Dutch government approves Fouchier's H5N1 study publication

Dutch government officials have approved an export license for Ron Fouchier, allowing the virologist to submit his controversial H5N1 transmissibility paper to the journal Science.

The study details how Fouchier and his team developed an H5N1 virus that was transmissible between ferrets. The report was much-debated due to concern that the results could be used to unleash a human-transmissible version of the virus, CIDRAP News reports.

"Now we can move on," Fouchier said, according to ScienceInsider.

The decision by the government was made by Henk Bleker, the country's minister for agriculture and foreign trade, and comes four weeks after the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity reversed an earlier recommendation by endorsing the full publication of Fouchier's report.

"Minister Bleker has weighed all of the benefits and risks of publication of the avian influenza research, and has especially looked at the freedom of research and publication, health, and safety," the Dutch announcement said, according to ScienceInsider. "He has also taken into consideration insights from national and international experts in the areas of security, health, and research; the positive advice of the U.S. National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity to the US government about publication of the research; and the US government's decision to follow that advice."

Fouchier's revised manuscript will still have to go through peer review at the publication. The NSABB also endorsed full publication of a similar study led by University of Wisconsin scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka. While the NSABB voted for publication of Fouchier's study by a count of 12-6, the vote for the publication of Kawaoka's study was unanimous.