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Politics & Current Affairs

Bird Flu Research Is Urgent, Argues Reseacher

After finding that the H5N1 bird flu virus can be willfully mutated and made communicable, a rare 60-day moratorium on research has been imposed. The study's author argues testing must resume.

What’s the Latest Development?

Further restrictions on publishing scientific data gathered in a recent study of the avian bird flu could retard the creation of countermeasures, such as a vaccine, which could fight against a disease pandemic, says Yoshihiro Kawaoka, one of the study’s co-authors. While the Dutch-American team which pioneered the research, finding that the H5N1 virus can be willfully mutated to become more communicable, has agreed to a 60-day moratorium on research, Kawaoka insists that the work is urgent and should not be censored. 

What’s the Big Idea?

By engineering new bird flu viruses from separate strains, researchers found that more communicable versions could be created naturallyas well as willfully. After the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity objected, fearing that the research could be utilized by individuals with nefarious motives, research has halted and full publication of the results is expected to be restricted to persons on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Kawaoka says this will create a bureaucratic burden that will dissuade further research.

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