Web edition: January 23, 2013
In January 2012, influenza researchers imposed a halt on work that would make bird flu viruses that are easily transmissible in mammals. The moratorium came after controversy surrounded two scientific papers describing mutations in the H5N1 avian influenza virus; the mutations made the virus spread among ferrets via airborne droplets. The scientists chose to stop work until they could explain its benefits and safety to the public, and to give governments and funding agencies a chance to review policies surrounding the research. The halt was supposed to last 60 days, but has extended for a year due to the complicated issues surrounding the research.
Now, the same group of 40 researchers is declaring in a letter published online by both Nature and Science that the goals of the moratorium have been met and that work on the viruses may resume in countries with appropriate policies in place. The United States is not among those countries.