U.S. Biosecurity Board to Reconsider Revised H5N1 Flu Papers

The U.S. government will ask a government biosecurity advisory board to conduct a new review of revised versions of two controversial H5N1 flu research manuscripts. The review could open the way to reversing the board's recommendation against fully publishing the studies.

The move comes partly in response to "new data and clarification of old data" in the studies, said Anthonly Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which funded the two studies. Officials at NIH and its parent body, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will ask the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to "reconvene" to "reexamine" new versions of the two studies, Fauci announced this morning at a public discussion of the issue organized by the American Society for Microbiology in Washington, D.C.

Two members of the NSABB—acting chair Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis—declined to speculate on how the panel might view the new versions of the two studies. But "the recommendations from NSABB can clearly be changed in the future," said Keim. "We can go back and reverse this if that is the best course of action."

The reexamination appears to be a response to conclusions reached by a small group of experts convened earlier this month by the World Health Organization in Geneva. At that meeting, Fauci said the leaders of the two research teams—Ron Fouchier of Erasmus MC in the Netherlands and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison—presented "new data on two manuscripts" and "substantially clarified … original data in one manuscript." Discussion of the data prompted that group—and now U.S. officials—to recommend that the researchers "provide new data and clarification in revised papers." The NSABB apparently will now review those revised papers.

Click here for Science's past coverage of this controversy.