Controversial Dutch H5N1 study published

Vincent Racaniello

The second of two controversial H5N1 avian influenza studies was recently published in full after months of debate over its contents.

The study, which appears in the journal Science, details how a team of Dutch researchers created a strain of H5N1 avian influenza that is transmissible in ferrets and could spread through coughs and sneezes, according to ScienceNews.org.

The research suggests that only a few mutations could turn the virus into one that readily infects humans.

A U.S. government advisory board had originally asked the publishers of Science to redact the study because they feared it could be used to create a biological weapon. They also asked that a similar study conducted by U.S. and Japanese researchers be censored by the journal Nature.

The decision aroused heated sentiment in the scientific community surrounding the notion of censorship for the sake of security.

The panel then reversed its decision in March after reading revisions of the papers and conducting consultations with the researchers.

Vincent Racaniello, a virologist at Columbia University, has read both versions of the Dutch study and believes the controversy stems from a possible misinterpretation of the results.

“The data are the same, but the way it is explained is very different,” Racaniello said, ScienceNews.org reports. “Everything is explained and put in context.”

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