Fouchier H5N1 study held up by Dutch export regulations

Export controls in the Netherlands are being cited as an obstacle to the publication of a controversial study of manmade mammalian-transmissible H5N1 viruses by Dr. Ron Fouchier of the University of Rotterdam and his colleagues.

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity recently gave the all-clear for the publication of Fouchier's study, which described lab-created H5N1 viruses that were capable of spreading among ferrets, and for a similar independent study led by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, according to CIDRAP News.

Fouchier said that Dutch export regulations have prevented him from submitting a revised version of the manuscript to the journal Science. The Dutch government scheduled a meeting at the end of April to discuss the issue. Dutch laws prohibit the export of technology or information that could be used to create a weapon, according to National Public Radio.

Fouchier said that his study falls into a category of basic research that should be exempt from such regulations, but, regardless, he must wait until a final decision has been made before he can act.

Kawaoka said that a completion of reviews by the Dutch and U.S. governments should clear the way to end a voluntary moratorium levied by flu experts on similar research in January, but other leading experts have warned that ending it before a broader debate could take place might be taken as arrogance on the part of the scientific community, according to Nature.