GENEVA Feb 17 Two studies showing how
scientists mutated H5N1 bird flu into a virus that could create
a human pandemic will be made public eventually, but a
moratorium will remain for biosecurity officials to assess the
risks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
Speaking after a high-level meeting of flu experts and U.S.
security officials in Geneva, a WHO spokesman said an agreement
had been reached in principle to publish the controversial work
only after deeper risk analyses have been carried out.
The WHO called the meeting to break a deadlock between
scientists who have studied the mutations needed to make H5N1
bird flu transmit between mammals, and the U.S. National Science
Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which wanted the work
censored before it was published in scientific journals.
Biosecurity experts fear mutated forms of the virus that the
research teams in The Netherlands and the United States
independently created could escape or fall into the wrong hands
and be used to spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak
of Spanish flu that killed up to 40 million people.
"There must be a much fuller discussion of risk and benefits
of research in this area and risks of virus itself," the WHO's
Gregory Hartl told reporters.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, writing by Kate
Kelland in London, editing by Andrew Heavens)