Avian influenza experts to meet to set limits on creating lethal viruses for research
The assembly was called on hurriedly in order to settle a dispute over the U.S. government's call to censor portions of two independent scientific studies that detail how to mutate H5N1 avian influenza into a form that is airborne and easily transmissible in humans, according to Reuters.
Experts have said that, regardless of the meeting's outcome, it would be possible only to slow the knowledge from reaching the hands of those determined to get it, including bioterrorists.
"It doesn't matter how much you restrict scientists from doing good, bad people can still do bad things," Wendy Barclay, an influenza expert at Imperial College London, said, Reuters reports.
The WHO decided to call the meeting in Geneva in an attempt to moderate the controversy between the Dutch and American scientific teams who created the viruses and the U.S. biosecurity experts that want the journals Science and Nature to redact the material.
The meeting, which WHO officials have said would remain private, is expected to be tense. The researchers who carried out the experiments, the editors of Science and Nature, and members of the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which asked for the papers to be censored, are expected to be present.