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Bird Flu Investigator Says Continuation Of Research Remains ‘Urgent’ Despite Moratorium

Research into transmissible bird flu strains remains “urgent” despite flu investigators’ recent declaration of a “60-day moratorium on avian flu transmission because of the current controversy,” Yoshihiro Kawaoka of Tokyo University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “a lead researcher on one of two recent studies showing how H5N1 can be transmitted through airborne droplets” among ferrets, writes in a commentary published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Reuters reports. In December, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity “asked two leading journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of both studies for fear it could be used by bioterrorists,” the news agency notes.

In the commentary, “Kawaoka argued it would be ‘irresponsible’ and dangerous not to continue researching highly pathogenic bird flu viruses” because flu viruses are constantly mutating in the wild, Reuters writes (Kelland, 1/25). Kawaoka also noted that the strain created by his lab was not lethal and was susceptible to current vaccines and treatments, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The news service writes that the Dutch team, led by Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, “engineered a lethal strain of bird flu that was contagious among laboratory ferrets” (Peterson et al., 1/25).