The World Health Organisation (WHO) is investigating a claim by a researcher who said the swine flu virus may have been created as a result of human error.
Swine flu — officially called influenza A H1N1 — has infected 5,728 people and killed 61 in 33 countries.
Australian researcher Adrian Gibbs, 75, claimed the strain may have accidentally evolved in the eggs scientists use to grow viruses and make vaccines.
“One of the simplest explanations is that it’s a laboratory escape,” he told Bloomberg TV. “But there are lots of others.”
Gibbs was part of the research team that developed the anti-flu drug Tamiflu.
He said it could be a mistake that occurred at a vaccine production facility or the virus could have jumped from a pig to another mammal or a bird before reaching humans.
Gibbs, who reached this conclusion by analysing the virus’ genetic blueprint, has sent his study to the WHO for review.
By identifying the source, scientists can better understand the virus’ potential for causing outbreaks and also have better safeguards for bio-security in laboratories.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta dismissed the report, saying there is no evidence to support Gibbs’s conclusion.
India is so far free of swine flu. Over 4.55 lakh passengers travelling from affected countries to India have been screened. Tests for the virus on 46 of them came back negative.