Some controversial research on bird flu is safe to publish after all, reports the New York Times. A panel of scientists yesterday reversed its December decision and concluded that two revised papers on the H5N1 virus were good to go. The board created controversy last year when it asked two scientific journals, for the first time, to keep key details under wraps. The decision clears the way for Science and Nature to publish the papers soon, notes AP.
Although H5N1 is deadly in humans, it usually cannot be contracted by people. Two research teams modified the flu strain to make it more easily contagious, leading to fears the technique could be used by terrorists. However, the research “did not appear to provide information that would immediately enable misuse of the research in ways that would endanger public health or national security," said the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. Not everyone is happy with the decision, though. “This work should never have been performed," said one bioweapons expert.