Experts resist plan to lift H5N1 research ban

As influenza scientists meet to determine if a ban on H5N1 bird flu research should be lifted, some experts have expressed concern that the deadly disease could escape from research laboratories.

The moratorium was announced in January after concerns mounted about two experiments related to the deliberate mutation of H5N1 bird flu to make it more transmissible. The moratorium was supposed to last 60 days but has lasted through the summer, the Independent reports.

"The moratorium should be continued until a broader, dispassionate, international discussion can be held to carefully consider the risks and benefits," David Relman, a professor of infectious diseases at Stanford University in California, said, according to the Independent. "The consequences of misuse or accidental release are potentially catastrophic on the global human and animal populations. Scientists have a deep moral and ethical responsibility to back should not be decided by a group of flu researchers."

The influenza expert meeting, which is being held in New York, has been organized by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Tony Fauci, the director of the institute, said that he wants to lift the ban as quickly as possible.

Richard Roberts, a molecular biologist, is not sure the institute should act so quickly.

"It's a big mistake at this point," Robert said, according to the Independent. "The flu community is behaving as if they are the only show in town. I think for them to be allowed to create the most dangerous virus around is sheer lunacy. I'm not so much worried about terrorism but I am worried about an accidental escape from a laboratory. If it's as dangerous as they believe, it could kill half the world's population."