Amateur biologists raise concern in the wake of H5N1 studies

A new concern rising in the wake of the controversial H5N1 bird flu virus studies is amateur scientists in the do-it-yourself biology movement recreating a mutated virus and raising the risk of accidental release.

Months of intense worldwide debate led to the recommendation that the results of the two studies, which transformed the virus into mutant forms that spread among mammals, should be published. While terrorists and cults have been a major concern in biosecurity circles, some scientists fear the D.I.Y. biology movement could be just as dangerous, the New York Times reports.

"I worry about the garage scientist, about the do-your-own scientist, about the person who just wants to try and see if they can do it," Michael T. Osterholm, a professor from the University of Minnesota, said, according to the New York Times.

Advocates of the D.I.Y. biology movement have said that the fears of the scientific community are quite exaggerated. They feel as though their technological abilities have been overestimated and that the community at large ignores their attempts to educate the public.

"I am really sick and tired of folks waving this particular red flag," Ellen D. Jorgensen, a molecular biologist and the president of Genspace, said, according to the New York Times. "It's like I say, 'I want to be a four-star chef.' You can read about it, but unless someone teaches you side by side, I don't think you're going to get far."

Other experts are less concerned about how a lethal virus could come to be and feel as though its most important to be able to stop it when it comes to pass.

"The only thing that can be done, and to my mind should be done, is to have a vaccine that protect against this," Ron Atlas, a University of Louisville microbiologist, said, according to the New York Times. "We need an urgent program for a generalized influenza vaccine. We would take off the table another 1918-type event."