US censors Dutch flu research

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International furore has broken out over a few phials of manipulated virus material stored at a Dutch university. Some experts are worried that the modified bird flu virus, if accidentally released or stolen by terrorists, could trigger a global pandemic killing millions of people.

A further worry is that others might copy the research and create dangerous viruses outside a controlled lab environment.

The US National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity NSABB has urgently advised researchers from the Erasmus MC university medical centre in Rotterdam to refrain from integrally publishing the results of their research into their version of the H5N1 bird flu virus.

The Rotterdam scientists created a strain of the virus which could probably be transferred from person to person. They said they had their reservations about the NSABB advice but would respect it.

The Rotterdam virologists in September offered an article on their research to the respected scientific magazine submitted the article to the NSABB, because data from the Erasmus MC research could possibly be used to create a biological weapon.

The NSABB – an independent body of experts who advise the US government on biological security issues – wants the researchers to remove the sensitive information from their article. The Rotterdam research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health NIH to establish whether the bird flu virus could cause a pandemic.

Research leader Ron Fouchier reacted indignantly to the news from the United States: “We will respect the advice. We have no choice. If we don’t, the whole world will turn on us", he said.

Fouchier underscored the scientific significance of the research: “We want to share our results with as many serious flu researchers as possible to help the research move forward. We are asking ourselves how we are supposed to do this now that we are forced to keep part of our research confidential.”


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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