Manufacturing Airborne Bird Flu

When the two teams announced in 2011 that they had discovered how to make a mutated strain of H5N1 that could spread between people, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) was so alarmed that it took an unprecedented step and attempted to censor publication of the studies. In January 2012, amidst widespread fears that the details of the work could fall into the wrong hands and be used for bioterrorism, both teams of researchers voluntarily agreed to temporarily suspend their studies.

Now, according to a recent Reuters article, many scientists are calling for an end to the moratorium on bird flu transmissibility research in light of the emergence of H7N9. Ab Osterhaus, a world leading flu researcher who is head of viroscience at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, says “This virus might be on the brink of gaining function of transmissibility (in humans). I think it’s crucial to know the rules of the game.”

With fourteen cases of the new H7N9 bird flu confirmed in China since Sunday, including six deaths, Vietnam has banned the import of Chinese poultry, and Beijing, Japan, and Hong Kong have all begun mobilizing resources against the threat.