Flu Researchers Accept 60-Day Moratorium

They still want to find a way to conduct their research on making the H5N1 avian flu strain more transmissible between mammals and to share the details with legitimate flu investigators.

Thirty-nine influenza researchers have agreed to halt for two months studies that make the H5N1 avian flu strain more transmissible between mammals, posting a statement Jan. 20 on the websites of Nature and Science, the two journals that were asked in December 2011 by the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to remove certain details from two submitted papers before publishing them, out of concern the information could be useful to terrorists.

At the same time, researchers asked the advisory board to reconsider that request, which was made both to the journals and to research teams that had submitted the papers, according to a report posted on the Science site.

Nature's report said the journals and the authors agree to the moratorium on condition that a means be found to share their information with legitimate flu researchers on a need-to-know basis, and the World Health Organization and others are working now to create such a mechanism.

After the committee's request became public, its chairman, Paul Keim, said the members hoped for a moratorium of about three months and said it would be justified because H5N1 has a high fatality risk in humans and poses a significant pandemic risk.

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