Polioforever's Blog

F. Macfarlane Burnet

 Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1899- 1986)
biography http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/aasmemoirs/burnet.htm
basic facts about Burnet http://www.nndb.com/people/937/000129550/
In 1945 Burnet wrote “The part played by acquired immunity to poliomyelitis is still completely uncertain, and the practical problem of preventing infantile paralysis has not been solved. It is even doubtful whether it will ever be solved”… http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/161/3/207/ (Quoted by Dr. Neal Nathanson, trained under David Bodian at Johns Hopkins).  Poliovirus was experimentally useful as a ‘recombinant’, having mutagenic capabilities similar to those of influenza. Use of poliovirus as a bioweapon is implied in the general literature, and specifically implied as an ‘intestinal agent’ by Burnet.
[reposted from www.jenniferlake.wordpress.com]
Understanding modern influenza is a matter of knowing the work of Frank Macfarlane Burnet, generalized in this document:
www.science.org.au/academy/memoirs/burnet.htm. Quotes are highlighted in “bold“.
In his autobiography, Burnet notes that he was ‘by temperament an ecologist, a naturalist’…[with] a serious interest in the major problems..of war and overpopulation…the long-term problems of man as a mammal”. In addition to chairing a plethora of official committees on public-health and national defense over his career, Burnet spent the later years of his life churning out his views in print. “His last two books..examined human aggression as the expression of the genetic make-up of man, selected-for during his long evolution as a hunter-gatherer, but totally inappropriate for civilized life. [He wrote a]paper that dealt explicitly with the concept that the lifespan of man and other mammals was genetically determined….He accepted the biological necessity for death and was impatient with proposals designed to prolong the human lifespan. However, he saw “…wide scope for research on the best means of minimizing the depression and misery of pre-death…”
Burnet’s suggestion to his government for biowarfare agents is addressed here: 
Born in 1899 Australia, to bank manager Frank Burnet and Hadassah Pollack (Mackay)Burnet, F. ‘Mac’ Burnet grew up as a shy loner who took especial interest in collecting specimens of flora and fauna. He graduated from university in 1922, got a job working at the Melbourne Hospital and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute as the pathology registrar. “In 1924, shortly after beginning work at the Institute, he had acquired a copy of Felix d’Herelle’s first book on bacteriophage. His fascination with this subject…was to dominate Burnet’s research for the next decade.” Over that decade, half of his years were spent in London where Rockefeller funding supported his collaborations at the British National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR). When the “first human influenza virus” (WS) was discovered and mutated for experimental purposes (becoming the WSN or ‘NWS’ strain, as Burnet refers to it), he returned to Australia and launched into an extensive phase of viral research focusing on influenza among others and the “lysogenic” (gene transfer) properties of virus. Burnet favored the use of chick embryos in which to colonize bacteria, phage, and virus, and developed the “plaque formation” techniques (called ‘pock-counting’ in Aussie) which occurred in the “chorioallantoic membrane” which is still a basis of generating viral production for influenza vaccines.
Burnet had a strong preference for “avianized” viral production through the method of egg-passage over the standard “mouse brain” passage that produced the original (O type) experimental mutant, the WSN influenza A strain, written as A/WSN/33 (influenza ‘A’, ‘W’ilson ‘S’mith ‘N’ for altered neuraminidase, isolated in 1933). By the time that the second World War had begun “Burnet decided that his war effort should be the development of a method of immunization against influenza…influenza virus became the major focus of his work..until 1957 when he made an historic shift to immunology. [Over] the period 1942 to 1959 Burnet’s name was attached to some 114 papers on influenza virus…almost every other independent worker in the Hall Institute at that time..was working on influenza virus, the volume of investigations on this topic in which he was involved as an advisor was perhaps 3 times greater than this…however, it should be remembered that all of this work was strongly influenced by Burnet’s perceptions and often by his advice.”
Burnet’s experimental achievement was to define the mutability of influenza genes through recombination, a process called reassortment and show that the influenza genome was “fragmented”. He “demonstrated that reciprocal recombination occurred between two different strains of influenza A virus in first-cycle viral multiplication….back-cross experiments were also positive and provided suggestive evidence of ‘heterozygotes’….[he] obtained recombinants with a wide range of virulence for the mouse lung, a result which led him to postulate the possibility that the genome of influenza virus ‘may fracture amd the fragments themselves replicate independently.” Over the next few years Burnet produced an “incomplete virus which he showed could contribute genetic information in recombination experiments and the reactivation of inactivated influenza virus, which he interpreted correctly as being due to genetic recombination. He also…probed further into the genetic control of viral virulence”.

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