The man who helped develop the Tamiflu flu anti-viral drug believes the swine flu epidemic has been caused by human error. Adrian Gibbs says the H1N1 virus may have been man-made and was passed to humans after a handling mistake at a laboratory.
Gibbs, who has studied germ evolution for 40 years, is to publish a paper about his theory, which he developed after studying the swine flu virus's genetic blueprint. "One of the simplest explanations is that it's a laboratory escape," he told reporters from Bloomberg.
Viruses are developed on eggs, and Gibbs believes the new H1N1 strain may have accidentally evolved before being passed to humans. He has discovered that the strain mutates three times faster than the most closely-related viruses found in pigs, which suggests it had evolved outside of swine.
It would not be the first time a virus has 'escaped' from a laboratory. Earlier this year the avian flu virus made its way into a consignment of seasonal flu vaccines, which were destined for around 18 countries in Europe.
Some scientists also suspect that the Russian flu outbreak of 1977 was started when a virus was accidentally released from a laboratory.
(Source: Bloomberg.com. May 13, 2009).