NIAID chief supports continuing H5N1 moratorium

U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci recently encouraged flu scientists to continue adhering to a voluntary moratorium on potentially dangerous influenza research.

Fauci made the comments while attending a NIAID meeting of flu scientists in New York City. He added that scientists should continue to engage the public to gain support for their risky, but valuable, work, according to

"The flu scientific community can no longer be the only player in the discussion about this research," Fauci said, reports. "You will unquestionably lose the battle for public support for your research if you ignore this issue."

Thirty-nine scientists announced the beginning of the moratorium in January amid the controversy surrounding the publishing of two H5N1 influenza studies. The studies showed how researchers created strains of H5N1 avian influenza more easily acquired by humans.

The U.S. government's National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity initially asked that portions of the studies be redacted because safety concerns, but reversed itself later after a lengthy review.

The moratorium was initially supposed to last for only 60 days, but has been extended indefinitely. Fauci, who himself is not a signatory to the moratorium, told a U.S. Senate committee that it should continue until the issue was further discussed.

"There is a real and present danger of the natural evolution of the virus and that is why you do the experiments that might appear to be risky in the eyes of some," Fauci said, reports. "You do the experiments so we can stay ahead of the naturally evolving risk."