Mutant bird flu 'less lethal', says paper's author

April 3, 2012

The author of a paper on a mutant bird flu strain said Monday that experts agreed to publish it only after he explained that the virus was "much less lethal" than previously feared.

A panel of US science and security experts on Friday said two papers on mutant viruses should be published after all, reversing its earlier decision to withhold key details.

Professor Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, author of one of the papers, told journalists in London that his revised version addressed fears that the paper's findings could be used by bioterrorists.

Friday's announcement came after the revisions to the papers were reviewed by the nongovernmental US National Science Advisory Board for (NSABB).

The US experts had previously opposed publishing the research -- which showed how an engineered H5N1 flu virus could pass easily in the air between ferrets -- over fears it could end up in the wrong hands and result in a deadly man-made .

Fouchier said his revised version made clear that the is "much less lethal" than the NSABB had previously believed.

"I did say that it's one of the most dangerous viruses, and it's the truth, because these viruses are a little scary," Fouchier said.

"If they go airborne they can cause and has killed millions of people."

Some members of the advisory board understood that the ferrets in the experiment had all died as a result of being infected, leading to the paper being blocked.

"The information was in the original paper but perhaps it was not as clear as it should have been," Fouchier said.

"Our virus does not kill ferrets when it is in aerosol. This was in the original manuscript but it was not spelt out."

The NSABB faced criticism after it ruled unanimously in December that a pair of US-funded studies, one by a team from Wisconsin and the other led by Fouchier, should not be printed without heavy edits of key details.

is believed to kill more than half the people it infects, making it much more lethal than common strains of the seasonal virus.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 573 cases of H5N1 bird flu in humans in 15 countries since 2003, with 58.6 percent resulting in death.

Explore further: Divides emerge in US, world response to mutant flu

Related Stories

Divides emerge in US, world response to mutant flu

February 29, 2012
A divide has emerged between the United States and the rest of the world on whether to publish or keep secret the details of an engineered mutant bird flu virus that can pass in the air between animals, health experts said ...

World vigilant after Dutch lab mutates killer virus

December 9, 2011
World health ministers said Friday they were being vigilant after a Dutch laboratory developed a mutant version of the deadly bird flu virus that is for the first time contagious among humans.

Go-ahead for bird flu study publication after security check (Update)

February 17, 2012
Bird flu experts meeting in Geneva on Friday ruled that controversial research on a mutant form of the virus potentially capable of being spread among humans should be made public.

Recommended for you

New study offers insights on genetic indicators of COPD risk

January 16, 2018
Researchers have discovered that genetic variations in the anatomy of the lungs could serve as indicators to help identify people who have low, but stable, lung function early in life, and those who are particularly at risk ...

Previous influenza virus exposures enhance susceptibility in another influenza pandemic

January 16, 2018
While past exposure to influenza A viruses often builds immunity to similar, and sometimes different, strains of the virus, Canadian researchers are calling for more attention to exceptions to that rule.

Don't hold your nose and close your mouth when you sneeze, doctors warn

January 15, 2018
Pinching your nose while clamping your mouth shut to contain a forceful sneeze isn't a good idea, warn doctors in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

New antifungal provides hope in fight against superbugs

January 12, 2018
Microscopic yeast have been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world—creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines—and causing deadly invasive infection. One culprit species, Candida auris, is resistant ...

Dengue takes low and slow approach to replication

January 11, 2018
A new study reveals how dengue virus manages to reproduce itself in an infected person without triggering the body's normal defenses. Duke researchers report that dengue pulls off this hoax by co-opting a specialized structure ...

Different strains of same bacteria trigger widely varying immune responses

January 11, 2018
Genetic differences between different strains of the same pathogenic bacterial species appear to result in widely varying immune system responses, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.