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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Hugh Pennington on swine flu and "the ferret route":
To start growing, the virus has to get deep into the lungs. The surest way for this to happen is to be a South East Asian cockfighter. They stimulate the birds by spitting down their throats; the birds spit back.
Ron Fouchier, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, has caused a controversy by creating an H5N1 virus in the laboratory that can spread easily from ferret to ferret. In general, flu behaves in them as it does in humans. So his new virus could have the potential to cause a pandemic with a 60 per cent mortality.[...]
According to information already available, however, Fourchier essentially generated his new virus using the 19th-century approach of growing it in an animal over and over again. After ten transfers, the virus had adapted to ferrets. This experiment does not need complex laboratory facilities. An egg incubator, a supply of fertilised hens eggs and a syringe are all that are needed. I grew litres of virus this way when I used to work on bird flu. And ferrets are freely available: my great-uncle used them to hunt rabbits. The most difficult task would be getting some H5N1 virus.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
via Matt P. Vaguely apposite quote:
At Regensburg he crossed the Danube on his cloak, and there made a broken glass whole again; and, in the house of a wheelwright too mean to spare the kindling, lit a fire with icicles. This story of the burning of the frozen substance of life has, of late, meant much to me, and I wonder now whether inner coldness and desolation may not be the pre-condition for making the world believe, by a kind of fraudulent showmanship, that one’s own wretched heart is still aglow.