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one flu over the cuckoo's nest

Scientists recreate 'the mother of all pandemics' in controversial experiment

In a controversial experiment, a team of scientists has recreated a deadly airborne virus resembling the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people and infected one third of the world's population at that time. The Spanish flu, which is only 3 percent different from the recreated pathogen, has yet to be understood by global health experts and is known as "the mother of all pandemics."

The team, headed by University of Wisconsin at Madison researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka, used reverse genetics to rebuild the virus from fragments of strains of wild bird flu. According to Kawaoka's study, this new virus "may have pandemic potential."

While some U.S. researchers claim these experiments are integral to understanding the risks posed by viruses found in wild birds, critics have condemned them as extremely dangerous.

"The work they are doing is absolutely crazy," Lord May, the United Kingdom's former chief science advisor, told The Guardian. "The whole thing is exceedingly dangerous. Yes, there is a danger, but it's not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, it's arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people."