Public at Last, H5N1 Study Offers Insight Into Virus's Possible Path to Pandemic

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Science  22 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6088, pp. 1494-1497
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6088.1494

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Depending on your point of view, the study that appears on page 1534 of this week's issue of Science marks another good week for public health experts trying to protect a vulnerable world from a new influenza pandemic—or for future bioterrorists bent on unleashing one. The paper describes how a handful of mutations might give the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which typically infects birds, the potential to move easily between mammals and touch off a human flu pandemic. It appears after more than 8 months of often fierce international debate over whether the results should be made public—and whether researchers should have conducted the experiments at all.

  • * With reporting by David Malakoff.