A research team led by Ron Fouchier at Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre said in September it had created a mutant version of the H5N1 bird flu virus that could for the first time be spread among mammals.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu is fatal in 60 percent of human cases but only 350 people have so far died from the disease largely because it cannot, yet, be transmitted between humans.
The announcement led to fears the mutant virus could find its way into nature or that the publication of the research on how the virus was mutated could be used by terrorists.
Areas to think about:
- What controls, if any, should be placed on this kind of research activity?
- Where is the boundary crossed between normal research and bioweapon research? Is it solely in the motives of the organisation sponsoring the research, or should some fields automatically be considered bioweapon technology?