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NSABB Recommends Full Publication Of Controversial Bird Flu Studies

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) on Friday recommended that revised versions of two controversial studies on H5N1 avian flu be published in scientific journals, reversing its previous recommendation that the studies only be published if certain details were withheld, the New York Times reports. The studies are the work of two research teams that created genetically altered viral strains that were airborne and therefore easily transmissible, the newspaper notes (Grady, 3/30). “In a statement [.pdf] released [Friday], the NSABB said it unanimously recommended that the revised manuscript by the University of Wisconsin group, headed by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD, be published in full, and members voted 12 to six that the data, methods, and conclusions in the revised paper by the Erasmus group, headed by Ron Fouchier, PhD, be published,” CIDRAP News writes (Schnirring, 3/30).

“In their statement explaining their decision, the NSABB said that the revised papers ‘do not appear to provide information that would immediately enable misuse of the research in ways that would endanger public health or national security,'” according to BBC News (3/30). “The recommendations will go on to federal officials at the National Institutes of Health for a final decision,” the Wall Street Journal writes (Weaver, 3/30). “The NSABB said that its decision was informed by a new government policy that could facilitate earlier review of ‘dual-use’ research that can both benefit the public and be misused to threaten public health, agriculture or the environment,” Nature notes (Butler/Ledford, 3/30).