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Is ground-breaking bird flu research too dangerous to make public?

Categories: Health, Science & Technology

 (CBC)New bird flu research has embroiled the scientific community in a difficult debate about the need to inform and the interest of public safety.

The controversy involves several studies, but one in particular shows that H5N1, commonly known as the bird flu virus, can mutate to become easily transmissible among ferrets, and possibly humans.

Ferrets are considered the best animal model for human infection with influenza.

Some biosecurity experts are concerned the research could be used as a blueprint by nefarious forces and are arguing against publication of the work.

But others, especially influenza scientists, are countering that the flu world needs to know the possible paths the H5N1 virus could take to become one that can spread easily among people so laboratories can be on the lookout for those changes in nature.

The senior author, virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, won't talk about the work other than to confirm it is under review by the National Security Advisory Board on Biosecurity.

The board does not have the power to bar publication, but it is unclear whether a scientific journal would feel comfortable publishing an article if the group says it should not be placed in the public domain.

Should the bird flu research be released to the public? Does the public have a right to know about the medical research if authorities believe it can also be used to harm humans? Let us know in the comments section below.

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: Health, POV, Science & Technology

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