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Human WSN/33 Nonsense Data on Cinco de Mayo in Manila

Recombinomics Commentary

May 4, 2005

Tomorrow WHO will have a chance to visit what they have termed "nonsense"  (aka WSN/33) in swine in Korea.  However, the data will be overwhelming and the "nonsense" will be alarmingly real.  What others have called a "scary near miss" was a direct hit, right between the eyes of the swine industry in Korea.  The story will unfold on many fronts.

The sequences in the swine should provide a trail linking back the WSN/33 human lab virus from 1933 to its source.  There is a biological trail, which should have been pursued six months ago.  WHO was presented with very solid evidence of reassortment and recombination between human WSN/33 and Korean avian H9N2 genes.  Instead, they spent the past 6 months trying to prove that the WSN/33 sequences were lab errors.  Reports on the sequences were called "speculation" and the non-press release from WHO concluded

"running down these Internet speculations during the last months after having already concluded in last year that the initial findings by the laboratory in Korea are most likely the result of a laboratory contamination, has diverted a considerable amount of time from influenza experts who are, for the most part, concentrating on an possible emerging pandemic strain of influenza. "

Calling the overwhelming data "nonsense" was about all of the opponents of recombination could do, because the PB2 gene was clearly half human WSN/33 and half avian H9N2.  It was a very clear-cut example of recombination.  Other examples are at GenBank, but the bird flu database is full of holes at key positions, suggesting much more data on recombination is in the isolates and on computer hard drives, but absent from the data base. 

For those of you who can't make Manila tomorrow, a picture of the PB2 recombination between WSN/33 and H9N2 is available on-line.

However, soon the data will be available for all to see. 

It is long past the time for WHO to start "running down these Internet speculations", to find out where WSN/33 is and where it originated.

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