Bird Flu Test

Researchers at McMaster University, Toronto, have developed a simple diagnostic that can spot all the major human respiratory viruses, including SARS.

The press release announcing this finding includes in the list of “major” viruses – H5N1 (bird flu), but H5N1 is yet to become a “major” human virus having only killed a few dozen people in the forty-odd years since it emerged! This contrasts sharply with the more common influenza type A viruses to which humans have been exposed for centuries that have killed thousands upon thousands.

Obviously, the writer of the press release wants to get the item into the media, hence the mention of H5N1 and SARS, and, admittedly, the diagnostic, which is still undergoing clinical evaluation, will be able to spot those viruses. There is enough disinformation regarding avian influenza as it is. It seems that almost any piece of viral research is likely to have some PR exploitable link to H5N1 these days, but there are two sides to every story and a lot of researchers have stated already that should H5n1 ever mutate into a human transmissable form it will lose its lethality without doubt. After all, it doesn’t kill wild birds, just that pampered stock we breed to eat.

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rock god.

If you learned something from Sciencebase, enjoyed a song, snap, or the science, please consider leaving a tip to cover costs. The site no longer runs Google ads or similar systems, so your visit is untainted.