Public Health, Biosecurity, and H5N1


A federal advisory committee has recommended that two research groups withhold key details from their pending publications on the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The studies describe specific mutations in the virus' genome that allow it to be transmitted as droplets between ferrets, which have been considered to be a good model for mammal transmission. In the wild, a version of the virus that is easily transmitted between humans could trigger a worldwide pandemic, potentially infecting millions of people.

Information about the methods and mutations used by the two groups could be important to public health officials and researchers striving to understand virus transmission and to predict and prevent the next pandemic. However, the information also has raised concerns that, in the wrong hands, it could be used for bioterrorism. The advisory committee's decision has sparked debate around the world about the free flow of scientific information and how to balance public health and biosecurity.


For the Reports and latest news on H5N1 see the special section in the 22 June issue of Science.

H5N1 News

7 DECEMBER 2012 | NEWS & ANALYSIS

Proposed H5N1 Research Reviews Raise Concern

Researchers are giving a mixed reception to a draft U.S. government plan to do more stringent funding reviews of certain kinds of H5N1 avian influenza research—and perhaps even keep some some studies secret.
4 MAY 2012 | NEWS & ANALYSIS

One H5N1 Paper Finally Goes to Press; Second Greenlighted

One of two controversial studies that shows how to make H5N1 avian influenza more transmissible in mammals is now up onNature's Web site for all the world to scrutinize.
2 MAY 2012 | SCIENCENOW

One of Two Hotly Debated H5N1 Papers Finally Published

With four mutations, a hybrid H5N1 virus jumps between ferrets via respiratory droplets.
27 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Dutch Government OK's Publication of H5N1 Study

The Dutch government has given virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus MC an export license for his controversial H5N1 transmissibility study, allowing Fouchier to send a revised manuscript of his paper to Science.
26 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Flu Research Moratorium Should Continue, Fauci Says

Although the contention over whether to publish two controversial H5N1 avian influenza studies appears to be waning, researchers should continue to abide by a voluntary moratorium on certain types of studies involving the virus, according to a senior U.S. science official.
24 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCE Live

LIVE CHAT: Too Dangerous to Publish?

Join a live chat on the recent controversy over avian flu studies that could change the way science is conducted. (26 April)
24 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Fight Over Dutch H5N1 Paper Enters Endgame

The Dutch government may decide very soon whether virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam is eligible for an export license that would allow him to resubmit his controversial H5N1 study for publication by Science.
20 APRIL 2012 | News & Analysis

Will Dutch Allow 'Export' of Controversial Flu Study?

The Dutch government must decide if it will invoke export-control laws in a bid to prevent virologist Ron Fouchier from submitting a revised version of his controversial H5N1 paper to Science.
16 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

NSABB Posts Full Flu Papers Recommendations

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has posted the full recommendations from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. [LINK]
13 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

A Flawed Flu Papers Process?

A member of the board that first barred and then decided to allow publication of two H5N1 transmission studies has written a sharp critique of the meeting that led to the decision.
6 APRIL 2012 | News & Analysis

On Second Thought, Flu Papers Get Go Ahead

Lab-created versions of the H5N1 avian influenza virus turned out to be less frightening than a U.S. advisory panel first believed.
3 APRIL 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Free to Speak, Kawaoka Reveals Flu Details While Fouchier Stays Mum

Influenza studies debated in the wake of new recommendations from U.S. biosecurity panel.
30 MARCH 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

NSABB Reverses Position on Flu Papers

A U.S. biosecurity advisory panel has reversed course and is recommending that the U.S. government allow full publication of two controversial flu studies.
29 MARCH 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Flu Redux

A U.S. government advisory panel today opens a 2-day reexamination of two controversial flu studies.
9 MARCH 2012 | News & Analysis

Surprising Twist in Debate Over Lab-Made H5N1

A researcher who created one of the H5N1 mutants believed to be capable of triggering an influenza pandemic and a leading U.S. health official are offering clarifications and "new data" to better gauge the risk it presents.
6 MARCH 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Pros and Cons Debated of Increasing Biosecurity in Labs Working With Engineered Bird Flu Viruses

Four papers published today in the online, open access journal mBio offer wide-ranging perspectives about the biocontainment facilities that researchers should use to work with bird flu viruses that...
4 MARCH 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Senior U.S. Lawmaker Leaps Into H5N1 Flu Controversy

It was only a matter of time, it appears. After months of silence from members of Congress, a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives has publicly inserted...
2 MARCH 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

NSABB Members React to Request for Second Look at H5N1 Flu Studies

Members of a U.S. government biosecurity advisory board are offering a range of reactions to the news that they are being asked to take a second look at two...
29 FEBRUARY 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

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.
24 February 2012 | News & Analysis

WHO Group Calls for Full Disclosure of Lab-Made Bird Flu Viruses

The complexity of allowing access to a select group combined with the value of widely sharing the data, led the group to call for full publication.
17 February 2012 | News & Analysis

Dead Reckoning the Lethality of Bird Flu

This month scientists debated the lethality of the H5N1 virus in humans at the New York Academy of Sciences.
17 February 2012 | News & Analysis

Does Forewarned = Forearmed With Lab-Made Avian Influenza Strains?

Controversial research into what makes H5N1 transmissible between humans has opened up a new debate on flu surveillance.
2 February 2012 | News & Analysis

The Limits of Avian Flu Studies in Ferrets

How concerned should people be that what happened in ferrets with these mutant viruses will apply to humans?
26 JANUARY 2012 | News & Analysis

Flu Controversy Spurs Research Moratorium

A group of leading influenza researchers last week agreed to a 60-day moratorium on some sensitive studies involving the H5N1 avian influenza virus "to provide time" for international discussions.
25 JANUARY 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

A Central Researcher in the H5N1 Flu Debate Breaks His Silence

In the heated debate about two labs that engineered a variant of the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus that for the first time easily transmits between mammals, one critical...
20 JANUARY 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Flu Researcher Ron Fouchier: 'It's a Pity That It Has to Come to This'

In a statement posted today on the Web sites of Nature and Science, a group of 39 influenza researchers announced a 2-month moratorium on studies that make the avian influenza strain H5N1 more transmissible between mammals.
20 JANUARY 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

In Dramatic Move, Flu Researchers Announce Moratorium on Some H5N1 Flu Research, Call for Global Summit

Stung by a growing global controversy over the potential dangers of experiments involving the H5N1 avian flu virus-and worried about heavy-handed government regulation-the world's leading H5N1 researchers have agreed a 60-day moratorium.
20 JANUARY 2012 | SCIENCEINSIDER

Prominent Virologists Want U.S. Advisory Board to Take a Second Look at Controversial Flu Papers

A group of prominent researchers is asking a U.S. government biosecurity advisory board to reconsider its controversial recommendation that two research teams omit key details from papers in press at Science and Nature.
12 JANUARY 2012 | SCIENCELIVE

Live Chat: Should Science Be Censored?

Live Chat guests Andrew S. Pekosz and Michael T. Osterholm discuss the benefits and risks of H5N1 transmissibility studies.
6 JANUARY 2012 | NEWS & ANALYSIS

Will Flu Papers Lead to New Research Oversight?

The unprecedented decision by the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to request that scientists withhold key details of their research has opened up a larger debate on the free flow of scientific information.
6 JANUARY 2012 | NEWS & ANALYSIS

In the Eye of the Storm, Two Rivals, Two Strategies

Two rival labs are taking different approaches to the public controversy surrounding their upcoming publications on the creation of dangerous strains of the avian flu.
23 DECEMBER 2011 | SCIENCE INSIDER

U.S. Biosecurity Panel May Call for Asilomar-Style Moratorium on H5N1 Papers

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity is considering a call for a voluntary moratorium on the publication of certain flu studies while an international debate is held to discuss the future of the field.
20 DECEMBER 2011 | SCIENCE INSIDER

Grudgingly, Virologists Agree to Redact Details in Sensitive Flu Papers

Two groups of scientists working with the avian influenza virus H5N1 will hold back details from their publications at the request of a U.S. biosecurity advisory board.
23 NOVEMBER 2011 | SCIENCE INSIDER

Scientists Brace for Media Storm Around Controversial Flu Studies

A biosecurity advisory board's recommendations on the publication of two avian influenza papers has drawn attention from the media and triggered debate in the scientific community.
 

Commentary & Research

23 March 2012 | BREVIA

Seroevidence for H5N1 Influenza Infections in Humans: Meta-Analysis

Metanalysis revealed approximately 1.3% of >8500 study participants had evidence of prior H5N1 influenza virus infection.
16 February 2012 | POLICY FORUM

Surveillance of Animal Influenza for Pandemic Preparedness

How may we prepare to cope better with future pandemics, particularly ones with greater severity?
9 February 2012 | POLICY FORUM

The Obligation to Prevent the Next Dual-Use Controversy

The recent debates over H5N1 experiments highlight current shortcomings in regulatory systems.
30 JANUARY 2012 | POLICY FORUM

Adaptations of Avian Flu Virus Are a Cause for Concern

Members of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity explain its recommendations on the communication of experimental work on H5N1 influenza.
20 JANUARY 2012 | LETTER

Pause on Avian Flu Transmission Research

Resulting from concerns about recent research on avian influenza, scientists working on transmission of the H5N1 strain have agreed to halt this area of research for 60 days to allow time for international discussion.
19 JANUARY 2012 | POLICY FORUM

Restricted Data on Influenza H5N1 Virus Transmission

Authors of a debated flu transmission study discuss why such work is important and should be published.
19 JANUARY 2012 | POLICY FORUM

H5N1 Debates: Hung Up on the Wrong Questions

Information related to influenza transmissibility should be published in its entirety.
19 JANUARY 2012 | POLICY FORUM

Life Sciences at a Crossroads: Respiratory Transmissible H5N1

Release of details of recent research on affecting influenza transmissibility poses far more risk than any good that might occur.
19 JANUARY 2012 | POLICY FORUM

The Limits of Government Regulation of Science

A transparent institutional review process will balance scientific freedom and national security better than publication restrictions.

Commentary and Editorials from the 2006 Special Issue

For a look at the history of avian flu research as published in Science, our 2006 special issue on avian flu, as well as selections the Science Classic archive that document the 1918 flu pandemic, visit the Special Online Collection: Influenza page.

21 APRIL 2006 | PERSPECTIVE

Emergence of Drug-Resistant Influenza Virus: Population Dynamical Considerations

21 APRIL 2006 | PERSPECTIVE

Predictability and Preparedness in Influenza Control

17 MARCH 2006 | PERSPECTIVE

Clues to the Virulence of H5N1 Viruses in Humans

17 MARCH 2006 | PERSPECTIVE

1918 Flu and Responsible Science