Amid concern over lab-bred bird flu, US says full details of research shouldn’t be published
"The new strain of bird flu could wipe out millions of people at a time" Image:DailyMail.co.uk
The U.S. government paid scientists to figure out how the deadly bird flu virus might mutate to become a bigger threat to people — and two labs succeeded in creating new strains that are easier to spread.
On Tuesday, federal officials took the unprecedented step of asking those scientists not to publicize all the details of how they did it.
The worry: That this research with lots of potential to help the public might also be hijacked by would-be bioterrorists. The labs found that it appears easier than scientists had thought for the so-called H5N1 bird flu to evolve in a way that lets it spread easily between at least some mammals.
"It wasn’t an easy decision," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the original research.
The scary-sounding viruses are locked in high-security labs as researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison prepare to publish their findings in leading scientific journals. That’s the way scientists share their work so that their colleagues can build on it, perhaps creating better ways to monitor bird flu in the wild, for example.
But biosecurity advisers to the government recommended that the journals Science and Nature publish only the general discoveries, not the full blueprint for these man-made strains. Tuesday, the government announced that it agreed and made the request.
In statements, the two research teams say they’re making some changes, if reluctantly. The journals are mulling what to do, and the government didn’t say precisely what should be left out.
But Science editor-in-chief Dr. Bruce Alberts said his journal pushed the U.S. government to set up a system where certain international researchers will be able to get the full genetic recipe for these lab-bred strains — especially those in bird flu-prone countries like China and Indonesia.
"This is a sort of watershed moment," said Alberts, noting it’s believed to be the first time this kind of secrecy has been sought from legitimate public health research.
He doesn’t want to publish an abbreviated version of the findings unless he can direct scientists how to get the full, if confidential, details.
"It’s very important to get this information out to all the people around the world who are living with this virus and are working on it," Alberts said.
California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines, Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated 2015-02-27 21:55
Parents in California are distraught after losing their infant son after being vaccinated. He died in his sleep and was taken to the hospital already deceased. Hospital staff ruled his death as sudden infant death syndrome. The couple was told an autopsy was required to be performed on their son.
After returning home, waiting to get an update, they never received ...
DNA: Data-storage for eternity 2015-02-27 20:57
How can we preserve our knowledge today for the next millennia? ETH researchers have found a way to store information in the form of DNA, preserving it for nearly an eternity.
Scrolls thousands of years old provide us with a glimpse into long-forgotten cultures and the knowledge of our ancestors. In this digital era, in contrast, a large part of our ...
Hypercleanliness is making us sick - Children develop allergies and eczema 2015-02-27 20:31
Could using a dishwashing machine increase the chances your child will develop allergies? That's what some provocative new research suggests — but don't tear out your machine just yet.
The study involved 1,029 Swedish children (ages 7 or 8) and found that those whose parents said they mostly wash the family's dishes by hand were significantly less likely to develop eczema, ...