U.S. Gives Go-Ahead On Publication Of H5N1 Research; Dutch Regulators Continue To Debate
The U.S. government on Friday formally accepted a recommendation from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) “to publish two controversial studies of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, moving the pair of papers another step closer to publication,” ScienceInsider reports (Malakoff, 4/20). “Groups led by the two scientists — Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam — engineered the H5N1 virus to be more transmissible between ferrets, mammals whose response to the flu is most like humans,” Bloomberg Businessweek notes. “The research is critical to understanding and detecting bird flu strains, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said [on Friday] in a statement,” Bloomberg writes, noting that the NSABB “recommended in March that Sebelius and Collins approve publication” (Wayne, 4/20).
However, “Kathy Wren, a spokeswoman for Science, which is withholding the Fouchier study, said the journal is still waiting for a decision by Dutch regulators [this] week before deciding when it will publish the research, Bloomberg News reported,” according to HealthDay News (4/23). According to ScienceInsider, “the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague is hosting a meeting [on Monday] to discuss the security implications of the H5N1 research” and to “decid[e] whether it will invoke export-control laws in a bid to prevent Fouchier from submitting a revised version of his paper to Science” (4/20). “It’s unclear when government officials will make any formal decision,” NPR’s “Shots” blog writes. “But if the Dutch government refuses to lift the export control, Fouchier could submit his paper to the journal without applying for permission and face the consequences,” the blog notes (Greenfieldboyce, 4/20).