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* Mutated virus less lethal than scientists feared
* Move reflects international politics of flu research
* Journals say they will publish the papers this year (Updates with additional explanations from panel member, new calculation of benefits to surveillance)
..."the data described in the revised manuscripts do not appear to provide information that would immediately enable misuse of the research in ways that would endanger public health or national security."
"We have made it clear that the virus is much less lethal than had initially been thought by the NSABB," Ron Fouchier, study author and researcher at Erasmus Medical Center, told BBC News. "We have also added data on how we did this work safely and explained better the benefits of the research with respect to pandemic preparation."
..."New evidence has emerged that underscores the fact that understanding specific mutations may improve international surveillance and public health and safety," the panel said. "Global cooperation, critical for pandemic influenza preparedness efforts, is predicated upon the free sharing of information and was a fundamental principle in evaluating these manuscripts."
Risky Research Review
A new policy will require federal agencies to perform a careful review of research involving 15 pathogens and toxins that could be used for bioterrorism, including H5N1.
The US government yesterday (March 29) announced a new policy to go into effect immediately regarding the regulation of dual-use research, or studies involving any of 15 “high consequence” pathogens and toxins that could be used by bioterrorists to inflict harm, including the H5N1 bird flu that has been the subject of much debate over the past several months, ScienceInsider reported. The policy, currently referred to as the “dual use research of concern” (DURC) policy, will require federal agencies to review all federally funded studies—both proposed projects and ongoing research—on these agents for the potential risks involved.
Deliberating Over Danger
The creation of H5N1 bird flu strains that are transmissible between mammals has thrown the scientific community into a heated debate about whether such research should be allowed and how it should be regulated.
The state of H5N1 tracking, surveillance and modelling
Four experts have expressed their recommendations on how to improve H5N1 avian influenza monitoring in the field, Nature reports.
...in the 12 year period that they have been surveying poultry, more than 65% of the H5N1 viruses they isolated were from ducks. Yi Guan thinks the fact that H5N1 has remained endemic in parts of southwest Asia is due to the large domestic duck populations found there.
* The Arabian Spring
... the political upheaval has partially blinded the H5N1 overview in the Middle East. Egypt, where H5N1 was reported in domestic poultry in 2006, has suffered gaps in expertise with people moving and due to the general unrest.
* Bird migrations
...Wild bird movements need to be tracked with greater accuracy, and have to be sampled with better methodologies, for in order to account for wild birds’ role in the spread of H5N1 at local and global scales.
* Swine flu
...Coordinating H5N1 surveying with H1N1 surveying would be of mutual benefit to both researchers of swine and bird flu, increasing knowledge of how the virus mutates in different circumstances, an important tool in tracking and modelling disease outbreaks.
H5N1 bird flu research to be published in full
The decision of the US panel will be broadly welcomed by leading science bodies, but the issue raises important questions as to when it may be right to censor science which has the potential both to help and harm mankind.
Did you know that monogamy in birds has traditionally been reported at better than 90 percent, but that recent DNA research has revealed a very different picture of the avian world?
Victorian values and the censoring presence of his prudish daughter blinded Charles Darwin to female promiscuity and delayed the study of sperm competition for 100 years
...Why did Darwin ignore the evidence and why did it take a century for others to make the connection?
...in my opinion in the next couple of years we are going to see the biggest outbreak since the plague and not only is it is going to be man made, I believe people are actively pursuing it to make a profit.
Major players weigh implications of NSABB H5N1 reversal
A federal advisory board's reversal on publishing two controversial H5N1 studies is poised to shift discussions on the topic that continue in London this week, as more participants in the debate weigh in following the Mar 30 announcement.
...One of the factors that swayed the NSABB decision was new evidence that an understanding of the mutations could be useful for surveillance and public health standpoints, the group said in a statement announcing the vote, but it did not elaborate.
...At a press conference today before tomorrow's start of a Royal Society conference on H5N1 research issues in London, Fouchier, speaking alongside Keim, said his group's revised paper included new epidemiologic evidence that spells out the benefits of the research, Discover Magazine reported today. ...
He said the revised paper clarifies that the airborne viruses weren't lethal to the ferrets and includes an expanded discussion, based on more space allotted by Science, of the work's public health benefits, according to the Discover story.
...The 2-day Royal Society discussion will be webcast live, and participants will include Fouchier, Kawaoka, a host of internationally recognized H5N1 researchers, a representative from the NSABB, biosecurity experts, dual-use research experts, editors from Nature and Science, along with participants from public policy, vaccine research, funding, and journalism fields.