Bird flu research to resume outside U.S.

A group of 40 researchers published a letter on Wednesday calling for work to resume on the H5N1 avian flu virus in countries with established guidelines on safety and research goals.

The United States was not represented in the correspondence, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Science and Nature. The letter is in response to the year long voluntary pause in the research that was announced in January 2012, CNN reports.

"We declared a pause to this important research to provide time to explain the public-health benefits of this work, to describe the measures in place to minimize possible risks, and to enable organizations and governments around the world to review their policies (for example on biosafety, biosecurity, oversight, and communication) regarding these experiments," the letter said, according to CNN.

According to the letter, the objectives were achieved in many countries, but the United States has been unclear about how long it will take to issue official H5N1 transmission research guidelines. The letter said that the U.S. and facilities that receive U.S. funding should not move forward with flu transmission studies.

The research controversy resulted from two H5N1 transmissibility studies that were published in May and June. Ron Fouchier, the leader of one study from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, said the research is important and should be resumed.

"This research is urgent, while we are having this pause bird flu virus continues to evolve in nature and we need to continue this research," Fouchier said, according to BBC. "We cannot wait for another year or two years."

Not all researchers share the same opinion as Fouchier. Robert May, a professor from the University of Oxford, said that laboratory security may not be strong enough to prevent an infection from the genetically engineered flu viruses.

"These are not bad people, they are good people with good intentions, but they look through rose-colored glasses at the security of the laboratories," May said, according to BBC. "That's why I feel the world is a safer place if we maintain this moratorium."