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Meho Krljic:
Malo širenja panike za Subotnje jutro
 Making viruses in the lab deadlier and more able to spread: an accident waiting to happen

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All rights come with limits and responsibilities. For example, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously noted that the right to free speech does not mean that one can falsely shout "fire" in a crowded theatre.
The same constraints and obligations apply to the right of scientific inquiry, a topic that has been in the news recently after researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison published an article in the journal Cell Host and Microbe in June describing the construction of a new flu virus from wild-avian-flu strain genes that coded for proteins similar to those in the 1918 pandemic virus; the new virus was not only able to spread between ferrets—the best current model for human flu transmission—but was also more virulent that the original avian strains. (The 1918 Spanish Flu killed an estimated 50 million people; the molecular structure of the new strain is only three percent different than the 1918 version.)
Asked for comment by The Guardian newspaper, Robert, Lord May of Oxford, the former chief scientific advisor to the British Prime Minister and former president of the British Royal Society—one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific organizations in the world—condemned the work as "absolutely crazy," calling "labs of grossly ambitious people" a real source of danger.
As if that research were not enough to cause worry, in July a newspaper investigation asserted that Kawaoka was also conducting another controversial—but so far unpublished—study in which he genetically altered the 2009 strain of flu to enable it to evade immune responses, "effectively making the human population defenseless against re-emergence."
If true, it may be that Kawaoka has engineered a novel strain of influenza with the capability of generating a human pandemic, if it ever escaped from a laboratory. (“Pandemic” means that it occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control define an “epidemic” as merely “the occurrence of more cases of disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time.”)
An independent risk-benefit assessment of this work conducted at the request of the journal Nature demonstrated that Kawaoka’s work did indeed meet four of the seven criteria outlined in the US Policy for Oversight on Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) of March 29, 2012, meaning that the institution found that the research could be misused to threaten public health and would therefore require additional high-level safety measures, including a formal risk-mitigation plan.
But even with these measures in place, this research still seems like an unnecessary risk, given the danger that the bio-engineered viruses could turn into a pandemic threat, and that some experts think that there are far better and safer ways to unlock the mysteries of flu transmissibility. Claims that this work would help in the manufacture of a preventive vaccine have been strongly contradicted by Stanley Plotkin of the Center for HIV-AIDS Vaccine Immunology, among other critics.
Part of the justification behind conducting these experiments, apparently, was to develop a better understanding of the pandemic potential of influenza viruses by enhancing their properties, such as altering their host range, for example. Since the newly engineered viruses possess characteristics that their naturally found, or "wild," counterparts do not, this type of study is commonly referred to as "gain-of-function" research in virologists’ parlance.
But considering the likelihood of accidental or deliberate release of the virus created by gain-of-function experiments, the following issues should be considered before approving any such studies—and preferably they would have been taken into consideration by those attending the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention earlier this month.
In a nutshell: The Convention’s attendees should have agreed on a common understanding requiring that all gain-of-function experiments be stopped until an independent risk-benefit assessment is carried out; the scientific community should exhaust all alternative ways of obtaining the necessary information before approving gain-of-function experiments; biosecurity education and awareness-raising should be given a priority as tools for fostering a culture of responsibility in the life sciences; and there should be a modern version of the “Asilomar process” to identify the best approaches to achieving the global public health goals of defeating pandemic disease and assuring the highest level of safety. (At Asilomar, California, in the early 1970s, researchers studying recombinant DNA met to discuss whether there were risks from their research, what the negative social implications could be, and how to contain the dangers.)
There will be another meeting of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in December; one can only hope that it will consider these proposals then.
What, me worry? Sometimes, the potential for accidents is inherent in a system, making their occurrence not only able to be anticipated but inevitable, even "normal." For example,Charles Perrow’s famous account of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident contends that the very structure and organization of nuclear power plants make them accident-prone. As a result, even in the presence of sophisticated safety designs and technical fixes, multiple and unexpected interactions of failures are still bound to occur, as illustrated more recently in the Fukushima disaster.
Gain-of-function research in the life sciences is another example of the inevitable failure of overly complex, human-designed systems with multiple variables. Some of the most dangerous biological agents—anthrax, smallpox, and bird flu—have been mishandled in laboratories. As noted by the newly formed Cambridge Working Group, of which one of us —Malcolm Dando—is a member, these are far from exceptional cases; in the U.S. alone, biosafety incidents involving regulated pathogens "have been occurring on average over twice a week."
Such situations are not confined to the United States; China’s poor track record for laboratory containment means that it was "appallingly irresponsible" (in Lord May’s words) for a team of Chinese scientists to create a hybrid viral strain between the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the H1N1 human flu virus that triggered a pandemic in 2009 and claimed several thousand lives. In a July 14, 2014 statement about the creation of such pathogens, the Cambridge Working Group noted:
An accidental infection with any pathogen is concerning. But accident risks with newly created “potential pandemic pathogens” raise grave new concerns. Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza, poses substantially increased risks. An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control.
Against this backdrop, the growing use of gain-of-function approaches for research requires more careful examination. And the potential consequences keep getting more catastrophic.
High-profile examples. In April, 2014, the Daniel Perez Lab at the University of Maryland engineered an ostrich virus known as H7N1 to become “droplet transmissible”—meaning that the tiny amounts of virus contained in the minuscule airborne water droplets of a sneeze or a cough would be enough to make someone catch the illness. Hence, it could be easily transmitted from one subject to another.
So far, there has not been one laboratory-confirmed case of human infection by H7N1. It is apparently not a threat to man, unlike H5N1 and H7N9.
However, while the chance of airborne transmission of H7N1 in humans by droplet is apparently low, the test animals that it did manage to infect became very ill indeed—60 percent of ferrets infected through the airborne route died. This is a phenomenal rate of lethality; in contrast, only about two percent of humans who contracted the illness died from it during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
So it was with concern that the scientific world noted Kawaoka’s study describing the construction of a brand-new flu virus from wild-avian-flu strain genes that coded for proteins similar to those in the 1918 pandemic virus. The resulting new pathogen was not only able to spread between ferrets—the best current animal model for human flu transmission—but it was also more severe in its effects than the original avian strain. But the story does not finish here. As an article in Nature revealed, the “controversial influenza study was run in accordance with new US biosecurity rules only after the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID) disagreed with the university’s assessments,” thus showing the real need for reform of the current system.
Avoiding a ‘normal’ accident. While biotechnology promises tremendous public health benefits, it also holds a considerable potential for catastrophe, as these gain-of-function experiments illustrate. As scientific capabilities and work involving dangerous pathogens proliferate globally, so too do the risks and the prospects for failure—whether coming from technology or arising from human error. Indeed, in assessing the rapidly evolving life-science landscape, Jose-Luis Sagripanti of the US Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center—the nation’s principal research and development resource for chemical and biological defenses—has argued that “current genetic engineering technology and the practices of the community that sustains it have definitively displaced the potential threat of biological warfare beyond the risks posed by naturally occurring epidemics.”
Laboratories, however well equipped, do not exist in isolation but are an integral part of a larger ecological system. As such, they are merely a buffer zone between the activities carried out inside and the greater environment beyond the laboratory door. Despite being technologically advanced and designed to ensure safety, this buffer zone is far from infallible. Indeed, as researchers from Harvard and Yale demonstrated earlier this year, there is almost a 20 percent chance of a laboratory-acquired infection occurring during gain-of-function work, even when performed under conditions of the highest and more rigorous levels of containment. Addressing the rapid expansion of gain-of-function studies is therefore both urgent and mandatory.
In December 2013, the Foundation for Vaccine Research sent a letter to the European Commission calling for a “rigorous, comprehensive risk-benefit assessment of gain-of-function research” which “could help determine whether the unique risks to human life posed by these sorts of experiments are balanced by unique public health benefits which could not be achieved by alternative, safe scientific approaches.” Given the recent developments with influenza viruses, there is a need for an independent assessment of the costs and benefits of gain-of-function research. Such independent review would allow for adopting newer and better regulations and conventions, as well as help to identify policy gaps. As David Relman of the Stanford School of Medicine recently pointed out in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the time has come for a balanced and dispassionate discussion that “must include difficult questions, such as whether there are experiments that should not be undertaken because of disproportionately high risk.”

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Mica Milovanovic:
Vidiš da se lilith ne javlja već neko vreme.
Ko zna šta je smućkala tamo u K.und.K...
I Zosko se nešto ućutao...
Ja više ne idem u Beč...

Meho Krljic:
Ako ništa drugo, lek za ebolu koji se trenutno testira na majmunima u laboratoriji, pokazuje solidne uspehe:

Ebola Drug Saves Infected Monkeys

--- Quote --- ZMapp is the first treatment to completely protect animals after they show symptoms of disease

ZMapp, the drug that has been used to treat seven patients during the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, can completely protect monkeys against the virus, research has found.
The study, published online today in Nature, comes the day after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 1,500 people, is worsening and could infect 20,000 people before it ends. A fifth West African nation, Senegal, reported its first case of the disease on Friday.
Public-health experts say that proven measures, such as the deployment of greater numbers of health-care workers to stricken areas, should be the focus of the response. But ZMapp, made by Mapp Pharmaceutical in San Diego, California, is one of several unapproved products that the WHO has said could be used in the outbreak.
The drug — a cocktail of three purified immune proteins, or monoclonal antibodies, that target the Ebola virus — has been given to seven people: two US and three African health-care workers, a British nurse and a Spanish priest. The priest and a Liberian health-care worker who got the drug have since died. There is no way to tell whether ZMapp has been effective in the patients who survived, because they received the drug at different times during the course of their disease and received various levels of medical care.
In the study, designed and conducted in part by Mapp Pharmaceutical scientists, 18 monkeys were given three doses of the drug starting three, four or five days after they were infected with Ebola. All animals that received the drug lived, no matter when their treatment started; three monkeys that were not treated died.
The strain of Ebola virus used in the study is not the same as the one causing the current outbreak. But researchers showed that the antibodies in ZMapp recognize the current form of the virus in cell cultures, and the parts of the virus recognized by the drug are present in the strain of Ebola that has caused the outbreak.
Advanced disease
 The findings make ZMapp the first drug shown to be highly effective against Ebola when given to monkeys that are already showing symptoms of infection, such as fever and abnormalities in proteins that aid blood clotting. That is important because unless a patient is known to have been exposed to the virus, symptoms such as fever are the first sign that he or she is infected and needs treatment.
Thomas Geisbert, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, estimates that day 5 of infection in the monkeys studied is roughly equivalent to days 7 to 9 of a human infection. People can develop symptoms up to 21 days after they contract Ebola, although signs commonly develop between 8 and 10 days after infection.
The study authors say that ZMapp works in an “advanced” stage of the disease. The drug was able to save one monkey that had bleeding under the skin affecting more than 70% of its body, and other monkeys that had enough virus in their blood to cause severe symptoms in people, says study co-author Gary Kobinger, an infectious-disease researcher at the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg.
“In humans, the large majority are unable to walk or even sit with this level, and most will die within 24 hours,” Kobinger says.
But other researchers say that the findings should be interpreted with caution, because monkeys with Ebola are not a perfect analogue for humans with the disease. “I don’t think the data support that this drug is effective, even in the animal model, in individuals with advanced Ebola disease,” says infectious-disease physician Charles Chiu at the University of California, San Francisco.
Knowing when to give the drug may help guide its use in future outbreaks. But for now, Mapp says that no more ZMapp is available and will not be for months.

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Meho Krljic:
I kad smo već na ovom topiku, lepo je čuti da države u Americi koje dopuštaju marihuanu kao terapiju protiv bola imaju značajno nižu statistiku smrtnosti od jakih  opiodia:

States with Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths

--- Quote ---Could medical cannabis help prevent the more than 16,500 deaths each year due to opioid overdose?

In the U.S., 23 states and the District of Columbia allow their residents to legally use medical marijuana. And, according to a new study, death certificates reveal that states with a medical marijuana law have lower rates of deaths caused by narcotic painkiller overdoses than other states.  Only California, Oregon and Washington had laws effective prior to 1999, the point when the researchers began their analysis. Ten other states put laws on their books between 1999 and 2010. The researchers analyzed each state in the years after a medical cannabis law came into effect.
Overall, the states with these laws had a nearly 25 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths. The study was published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The findings could help address the nation’s growing problem with opioid overdoses—about 60 percent of deaths are people who have prescriptions for the medication. However, the study authors caution that their analysis doesn’t account for health attitudes in different states that might explain the association. They did explore whether policies addressing painkiller abuse had any effect on the decline in deaths and didn’t find a link.
Previous studies hint at why marijuana use might help reduce reliance on opioid painkillers. Many drugs with abuse potential such as nicotine and opiates, as well as marijuana, pump up the brain’s dopamine levels, which can induce feelings of euphoria. The biological reasons that people might use marijuana instead of opioids aren’t exactly clear, because marijuana doesn’t replace the pain relief of opiates.  However, it does seem to distract from the pain by making it less bothersome.

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To je, valjda, i očekivano. Pored lekovitih dejstava marihuane. O njima sam čitao još u HERBS, Eyewitness handbooks, 1994.


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