Researchers developing extra-contagious strains of H5N1 avian influenza have agreed to pause their work for 60 days.
The moratorium, announced Jan. 20 in Nature and Science, is a response to public fear and alarm in the scientific community, which has split over whether the research could inadvertently lead to release of a nightmare disease.
Depending on perspective, the moratorium is either a genuine recognition of the need for broader discussion or a public relations gesture. Either way, it’s a chance for everyone to catch their breath without reaching for a mask.
“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,” they write. “We propose to do so in an international forum in which the scientific community comes together to discuss and debate these issues.”
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