The Dutch virologist at the centre of the row over a mutant bird flu virus is included in the latest Time Magazine ranking of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Ron Fouchier is a professor at Rotterdam’s Erasmus teaching hospital where he led research to develop a highly infectious strain of the bird flu virus H5N1 on behalf of a US health institute.
H5N1 rarely transfers from animal to human, but if it does, the infection is often fatal. Foucher was asked to find out if H5N1 could lead to a pandemic and was able to show that a couple of mutations in the virus dna changed it into an extremely virulent form.
There is an ongoing dispute about whether the research should be published. The Dutch government has slapped an export ban on the research because of fears it could end up in the wrong hands.
According to Time, Foucher is ‘one of a new breed of virologists who tackle these hard questions’. His work is ‘not without risks — but doing nothing is more dangerous still’.
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