Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Currently, H5N1 avian influenza virus — the strain commonly referred to as "bird flu" — rarely infects humans and does not spread easily from person to person. But the Guardian reports that the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has asked the scientific journals Nature and Science to publish redacted versions of studies by two research groups that have created forms of the avian flu that could easily jump between ferrets — typically considered a sign the virus could spread quickly among humans — fearing that the information could be used as a potential bioterror threat. "These manuscripts — which describe laboratory experiments that resulted in viruses with enhanced transmissibility in mammals – concluded that the H5N1 virus has greater potential than previously believed to gain a dangerous capacity to be transmitted among mammals, including perhaps humans, and describe some of the genetic changes that appear to correlate with this potential," says the Press Statement on the NSABB Review of H5N1 Research. But the journals are objecting to the request, saying it would restrict access to information that might advance the cause of public health. "Many scientists within the influenza community have a bona fide need to know the details of this research in order to protect the public, especially if they currently are working with related strains of the virus," says Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science magazine adding that the magazine's response would be "heavily dependent upon the further steps taken by the US government to set forth a written, transparent plan" to ensure the information can be used by scientists who request it."
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