'Science' editor says he plans to publish controversial H5N1 avian flu study in defiance of government recommendations
by: Ethan A. Huff
For the past few months, the journals Nature and Science have been deliberating with both the research community and the U.S. government about how to handle the publishing of sensitive information about a militarized strain of H5N1 avian flu. The U.S. National Security Advisory Board for Biotechnology (NSABB), a group of scientists and government security officials, had recommended that the journals redact certain portions of the research several months ago, but Dr. Bruce Alberts, editor of Science, now says, in essence, that he is tired of waiting for a solution, and plans to publish the full findings very soon.
It was widely reported last fall that Dr. Ron Fouchier and his colleagues from Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands had successfully created a virulent strain of H5N1 capable of transmitting between mammals, including between humans. The research, which was submitted to both Nature and Science for publishing, includes critical details about how the deadly strain was created, which many say represents a serious bioterrorism threat if it ends up in the wrong hands (http://www.dreddyclinic.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=116&t=26358
But many scientists and media talking-heads are insisting that scientists need access to this information right away in order to begin developing vaccines for H5N1, a job they apparently cannot do if all the details about the research are not published immediately. Advocates claim that publishing the full details is no big deal because they have already been widely circulated at meetings, seminars, and conferences. But this argument actually confirms the opposite, as there is no need to publish the full research "for the sake of science" if such research has already been widely disseminated.Militarized H5N1 avian flu strain could kill billions of people, suggest researchers
Meanwhile, the public, one-third or more of whom could be wiped out by this unthinkably pernicious virus, has not been given a voice in the matter about what to do with the findings. It is questionable enough that the U.S. government has been warning about mutant H5N1 for years, only now to have it conveniently appear in a lab as part of deliberate "research" -- but now the recipe for making the human-transmissible strain could become widely available to the public (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-j-sylvester/a-new-h5n1-research-that-_b_1285838.html
"The people to catch H5N1 flu so far tended chickens or worked with poultry closely enough that they were constantly exposed to the virus," writes Lynn Klotz in a recent Huffington Post piece. "By contrast, the so-called 1918 flu virus that killed millions in the United States and a total of 50 million around the world was incredibly contagious among humans. But it killed only about two percent of those infected."
"Imagine a new virus that combined the lethality of the H5N1 flu with the contagiousness of the 1918 pandemic strain. That is the scenario we may now be facing."Sources for this article include:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/17066147