H3N2 before distribution last December to Avir, and the more potent virus was detected by a subcontractor in the Czech republic last month after it rapidly killed ferrets exposed to the viruses. Avir had also sent samples to Slovenia and Germany.
Mr Bona stressed that Baxter had since taken “corrective preventative actions” and its procedures had been approved by the Austrian authorities.
The incident comes just after the conclusion of an EU-funded project on biosafety highlighted the need for improvement to national regulatory frameworks for biosafety and laboratory biosecurity.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Even as governments and health experts around the world have been focusing on the threat of a pandemic of the H5N1 strain of avian flu, another dangerous strain known as H9N2 has gone mostly ignored, according to a study published in the journal PLos ONE.
"Our results suggest that the establishment and prevalence of H9N2 viruses in poultry pose a significant threat for humans," the researchers wrote.
Of three known species of influenza virus, two of them regularly infect humans. The third species, influenza A virus, primarily affects birds and is also known as bird flu. Among hundreds of strains of influenza A, the World Health Organization says that only four have ever been known to infect humans: H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2.
H5N1 has attracted the most attention due to its extreme virulence and high death rate - of 385 humans known to have been infected with the virus since 2003, 243 have died. The virus is widespread in both domestic and wild bird populations, giving rise to fears that it could mutate into a form more easily transmissible to and between humans.
But H9N2 can also cross from birds to pigs, humans and other animals, and has infected at least four Hong Kong children to date. In its current form, the virus causes only mild symptoms. In the current study, however, researchers found that a single mutation was enough to make H9N2 more infectious and virulent, but also to enable it to cross directly between infected ferrets. Ferrets react to influenza similarly humans, and are often used as an animal model for the disease.
Hybridization of the H9N2 and H3N2 strains also resulted in a more pathogenic and easily transmitted flu. Researchers believe this could occur if a single organism is infected with both strain simultaneously. Neither of the laboratory-produced strains was able to spread through the air and could only spread by touch, similar to colds.
Sources for this story include: www.reuters.
GLOBE - Scientists who analyzed 67 H5N1 avian influenza viruses from across Africa report that the viruses fall into three distinct sublineages, or families, and that some have mutations that make them resistant to antiviral drugs.
The scientists also found that some of the African viruses have genetic markers that are characteristic of human flu viruses rather than avian strains, according to their report, published in the online journal PLoS One.
"These findings raise concern for the possible human health risk presented by viruses with these genetic properties and highlight the need for increased efforts to monitor the evolution of A/H5N1 viruses across the African continent," says the report by a large international team of scientists. The group includes several from African countries and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Lethal H5N1 viruses made their African debut on Nigerian poultry farms in January 2006, the report notes. Soon afterward the virus cropped up in Egypt, Niger, and Cameroon, and in April 2006 it was found in Sudan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Ivory Coast. The virus surfaced in Ghana and Togo in mid-2007 and in Benin in December 2007.
All but two human cases of H5N1 disease in Africa have occurred in Egypt, whose official case count is 58, with 23 deaths. Nigeria and Djibouti have each had one human case.
Rapid spread of 3 sublineages
The scientists looked at 494 H5N1 gene sequences from 67 African isolates, including the complete hemagglutinin and neuraminidase gene segments, all collected between February 2006 and early 2008 and representing all 11 affected countries. The analysis also included hundreds of gene sequences from European and Middle Eastern H5N1 viruses.
The researchers determined that all the African viruses belong to clade 2.2 and are related to the H5N1 viruses that have been circulating throughout Europe, Russia, and the Middle East since late 2005. Clade 2.2 traces back to the outbreak of avian flu in thousands of migratory birds at China's Qinghai Lake in the spring of 2005, the article notes.
Detailed analysis of the hemagglutinin genes showed that the viruses fall into three sublineages (labeled I, II, and IV). All three groups "had been co-circulating since the beginning of the epidemic in Africa," suggesting that all three had been introduced into Africa separately, as reported in previous studies, the report says.
Just how the three groups entered Africa and spread so rapidly is still unclear. But the viruses emerged in Africa when related strains were present in European migratory birds, "and such birds may have played a significant role in the introduction of the virus," the scientists write.
The three sublineages had geographic dimensions, but the patterns were complex. All the Egyptian isolates were in sublineage IV, which they shared with isolates from Gaza and Israel. Strains from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Cameroon formed a single cluster in sublineage I. However, the authors found all three groups in Nigeria, a finding that agreed with an earlier study.
Viruses collected in Sudan were in sublineage I and closely related to those from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast, rather than to those from nearby Egypt and Djibouti. Overall, the findings "may suggest that a certain degree of geographical segregation has occurred in Africa" since the initial viral introductions, the report states.
Antiviral resistance, markers of human flu
In searching signs of antiviral resistance, the
team found four bird isolates from Egypt carrying a mutation linked with
resistance to the older class of flu drugs, the adamantanes (amantadine and
However, no mutations conferring resistance to oseltamivir or zanamivir were found in any of the African viruses from birds.
The authors also found a number of isolates with genetic markers usually found in human flu viruses rather than avian strains. In particular, they checked the African viruses for 13 genetic markers consistently found in the flu viruses that caused the pandemics of 1918, 1957, and 1968.
They found two, both in the PB2 gene. One of these, known as E627K and associated with increased H5N1 virulence in mice, was found in all the African isolates. Another was found in just two bird viruses from Egypt.
In other findings, the report says that two different reassortant viruses representing combinations of two of the three sublineages were found in Nigeria in 2006 and 2007. One of these became the predominant strain in Nigeria's poultry in 2007.
Evidence of international spread
David A. Halvorson, DVM, an avian flu expert at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, said the report appears to confirm that there were three separate introductions of H5N1 into Africa and that those strains continue to circulate.
Further, he said the study shows that genetic sequencing "shows evidence for international spread within Africa as well as evidence for local spread; and that there have been no additional introductions since the first ones."
Dr Halvorson also commented that the findings regarding antiviral resistance are not surprising: "These mutations are typical of viruses as they circulate in a host. It seems they can mutate to resistance without any antiviral compound present."