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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Skeptical of censorship, scientist
points to ease of low-tech bioterror
Ron A.M. Fouchier, lead researcher in a study of an altered avian flu virus, told a New York Times interviewer that a federal proposal to censor his team's work appeared to be overzealous and that low-tech bioterrorism would be much easier than trying to replicate his team's work.

Reproduction of the virus "is not very easy," he told the Times. "You need a very sophisticated specialist team and sophisticated facilities to do this. And in our opinion, nature is the biggest bioterrorist. There are many pathogens in nature that you could get your hands on very easily, and if you released those in the human population, we would be in trouble."

He added, "And therefore we think that if bioterror or biowarfare would be a problem, there are so many easy ways of doing it that nobody would take this H5N1 virus and do this very difficult thing to achieve it.

"You could not do this work in your garage if you are a terrorist organization. But what you can do is get viruses out of the wild" and grow them, he said. "There are terrorist opportunities that are much, much easier than to genetically modify H5N1 bird flu virus that are probably much more effective."

Comment: The problem with aerosol pathogens (such as flu viruses passed via sneezing and coughing) is that the terrorists and their families could well become victims. Food-borne pathogens would seem  to pose more of a threat from terrorists.

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