mBio is publishing a special series of Commentaries this week in response to recent actions of the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which recommended that two scientific journals withhold crucial details of upcoming relating to a novel strain of the bird flu virus, H5N1. The Commentaries, written by prominent scientists (including the acting chair of the NSABB), weigh in on whether the recommendations were necessary and what role biosecurity considerations should play in the dissemination of research findings. Read the Commentaries and the accompanying editorial, then come back to the blog and use the "comments" function below to discuss your thoughts with other readers.
The strain of avian flu in question has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide, and though it is highly lethal in humans, it apparently lacks the ability to transmit easily from person to person. The current controversy surrounds experiments that created a form of the H5N1 virus that is transmissible from ferret to ferret, animals used as models of human flu infection.
In the interest of biosecurity, the NSABB recommended that the federal government move to restrict information in the study that would enable a reader to replicate the experiments that enhanced the transmissibility of the virus. The government honored the recommendation and asked the scholarly journals in question, Science and Nature, to redact many of the experimental details, an unprecedented request to which the researchers and journals agreed.
This recommendation has generated tremendous controversy among scientists, and the authors of the studies recently announced they will suspend their work for two months to allow the dust settle.
Click on the "Source" link above to read more on mBio's blog, mBiosphere...