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

versity, said the bird flu research is important because it could help health authorities better prepare for an outbreak if the virus were to mutate naturally. But he does not see the need to share the research with the general public.

"Manipulating flu in the laboratory to figure out how it is transmitted is valuable," Siegel said, adding it could lead to a clearer understanding of the virus and possibly new vaccines.

"But that doesn't mean that even if you know those [genetic] combinations that they are going to lead to the next killer pandemic," he said. In fact, as a new flu strain spreads it usually weakens, he noted.

Also the results of the experiments with ferrets don't mean this virus can be passed on to humans, he said.

"I do believe that restricting information on these genetic manipulations is of value. You should be able to publish this data, but I don't see the value of making it readily available to the general public," Siegel said. "It should be exchangeable among scientists, but you have to be very careful."

However, Siegel doesn't see the need for a moratorium on the research. "This research has got to be done and it should not be restricted. I don't believe there should be any moratoriums on science," he said.

More information

For more on avian flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor of medicine, New York University, New York City; Jan 20, 2012, Nature and Science; Associated Press


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