I have a lot of respect for the good that scientists achieve, but there is something generally missing from their skill sets: risk mitigation.
This seeming blindness to the true risks of their endeavours leaves the general population at risk, and I suggest it is a greater risk than we would accept if the choice was down to us.
No laboratory is 100% safe from theft, accident or sabotage.
The extinct influenza virus that caused the worst flu pandemic in history has been recreated from fragments of avian flu found in wild ducks in a controversial experiment to show how easy it would be for the deadly flu strain to reemerge today.
Critics said that any benefits of the attempts to recreate 1918-like flu viruses from existing avian flu strains do not justify the catastrophic risks if such a genetically engineered virus were to escape either deliberately or accidentally from the laboratory and cause a deadly influenza pandemic.
“This is a risky activity, even in the safest labs. Scientists should not take such risks without strong evidence that the work could save lives, which this [study] does not provide,” Professor Lipsitch said.
Robert Kolter, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, said: “The scientists doing this work are so immersed in their own self-aggrandisement, they have become completely blind to the irresponsibility of their acts. Their arguments in favour of such work, i.e. increase ability for surveillance, remain as weak as ever.”
Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said: “The work doesn’t offer us much. The risk of escape is small but non-zero. I do not see such benefits, so on balance we are worse off.”
Source: The Independent
Perhaps if this flu virus were to escape, there would be a much higher toll than the 50 million who died in a much less global era.