Chinese scientists have modified avian influenza to spread rapidly through the air between guinea pigs by incorporating genetic material from a human version of the virus, the journal Science reported last week.
The team created 127 H5N1 bird flu strains with varying amounts of genetic code from the virus behind the H1N1 swine flu human pandemic in 2009.
A prominent British scientist swiftly condemned the study led by Chen Hualan of the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China, the London Independent reported on Thursday.
“They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever,” said Robert May, a former top scientific adviser to the British government and one-time president of the Royal Society think tank.
“The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring. They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible.”