P.I.D. Radio 5/8/05: Dr. Henry Niman — Return of the Spanish flu

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Molecular virologist Dr. Henry L. Niman is the founder and president of Recombinomics, Inc., and he tracks emerging diseases around the globe. Dr. Niman described for us the chain of events in an unusual story from South Korea, where a strain of flu virus created in a lab 65 years ago had turned up in sick and dying pigs. The World Health Organization responded with press releases denying that there was a problem.

WSN/33, a variant of H1N1, is a danger to humans. We can catch viruses from pigs, and this particular virus is one that we have no immunity against. Yet, at the time of the interview, the World Health Organization had only two scientists assigned to work full time tracking emerging diseases like this.

If Dr. Niman hadn’t stumbled onto the genetic sequence of the WSN/33 virus in a public database while doing research for a scientific paper, we might still be in the dark about that potential threat to human health.

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