Officials request biosecurity board review of bird flu research

Federal officials have requested that a biosecurity board broadly review bird flu transmission research to alleviate public health concerns about a possible pandemic.

The review request comes on the heels of a review by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which called for withholding the details of two bird flu studies deemed potentially dangerous. The National Institute of Health's expert panel has now been asked to review the state of science looking into the human transmission of bird flu, USA Today reports.

"We are now involved in a broader review," Paul Keim, the panel chief, said, according to USA Today. "This research is valuable, but saying this is just 'basic' research ignores that influenza is a very special pathogen."

Editorials related to the bird flu infection research sparked calls for destroying the possibly dangerous strain while researchers claimed the critics were engaging in censorship.

Type A H5N1 influenza, known as bird flu, has an approximately 60 percent death rate when passed to humans through the contact of infected birds. The strain does not seem to transmit from humans to humans like the seasonal flu. In December, the NSABB requested the journals Nature and Science hold back details of studies that showed how to make the bird flu transmissible between ferrets, a close mammal model for human-to-human transmission. The research was part of worldwide efforts aimed at producing a bird flu vaccine.