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Mislabeled 1957 H2N2 Pandemic Flu Discovered Via Contamination

Recombinomics Commentary

April 14, 2005

>>  In Vancouver, British Columbia, technicians ran a sample from the panel containing H2N2 under the same flume hood as a sample from a patient - a practice that would not be allowed in many laboratories because of the risk of contamination, Frank Plummer, director of the National Microbiological Laboratory said.

The patient sample became contaminated. "The panel sample has very very high level of virus," Canada's chief public health officer, David Butler-Jones, said. "There was enough that it gave a low-level positive result in the patient sample."

Mr Plummer went on to reveal that the patient in Vancouver was not suffering flu symptoms, and the test was administered as a matter of routine. The sample then was forwarded to the national laboratory - again a matter of pure chance as regional facilities generally send only 25% of their samples for the more detailed analysis capable of identifying the flu strain as the deadly H2N2. "There is certainly a kind of irony here," Mr Plummer said yesterday, "but it is a happy sort of error."

The result - indicating the presence of H2N2 in a human for the first time in nearly 40 years - triggered an investigation. The patient was retested and found not to have H2N2, and the source of the contamination was traced to the panel on March 26.  <<

The above detail describes how the 1957 H2N2 pandemic strain was discovered. Had the British Columbia lab not contaminated a patient sample with the mislabled pandemic strain, it would still be not have been un-discovered.

However, this discovery only identifies the H2N2 in the proficiency tests that are well labeled.  These samples can be easily tracked and destroyed.  The real issue is the source of the material that was mislabeled, and is currently in circulation.

It is the mislabeled material that is not in the proficiency kits that is the true hazard, because other labs have the virus but like Meridian, do not know that the virus is the 1957 pandemic strain.  The material Meridian sent out had been labeled as a flu strain from the year 2000, which should have been H1N1 or H3N2, not the pandemic H2N2.

A trace back of this mislabeled H2N2 virus is required to identify the locations of the real pandemic threat.  Thus far it has only been found via an accidental cross contamination of a clinical sample from a patient who did not have the flu.  Thus, it was easy to retest the sample and determine that it was contaminated with H2N2.

Finding the mislabeled pandemic virus will present a greater challenge.  These mislabeled samples represent the true danger of launching a pandemic because those born after 1968 will have limited immunity.  This situation is like the 1933 WSN/33 H1N1 in swine in Korea.  For WSN/33, people born after 1933 will have limited immunity. WSN/33 has been selected for its ability to kill mice and grow in neurological tissue.  After almost 5 months of investigation, WHO has still not determined if the virus exists in swine. 

The dismal track record in that investigation suggests the investigation of the distribution of the mislabeled 1957 H2N2 pandemic virus will not be resolved in the near future.

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