Too late to contain killer flu science, say experts

Thursday, December 22, 2011
By Paul Martin

US government’s hopes of suppressing details of controversial research may be doomed, say scientists


Attempts to suppress details of the controversial experiments that have created a highly infectious form of bird flu virus are likely to fail, according to scientists familiar with the research.

The US government has asked two scientific journals to refrain from publishing key parts of research on the H5N1 strain of bird flu to prevent the information falling into the hands of terrorists intent on recreating the same flu strain for use as a bioweapon.

However, scientists said the plea comes too late because the information has already been shared widely among flu researchers. Others argue that the move could obstruct attempts to find new vaccines and drugs to combat an infectious form of human H5N1 if it appeared naturally. Professor Richard Ebright, a virologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said the research, which was funded by the US government, should never have been done without first assessing how to control the release of scientific information. “The work should have been reviewed at the national or international level before being performed, and should have been restricted at a national or international level before being performed,” he said.

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