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Deadly bird flu research paused amid bioterror fears

London, Sat, 21 Jan 2012 ANI

London, Jan 21 (ANI): Scientists, who developed a more deadly strain of bird flu, have called for a temporary moratorium on their research on mutations of the H5N1 influenza virus amid fears that that the data could be used by bioterrorists.


In a letter published in Science and Nature, the teams have asked for an "international forum" to debate the risks and value of the studies.


US authorities last month asked the authors of the research to redact key details in forthcoming publications.


A government advisory panel suggested the data could be used by terrorists.


Biosecurity experts fear a mutant form of the virus could spark a pandemic deadlier than the 1918-19 Spanish flu outbreak that killed up to 40 million people, the BBC reported.


The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) suggested that important details should be omitted from publication of the research, which sparked an international uproar.


"I would have preferred if this hadn't caused so much controversy, but it has happened and we can't change that," said Ron Fouchier, a researcher from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, told Science Insider.


"So I think it's the right step to make."


Although bird flu is lethal but its reach has been restricted as it is not transmissible between humans.


However, during the joint research by Erasmus University in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, the H5N1 flu virus was altered so that it could be passed easily between ferrets.


Two scientific journals want to publish the research - though in redacted form - and are attempting to work out with the US government on how to make the data accessible to "responsible scientists".


The scientists' letter published on Friday disputed that knowledge of more infectious strains before they mutate in nature is important for public health.


"More research is needed to determine how influenza viruses in nature become human pandemic threats, so that they can be contained before they acquire the ability to transmit from human to human, or so that appropriate countermeasures can be deployed if adaptation to humans occurs," the statement said. (ANI)


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