Just how dangerous is this new genetically-engineered flu strain

From here.

On a scale of one to Superflu, what are we looking at? Ignore it, or start stocking up on canned goods?

Sounds like he modified the virus, so that it would be as contagious as it was in 2009. In other words changed it enough that antibodies people developed to the 2009 variant would no longer be effective.

The article saying it can “evade the human immune system” is a bit misleading. It can evade part of the immune system for a little while. No worse than the original strain was in 2009. No Captain Trips here.

If it escaped, it sounds like it would be safely in the canned goods territory.

Personally, I don’t mind that such studies are being done, but my expectation would be that something like this would be done in an underground lab in the middle of the Nevada desert, not in a university.

Funny you should post that at the same time I was posting about “Captain Trips”…(came from an underground bunker in Nevada). Intentional?

Sounds like the lab accelerated the evolution of the strain, which happens naturally and is why there are “new” flu strains all the time. To vastly over simplify the biology:

Flu viruses are coated with proteins that vary from strain to strain. When you are infected, your body makes antibodies which specifically recognize the proteins on a particular flu strain, and uses them to fight off the infection. The next time you are infected with the same strain, the antibodies that recognize that strain help your body fight off the virus before it infects many of your cells.

That means there is a natural evolutionary pressure which selects for flu strains with different external proteins, to evade immune systems already prepared to fight off all previously encountered flu strains. This is why we get new strains each year, some nastier than others. The new strains, like this artificially selected strains, are able to evade the existing, already-in-place defenses provided by circulating antibodies. They are not able to evade the adaptive immune response which will eventually identify the new strain, produce new antibodies to match, and (hopefully) fight off the strain.

So I’d guess this strain is no more dangerous than any other newly emerged flu strain. Some of those can be pretty nasty, others are hardly worth mentioning. Overall the flu is a pretty nasty disease, given how widespread it is and that it is occasionally deadly. However, I won’t be hoarding any canned goods, even if I hear about a bio-security breach in this very lab.

Without seeing the actual paper, I can’t speak to the scientific value versus the danger of these particular experiments.

You can evade the entire immune system some of the time, and some of the immune system all of the time, but you cannot evade the entire immune system all of the time. Source : A. Lincoln MD, PhD.

I think an island lair is traditonal, ideally inside a dormant volcano. It would be a shame if, say, the lack of good internet connectivity in such places has forced our top evil scientists to relocate to Wisconsin.

Well, as i read that link (and others previously) I interpreted it to be that he is trying to re-create the 1918 Pandemic flu Virus.

That Pandemic in 1918 killed 50 to 100 million in a time the world population was much less than now.

I’ll leave it to you to put that onto your scale.

So is the reason that some other viruses, for example the HIV virus, cannot be defended against because they aren’t coated with proteins?

HIV has a notoriously high mutation rate - its proteins are constantly shifting very fast. In addition, it infects and kills the very cells responsible for defending us from it.

Also, HIV wraps itself with sugar molecules so antibodies will not stick to it.