Archive for the ‘Virus’ Category

Bird Flu Goes Viral in Lab Ferrets!

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Virologists and epidemiologists sure can be a fun bunch.

Put enough money behind one of their projects and who knows what you’ll end up with.

In this case we may end up with the end of the human race.

Remember the bird flu scare? Total Year 2000-style panic. Many people just took it as another sign that those silly Mayans weren’t so silly and 2012 was the last time they’d have to buy a calendar from one of those kiosks in the mall.

After an article in the L.A Times, that panic could start to rear its ugly head if current research results on the H5N1 virus mentioned in the story begin making rotation on televised news sources.

Scientists have been playing with the bird flu virus in order to see if it would ever mutate enough to become a pandemic among humans spreading merely through someone sneezing on someone else.

And guess what? It could. Since 2003 there have been 606 confirmed cases of H5N1 in humans…almost 60% of those proved fatal. Fatalities among birds, where the virus gets its ‘bird flu’ monicker, have been in the millions. Scientists want to get a lead on the pathogen to see what evolutionary process it would have to take to become a global pandemic amongst humans.

They have an answer and it’s not pretty.

Using ferrets, Dutch researchers led by virologist Ron Fouchier, have developed a strain of the virus that is transmitted through droplets in sneezes. Passing ten times between infected ferrets and mutating five times in the process, H5N1 became airborne and a very real threat to all of us.

After injecting one ferret with H5N1 via droplets to their nose, scientists would let the virus mutate inside the ferret’s body. Once the virus mutated, researchers would then infect another ferret with the mustation. Ten ferrets and five mutations later? Lots of ‘uh ohs’ and nervous, unspoken glances at the other scientists in the room.

As the government continues to provide funding for studies like this in ongoing biological weapons research, scientists, researchers and world leaders are trying to put safeguards in place and determine just how far developing mankind-destroying viruses should go.

The public, because we’ve seen the movies, are worried that scientists may create something that would wipe us all out either because they felt like being a jerk that day, want to swim in a pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck or are making up for all those times people picked on them as a child and would like to pay everyone back for that.

What most people are concerned about is when controversial papers like this are published for the world to see. All we need is one of those scientists with the back-stories mentioned above or a crazy person with enough tenacity and hatred for all of us to peruse a detailed document like the paper for this study to wake up on the wrong side of bed one day.

Brakes had been applied to publishing this research. After six months of red-tape? That paper is about to go public. The Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science where the paper will appear) want the paper to see publication so that work can continue on the H5N1 virus. Both the Dutch and US government are seeking to add addtional guidelines concerning publishing research like this in order to prevent individuals from having complete access to the process of creating something like the airborne H5N1 mutation so it doesn’t end up at some local elementary science because some super-nerdy ‘pageant parents’ wanted little Billy to get first place at any price.

Director of the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (seriously…have a title), Mark Frankel, stated that the beneifit of studying H5N1 “far outweighs” any potential danger.

“There’s a risk in everything in life”, he said.

To which many of us would probably think that too.

Especially when we decide to manufacture deadly-to-mankind, airborne viruses.

I’m running to the mall…anyone else want me to pick them up one of those Mayan calendars?

[LA Times]

Scientists Debate Publishing Recipe For Man-Made Doomsday Super-Flu

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Although Bird Flu panics have come and gone since the late 90s, we have always had diligent scientists on the side of humanity, safe guarding us from these outbreaks. But since all has been quiet on the western front for a few years now, it appears as if several of these eggheads have grown bored enough to cook up a super contagious mutation of the virus.

They are now debating if they should release the recipe for such a vile concoction, which they guest-imate could kill half of humanity, to the world. Because that seems like a great idea.

A genetic study showed that the new, dangerous strain had only five mutations compared to the original one, and all of them were earlier seen in the natural environment – just not all at once. Fouchier’s strain is as contagious as the human seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of people each year, but is likely to cause many more fatalities if released.

“I can’t think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one,” Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist who has worked on anthrax for many years, told Science Insider. “I don’t think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.”

Some argue that the release of the data would allow for humanity to better prepare for a pandemic of this kind of deadly strain.



Horse Herpes Outbreak Forces Junior Rodeo Queens To Ride Stick Horses

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The origins are understood. The players are all of terrestrial stock. Yet if you don’t look at a picture of a young lady riding a stick pony around a professional rodeo course while be scored by grim faced judges and cheered by nervous parents and say to yourself, “that is weird,” you should probably stop reading the site.

The Davis County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest of Farmington, UT was the victim of a rare equine herpes outbreak which has affected many Western states and cancelled all horse related activities in Utah. For those curious, equine herpes is spread through nasal secretions when horses nuzzle together.

So these young women to the track with their own gallop astride stick horses. Giddy-up.


Student Discovers Unknown Ice Age Virus In Indiana Cave

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Students in the Introduction To Biotechnology (IT220) class at Purdue were instructed for one of their projects to collect soil samples as part of the National Genomics Research Initiative. Most of the students were content to collect samples from around the Purdue campus, but Emilia Czyszczon traveled 3 hours to a remote Indiana cave and then took a boat on an underground river to a spot deep within the cave. The soil sample that Emilia ended up taking turned out to be glacial mud untouched since the ice age and contained a bacteriophage virus that was unknown to science. Scientists think that this virus might be beneficial to humans and could be used to fight diseases like tuberculosis.

Further analysis proved to be even more remarkable. Lurking in the dank sample of cave mud she collected was a virus previously unknown to science — a bacteriophage that attacks bacteria from the same family as those that cause tuberculosis.

In other words, despite the usual connotation associated with the discovery of a virus, this virus is not harmful to humans. Rather, just the opposite: it is a virus that attacks bacterial strains that could be harmful to humans. The discovery has prompted the adventurous young Czyszczon to look ahead in her career; she has already received grant money to probe into the DNA of the virus to help find alternative cures for debilitating diseases like tuberculosis.

[Chicago Tribune via MNN]

Ebola Detector Invented

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


Can’t recognize the signs of the Ebola virus? Want a quick and easy way to know if your friend is a carrier? Say hello to the new Ebola and Marbug virus detector.

“By enabling ultra-portable and fast detection, our technology can directly impact the course of our reaction against bio-terrorism threats and dramatically improve our capability to confine viral outbreaks,” said Assistant Professor Hatice Altug of the Boston University College of Engineering, who co-led the research team with Assistant Professor John Connor of the Boston University School of Medicine.

Maybe this doesn’t fit until your daily life now but just wait until they develop one for vampirism.

[Science Daily]

Airborne Rabies Would Create Zombie “Rage Virus”

Friday, October 29th, 2010
According to the upcoming National Geographic documentary The Truth Behind Zombies, we may be a few mutations or lab experiments away from a full scale zombie apocalypse. If the rabies virus, which can cause violently mad behaviour, was combined with the ability of the flu virus to spread quickly through the air, it might be the right combination for our very own disaster.
“All rabies has to do is go airborne, and you have the rage virus” like in 28 Days Later, Max Mogk, head of the Zombie Research Society, says in the documentary.

While it is not possible for two completely different viruses to hybridize naturally, the possibility exists that they could be genetically modified and combined in a lab. Also, Zombie Research Society!

[National Geographic]

It’s People! The Ebola Virus Is Made From People!

Friday, July 30th, 2010


Guess what’s lurking in your genome? Bits of Ebola and other viruses! Happy Friday!

Viruses do not make good fossils. But advances in genomic technology have allowed scientists to peer into the genetic material of viruses and their hosts to search for clues about their shared evolutionary history.

Genetic code from retroviruses has been found to compose some 8 percent of the human genome, having been copied in during replication and left to be inherited by us and our progeny. But non-retroviral RNA viruses do not use their host’s DNA to replicate—and some do not even enter the host cell’s nucleus. Nevertheless, new research has turned up surprising evidence that some of these viruses are enmeshed in the genomes of vertebrates—including humans and other mammals.

The rapid evolution of the virus to be blame for the genome biting. But if they start manifesting into physical beings, I am going to be very upset.

[Scientific American]