A mutation away from deadly pandemic?

By Web Producer
By NBC News

A mutation away from deadly pandemic?

June 21, 2012 Updated Jun 21, 2012 at 1:52 PM CDT

CAMBRIDGE, UK -- A controversial study on bird flu suggests the virus only needs a few mutations to start spreading from human-to-human.

The research, published in the journal Science, details how the deadly bird flu virus could naturally mutate to an airborne virus that spreads among ferrets, animals that experience flue symptoms similar to humans.

Right now, the virus can spread from birds to humans, but not from human to human and nearly half of people infected end up dying.

Some doctors are concerned this data could get into the wrong hands and be used in a terrorist attack. However, researchers said sharing this information will only increase surveillance of the illness and lead to new drugs and vaccines to fight the virus.

This study was conducted at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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