A Year On, the H5N1 Debate Remains Infectious, With No End in Sight

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Science  21 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6114, pp. 1533
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6114.1533

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After two science teams showed how to make the H5N1 avian influenza virus—which typically kills birds—transmissible among mammals in late 2011, a contentious debate began among scientists, government officials, the media, and the public about "dual-use" research: Were scientists potentially opening the door to a deadly human pandemic? Are there flaws in efforts to prevent dangerous agents from escaping from unsafe laboratories or falling into the hands of terrorists? In January, researchers agreed to a voluntary, temporary moratorium on many H5N1 experiments. Now, more than a year after the H5N1 controversy erupted, there is still no clear international consensus on which kinds of studies are worth the risk, or how potentially dangerous results should be reviewed or safely communicated to the public and public health experts.