Monday, January 16, 2012

Dutch Killer flu Scientists: US censorship is a danger to science

Dutch lab that created deadly bird flu virus attacks America for redacting its research.

America should not be allowed to dominate the debate over who controls sensitive scientific information that could be misused in biowarfare terrorism, say the scientists who created a highly dangerous form of bird-flu virus in a study that has been partially censored by the US government.

Ron Fouchier and Ab Osterhaus of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam accept recommendations by the US government's National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which said key details of their US-funded research should not be published because bioterrorists may use the information to cause a bird-flu pandemic.

"But we do question whether it is appropriate to have one country dominate a discussion that has an impact on scientists and public-health officials worldwide," Fouchier and Osterhaus write in the journal Nature.

"It is not clear whether an international discussion would lead to different recommendations ... We don't know the worldwide opinion until a group of experts from all parts of the globe is formed. An issue this big should not be decided by one country, but all of us," they say.

As The Independent reported in December, Dr Fouchier and colleagues created a strain of H5N1 bird-flu virus that can be spread by airborne transmission between laboratory ferrets, the standard animal "model" for human influenza. They did it to see how easy it would be for the virus to mutate into a form that could cause a pandemic. Read More