WHO “deeply concerned” by mutated birdflu research
By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization issued a stern warning on Friday to scientists who have engineered a highly pathogenic form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, saying their work carries significant risks and must be tightly controlled.
The United Nations health body said it was “deeply concerned about the potential negative consequences” of work by two leading flu research teams who this month said they had found ways to make H5N1 into a easily transmissable form capable of causing lethal human pandemics.
The work by the teams, one in The Netherlands and one in the United States, has already prompted an unprecedented censorship call from U.S. security advisers who fear that publishing details of the research could give potential attackers the know-how to make a bioterror weapon.
The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has asked two journals that want to publish the work to make only redacted versions of studies available, a request to which the journal editors and many leading scientists object.