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UW researcher helps in fight against bird flu

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  An international research team led by a U-W Madison scientist has created a pair of significant viruses in the lab, as part of its research into a possible Asian bird flu pandemic. An article about Yoshihiro Kawaoka's work was published this week in the Cell Host and Microbe journal. He said it indicates that there are natural gene pools which have the potential to cause a severe bird flu pandemic in the future.

According to the article, a life-threatening virus was created in a Madison lab that's nearly identical to the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50-million people throughout the world. In general, the viruses were more deadly in ferrets and mice than the prevailing bird flu virus that has popped up overseas in recent years -- and it was not as deadly in those creatures as the Spanish flu virus from almost a century ago.

The research has been highly controversial, amid concerns about research accidents -- or the chance that terrorists could get hold of the lab viruses.