Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University , Ramat-Gan , Israel.
A remarkable debate recently arose on a global scale, about bioethics, biohazard, bioweaponry and bioterrorism issues related to scientific research concerning the induced transition of the highly lethal H5N1 avian flu virus from a non-pandemic to a tentatively pandemic strain, which might fall into malevolent hands. Appreciable ecogenetic complexity marks the main attributes of influenza type A viruses, namely infectivity, virulence, antigenicity, transmissibility, host range, endemicity, and epidemicity. They all shape, conjunctively, the outstanding protean nature of this pathogen, hence the modularity of the latter as a potent weapon. The present analysis inquires into those attributes, so as to profile and gauge threat, usability, impact and coping, particularly that the dimension of genetic engineering of this virus largely amplifies its potential. Within that context, various human interventions and misuses, including human experimental infections, undesirable vaccinations, as well as unauthorized and unskillful operations, led to bad corollaries and are also discussed in the present study. Altogether, a variety of interrelated properties underlying the complicatedness of and menaces posed by influenza A virus as a grave medical challenge, a dually explorable pathogen, and a modular biological warfare agent, are thereby illuminated, alongside with their scientific, strategic and practical implications.