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Scientists Agree to Delay Controversial Bird Flu Research
Date:1/22/2012

us mutate naturally.

There's also the need to discuss "solutions for opportunities and challenges" arising from this research, they said.

"We recognize that we and the rest of the scientific community need to clearly explain the benefits of this important research and the measures taken to minimize its possible risks. We propose to do so in an international forum in which the scientific community comes together to discuss and debate these issues," they wrote.

With their statement, the researchers want to reassure the public that their experiments are being done in a way that minimizes the risk of the virus escaping from a lab.

In December, the U.S. government asked the researchers not to publish certain details about their experiments with the H5N1 flu virus, because of fears that it could possibly help terrorists develop a similar virus and use it as a weapon.

U.S. officials asked the scientists behind the altered bird flu virus not to disclose details of its genetic composition, due to security concerns.

However, experts at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which funded the research, said publication in scientific journals of the virus' genetic blueprint was important because it suggests the H5N1 strain may mutate more easily than was previously believed.

Avian flu strains have, in rare cases, been transmitted from birds to humans. The fear is that a strain of H5N1 might mutate to spread easily person-to-person, sparking a worldwide epidemic.

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which advises the U.S. government, looked over the research as it was being submitted to the journals Science and Nature. The board's recommendation prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to request that the virus' full genetic blueprint not be published, the AP said.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York Uni
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