Bird flu researchers suspend study of deadlier mutations

Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:25pm EST

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(Reuters) - Researchers studying a potentially deadlier, airborne version of the H5N1 influenza virus, or bird flu, have voluntarily suspended their research for 60 days, according to a letter published in the journals Nature and Science on Friday.

Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands, Adolfo Garcia-Sastre of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, defend the research as crucial to public health efforts to detect when the bird flu virus might change in the wild in a way that could spark a pandemic.

But bowing to public concerns, there is widespread fear that the mutant viruses "may escape from the laboratories" and be used to create a devastating form of bioterrorism, they write.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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