Dutch government may prevent publication of H5N1 study

Adding to the ongoing controversy over the publication of two H5N1 virus studies, the Dutch government may consider using export regulations to prevent the full publication of a study by Ron Fouchier and his colleagues.

In a March 7 letter to the Dutch Parliament, E. I. Schippers, the country's minister of public health, welfare and sport, said that an export permit is required to disseminate detailed information about the H5N1 virus outside of the European Union. If the request of such a permit is made, the government will then consider the safety and health risks of granting it, CIDRAP News reports.

"If an export permit is requested for publication of (parts of) information, the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation will, in his judgment, weigh the interests for health, science and safety risks," Schippers wrote, according to CIDRAP News.

Fouchier's study and a similar one by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin in Madison dealt with lab-modified H5N1 viruses that demonstrated increased transmissibility in ferrets. In December, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity recommended that major details of the two studies not be published due to concerns that bioterrorists could copy the procedure and use it on humans. The World Health Organization met in February and called for publishing the paper in full at a later time after a public education campaign.

Schippers' letter said that the government will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of granting the permit from all possible angles.