Saturday, January 7, 2012

''Cockfighting'' between researchers and authorities for the avian flu virus

17,000 birds have been slaughtered in Hong Kong due to H5N1

  • Authorities are deciding who and how to communicate the results
  • 'Nature' and 'Science' wait for the U.S. government's plan details
      "I do not want to scare people. But the worst scenario that presents this research isextremely grave." So says biologist Paul Keim, director of the National Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) U.S. Government on the recommendation made to two publications - 'Science' and 'Nature'-not to publish the details of a study showshow they have managed to mutate into the laboratory to the H5N1 virus, responsible for bird flu to be transmitted more easily between humans and therefore more deadly.This decision of hiding the data, which among scientists is seen as an attempt at censorship, has generated widespread controversy.

             Keim's position and his team is that data are not published methodological research,so you do not reach terrorist hands that can be used to make a biological weapon. And though you selected a group of scientists quite get all the information of the study, researchers have not reacted well. Consider, as told in 'Nature', to hide damaging information can only criticize the investigation and that "the NSABB has done too little, too late to protect men from potentially dangerous pathogens."

             Many voices say the NSABB is only an advisory committee but is not ready to learnwhat research may pose a biosecurity threat. Committee's first steps back to 2001.Anthrax attacks after the U.S. suffered with a number of contaminated letters, the authorities decided to limit the publication of scientific studies that might provide clues on how to design these biochemical weapons. After much discussion it wasdecided then, in 2004, creating the NSABB. The first test to which it was faced with two investigations that reconstructed the influenza virus of 1918, which killed more than 20 million people. In that case, all he did was to ask the Committee investigators detailing the public health benefits that might arise from these studies.

         But, says Keim, the case of research with H5N1 is different. "The altered virus has spread rapidly among ferrets breathed the same air in the laboratory. If the same thing happens in humans, the new strain could combine the high mortality of H5N1-much higher than the flu 18 - to the rapid transmission of the normal flu virus.Without effective vaccines or drugs to combat it, we would be more threatening to the pathogen of all we've seen so far. "

           For now, the editors of ' Nature' ' and ' Science ' magazine affected, will not say anything else until we detail how the U.S. government thinks that scientists get elected to receive complete information. Five years ago we tried to establish this mechanism and, for now, does not exist.

In any case, as much a part as another, are clear that this controversy will have to leave a new review of studies and perhaps a new committee.


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