Mutant H5N1 Virus Stirs Biosafety Debate
While research onِ the lab-altered H5N1 virus thatِ canِ beِ transmitted betweenِ mammals inِ laboratories isِ put onِ hold, scientists areِ debating howِ to balance biosecurity withِ theِ needِ forِ research thatِ couldِ help thwart a pandemic.
The issue: What biosafety containment level (BSL) should be used for the viruses?
The levels range fromِ BSL-1 toِ BSL-4, whichِ areِ designated inِ ascending order byِ degree ofِ protection providedِ to lab personnel, theِ environment andِ the community.
However, Canada hasِ alreadyِ moved toِ institute theِ highest level ofِ biosafety containment research forِ these viruses, writes Arturo Casadevall, editor inِ chief ofِ the journal mBio, theِ journal inِ which commentaries onِ the subject appearِ on Tuesday (March 6).
In theِ hopes ofِ understanding howِ H5N1, whichِ primarily infects birds, couldِ mutate intoِ a disease thatِ passes easily among humans, andِ so couldِ causeِ a flu pandemic, scientists inِ two separate labs modified theِ virus soِ itِ couldِ spread airborne betweenِ ferrets.