Gain of Fiction

Mike Stone

The eld of virology, and to some extent the broader eld of microbiology, widely relies on studies that involve gain or loss of function

Any selection process involving an alteration of genotypes and their resulting phenotypes is considered a type of Gain-of-Function (GoF) research

Virologists use gain- and loss-of-function experiments to understand the genetic makeup of “viruses” and the specifics of “virus-host” interaction

GoF mutations are naturally arising all the time and escape mutants isolated in the laboratory appear “every time someone is infected with in uenza.”

In other words, they can never sequence the same “virus” every time so what they do in the lab in GoF studies is no different than how they culture and “isolate viruses” in order to sequence the genomes in the first place

A 2012 study supposedly showed that it takes as few as five mutations to turn the H5N1 avian influenza “virus” into an airborne spreader in mammals—and this launched a historic debate on scientific accountability and transparency

Fouchier’s team started with an H5N1 “virus” collected in Indonesia and used reverse genetics to introduce mutations

The scientists created three mutant H5N1 “virus” strains to launch their experiment: one containing N182K, one with Q222L and G2242, and one with all three changes

They then launched their lengthy series of ferret experiments by inoculating groups of six ferrets with one of these three mutants or the wild-type H5N1 “virus”

Seeing that the this mutant failed to achieve airborne transmission, the researchers decided to “passage” this strain through a series of ferrets in an effort to force it to adapt to the mammalian respiratory tract

For the last four passages, the scientists used nasal-wash samples instead of tissue samples, in an e ort to harvest “viruses” that were secreted from the upper respiratory tract

In other words, they completely changed the source material from tissue to nasal secretions more than halfway through the experiment

Highly “pathogenic” avian influenza A/H5N1 “virus” can cause morbidity and mortality in humans but thus far has not acquired the ability to be transmitted by aerosol or respiratory droplet (“airborne transmission”) between humans

To address the concern that the “virus” could acquire this ability under natural conditions, the researchers genetically modified A/H5N1 “virus” by site-directed mutagenesis and subsequent serial passage in ferrets

In other words, in order to test whether the “virus” could mutate naturally, they mutated it synthetically…

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