NPR

A Few Genetic Tweaks To Chinese Bird Flu Virus Could Fuel A Human Pandemic

Three genetic changes could be enough to make a bird flu strain that's already killing some people in China highly contagious. Are experiments with a deliberately mutated version too risky?
A sometimes lethal strain of H7N9 bird flu that has infected about 1,500 people in China doesn't spread easily among humans — yet. But research published Thursday suggests just a few genetic mutations might be enough to make it quite contagious. Source: Pasieka

A study published Thursday shows how a bird flu virus that's sickening and killing people in China could mutate to potentially become more contagious.

Just three changes could be enough to do the trick, scientists report in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

And the news comes just as federal officials are getting ready to lift a moratorium on controversial lab experiments that would deliberately create flu viruses with mutations like these.

Public health officials have been worried about this bird flu virus, called H7N9, because it's known to have infected more than 1,500 people — and killed 40 percent of them. So far, unlike other strains that more commonly infect humans, this deadly virus does not spread

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