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1933 Human Flu in Korean Swine Raise Bioterror Issues

Recombinomics Commentary
February 24, 2005

>>  In December, the biologist Henry Niman of Recombinomics, a biotechnology company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, examined the data as part of an analysis of flu sequences. He concluded that the samples contained genes from a strain of human flu virus that was created decades ago by scientists experimenting with the virus that caused the global flu pandemic of 1918.

Neither the World Health Organization (WHO), which coordinates the international response to flu, nor the South Korean government have commented on the claim. But Laurie Garrett, a former journalist and analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, says that the WHO attributes the sequence to an error at the lab that deposited the information.

Sang Heui Seo, one of the Korean researchers, says he is unable to comment yet, adding that "further confirmation" of the sequence "is under way at this moment". <<

As indicated earlier, the lab error story has some significant flaws.  The explanation of computer files sent in error is not credible because there are over 30 WSN/33 sequences involved.  Virtually all are slightly different from each other as well as WSN/33, although all share greater than 99% homology.  The contamination is hard to understand because each of the 30 sequences is slightly different, there is no WSN/33 in the lab, and the viruses were isolated in eggs.

As noted above, the sequences are being independently confirmed.  Confirmation will eliminate the lab error story.  However, the route of the sequences from lab to swine remains open, as does the possibility of bioterrorism.  The inability to resolve the existence of the sequence after being in the public domain for almost 3 months also raises serious bioterrorism preparedness issues.

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