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Dire ‘Great Pandemic’ Warning Issued‘Bird flu, I think, is going to be the cause of a great pandemic—where they are teaching these viruses how to be more infectious for humans,’ Dr. Redfield said.
By Tom Ozimek, Reporter

Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has issued a grim warning about the dangers of gain-of-function research, predicting that scientists tinkering with making the bird flu virus more infectious is what will trigger the next “great pandemic.”

Dr. Redfield, who in the past railed against the use of U.S. tax dollars to fund gain-of-function research at the Chinese virus lab at the heart of the COVID-19 origin controversy, is once again sounding the alarm on the dangers of risky scientific experiments going badly awry.
In a recent interview on NewsNation, Dr. Redfield recalled a recent op-ed he wrote in The Wall Street Journal calling for a moratorium on gain-of-function research, which involves altering the properties of a pathogen, such as its virulence, in order to study its potential impact on human health.

Proponents of such research argue it can help scientists better learn how the virus behaves and spreads, and so come up with counter-measures more effectively. Opponents say the potential benefits are outweighed by the risks such research poses as it makes viruses more lethal.

“I don’t think that research should be done,” Dr. Redfield told NewsNation. “That’s the real threat. That’s the real biosecurity threat, that these university labs are doing these bio-experiments that are intentionally modifying viruses—and I think bird flu I think is going to be the cause of a great pandemic—where they are teaching these viruses how to be more infectious for humans.”

Dr. Redfield’s remarks come amid a multi-state outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus, commonly known as the bird flu, in dairy cows. The virus has been detected in 42 dairy cattle herds across nine states as of May 13, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Only one case of human infection with the virus has been reported.

Bird Flu Gain-of-Function Research?

While Dr. Redfield said that there’s a “pretty heavy” species barrier (consisting of a five-amino-acid change) for the virus to overcome through natural mutations to become infectious to humans, he said that barrier could easily be

“In the laboratory, I could make it highly infectious for humans in months,” he said, while urging his colleagues in the scientific community not to tempt fate and to reject gain-of-function research on the bird flu virus.

Dr. Redfield’s warning comes just weeks after cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough’s colleagues alleged in a post on the Courageous Discourse blog that the USDA has been collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2021 on research that includes “serial passage” of the bird flu virus through mallard ducks.

“Serial passage is considered gain-of-function research as it mimics a natural zoonotic jump in an accelerated fashion, leading to enhanced transmissibility among different species,” wrote John Leake and Nicolas Hulscher. “This method has a history of artificially introducing novel pathogens into the wild.”

Mr. Leake and Mr. Hulscher said that the bulk of the USDA’s research on avian flu viruses is being conducted at the U.S. National Poultry Research Center, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) facility in Athens, Georgia.

One ongoing research project on the bird flu virus that involves collaboration between the USDA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences entails the carrying out “in vivo challenge work” at the SEPRL facility, which involves the introduction of the bird flu virus into a living organism—typically animal—to observe its behavior, immune responses triggered by the virus, and replication dynamics and pathogenicity.
Mr. Leake and Mr. Hulscher alleged that several months after the start of “this gain-of-function attempt” in 2021, a new H5N1 virus (clade appeared in wild birds in the United States, leading to the current outbreaks.

While a number of researchers propose that the current H5N1 viruses were brought to North America by wild migratory birds from Asia, Mr. Leake and Mr. Hulscher said this is “questionable” and urge investigation into whether there may have been a leak at the SEPRL facility.

“Urgent investigation is required to ensure there were no lab leaks at the SEPRL facility in Athens, Georgia, or any other facility that could lead to the escape of lab-modified strains of H5N1 bird flu,” they wrote.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the USDA with a request for comment on Dr. Redfield’s warning, on the claims made in the Courageous Discourse article, and on whether the USDA considers the SEPRL studies on bird flu viruses gain-of-function research.

Gain-Of-Function and COVID-19

The question of whether U.S. tax dollars were used to fund gain-of-function research in China on coronaviruses has been in the spotlight for some time and remains steeped in controversy, in part because the definition of what exactly constitutes such research is a matter of some debate.

Dr. Redfield has insisted that taxpayers ended up unknowingly funding risky gain-of-function research at  the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the Chinese lab at the center of the lab-leak origin theory of the virus that caused COVID-19.

An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on April 17, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
He made the remark while responding to questions during a March 8, 2023, session of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

“I think there’s no doubt that NIH was funding gain-of-function research,” Dr. Redfield told Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), who then asked the former CDC official, “Is it likely that American tax dollars funded the gain-of-function research that created this virus?” referring to the hypothesis that the pathogen behind COVID-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

He replied in the affirmative, adding that he believes funding came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies.

This has been disputed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as well as by former NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, and others.

“The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Dr. Fauci said at a Senate hearing on May 11, 2021.

Dr. Collins said in a statement on May 19, 2023, that “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.”

In his testimony on Capitol Hill, Dr. Redfield said that the COVID-19 pandemic presented a “case study” on the potential dangers of gain-of-function research and called for such work to be halted.

“While many believe that gain-of-function research is critical to get ahead of viruses by developing vaccines, in this case, I believe it was the exact opposite, unleashing a new virus on the world without any means of stopping it and resulting in the deaths of millions of people,” he said.

“Because of this, it is my opinion that we should call for a moratorium on gain-of-function research until we have a broader debate and we come to a consensus as a community about the value of gain-of-function research,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing for a scenario in which the bird flu starts to spread among humans.
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