Source: Dvorak

Swine flu: One killer virus, three key questions : Nature News –This is a deadly dull report until you get near the end and read about this experimentation. If these labs were not constantly breached, I’d be happier.

A deadly line-up of viruses is locked up in the computer-controlled safes at the Jean Mérieux/INSERM biosecurity level four (BSL-4) facility in Lyon, France, including Ebola, Nipah, Lassa, Hendra and Marburg. And in the next few weeks, scientists working there are planning to manufacture a new resident. They hope to test whether the highly transmissible pandemic H1N1 virus could reassort with its deadlier cousin, the H5N1 avian flu, to make a virus with the worst properties of both.

Over the summer, Lina’s team has been using the BSL-4 facility to investigate the likelihood that pandemic H1N1 will acquire resistance to the front-line antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) through reassortment, and how easily these reassortments might spread. Resistance can emerge by spontaneous mutation, but given that seasonal H1N1 is already resistant to the drug and spreads easily, reassortment is perhaps the most likely way that pandemic H1N1 will acquire resistance — especially as seasonal H1NI and pandemic H1N1 are the same subtype. Since the start of the pandemic, Tamiflu-resistant strains have sporadically appeared in several countries but none has yet gained a foothold. That they haven’t arisen more often or spread more easily may be because there is little seasonal H1N1 circulating, as pandemic H1N1 is outcompeting it — a large number of co-infections are needed for transmissible reassortments to arise.