Controversial bird flu research set for publication
Two controversial research papers into the H5N1 bird flu virus are set to be published in full after US government advisers accepted there was no security risk in making the science public.
By Nick Collins
02 Apr 2012
The academic studies, which show that mutated forms of the H5N1 virus could infect ferrets in aerosol form, provide the strongest suggestion yet that it could also be transmitted between humans.
Fears over the deadly potential of the virus led the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to declare the work too dangerous to publish last year, and to recommend the papers be heavily censored before appearing in print.
H5N1 is mainly confined to birds but is often fatal when contracted by humans, and a variant which was transmissible from person to person via coughs and sneezes could prove catastrophic.
But following a meeting last week the NSABB withdrew its objections and recommended that revised copies of the papers, which include the same data as before but explain their results more clearly, should be published.
Prof Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the author of one of the papers, said his revised version explained more clearly that the virus was “much less lethal” than the NSABB had assumed.