Researchers Reconstruct 1918 Flu Virus
10/19/2005 5:13:18 PM
It sounds like a sci-fi thriller. For the first time, scientists have made from scratch the Spanish flu virus that killed millions of people in 1918. Why? To help them understand how to better fend off a future global epidemic from the bird flu spreading in Southeast Asia.
Researchers believe their work offers proof the 1918 flu originated in birds, and provides insights into how it attacked and multiplied in humans. On top of that, this marks the first time an infectious agent behind a historic pandemic has ever been reconstructed.
The scientists involved in the project contend there's no real risk to public safety. The vials of this frightening germ — about 10 of them — are locked away at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said Terrence Tumpey, the CDC research scientist who constructed the virus.
However, at least one ethicist thinks there should be a broader public discussion before scientists take such bold steps.