Killer virus: study is now published
The study results for the super virus grown in the laboratory are now being published extensively. Already at the end of last year, two studies were to be published in the science magazines "Nature" and "Science", which show possible mutations of the avian influenza virus H5N1 into a human pathogen. However, the American government had spoken out against publication by pointing to the danger of bio-terrorism.
After a violent dispute between the American government's biosafety advisory committee (NSABB) and the editors of the science magazines "Nature" and "Science" over the past few months about how to deal with two studies on mutated H5N1 viruses, the magazines have opened up Based on external reports, the decision has now been made for a comprehensive publication. In the two independent studies, two research teams had genetically manipulated the H5N1 avian influenza virus into a pathogen that was highly pathogenic for humans.
Benefits of the publication outweigh the risks of abuse A publication of the studies could be misused as a blueprint for avian influenza pathogens that are pathogenic to humans, the US agency fears. The editors of the two science magazines countered this, saying that possible health hazards can only be adequately prevented by publicizing the results. Nevertheless, the publication was postponed and an expert committee was initially set up to provide an objective assessment. On the basis of the panel's assessment, "Nature" has now decided to publish it and printed the "essential scientific elements" of the studies unchanged. "Several independent pieces of advice" were obtained from well-known security experts and the user had come to the conclusion that the benefits a publication of the study results is higher than the risks of misuse to construct a biological weapon.
US Agency for Biosafety no longer opposed to publication Recently, after massive criticism of its actions by the editorial offices of "Science" and "Nature", the World Health Organization (WHO) and numerous virologists worldwide, the NSABB had also given in and no longer opposed it the publication of research results from the studies by Ron Fouchier, professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor at the US University of Wisconsin. Since the studies only show possibilities of mutation that would be relatively likely even without human intervention, the publication of the findings could help to take appropriate precautions and develop a suitable antidote today, the study authors hope. (fp)
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