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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scientists agree to withhold bird flu research

Via ABC News, excerpt :

" Scientists who have produced a highly contagious version of the bird flu virus have reportedly agreed to a US request to withhold data about their work.

Last month, researchers in the Netherlands discovered that the H5N1 influenza virus, or bird flu, could develop into a dangerous virus that can spread between humans.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu is fatal in 60 per cent of human cases but only 350 people have so far died from the disease largely because it cannot be spread by sneezing or coughing.

But by using ferrets in a lab, the researchers proved it was possible to change H5N1 into an aerosol-transmissible virus that can be easily spread rapidly through the air.

The genetic mutations could trigger deadly epidemics in humans, and the scientists behind the research have now agreed to remove key details of their work from publication.

The research - known as the Erasmus study - alarmed the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), a US Government science committee.

It argued the information could be used by terrorists to orchestrate a biological attack using the virus.

The virologists were planning to publish their research in the respected journals Science and Nature.

But they have now agreed to redact their manuscripts at the request of the NSABB."

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