H5N1 studies should be published in full: experts

Labs in the US and the Netherlands have successfully modified H5N1 viruses allowing easy transmission among ferrets, sparking controversy and a moratorium on publication out of concern the knowledge may be used by bioterrorists.

Professor Robert Booy, from the Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute at the University of Sydney, agreed with the WHO, saying there was little point in releasing redacted papers.

“The methodology by which they developed… virulent H5 suggests that others would not find it that difficult to replicate it even without all the details,” he told MO. “The genie is out of the bottle… so it is better the answers be in the hands of many rather than a few.”

Genomic information in the studies could help drive the development of an effective H5N1 vaccine, he said.

Dr Alan Hampson (Hon MD), a former adviser to WHO and chair of Australia’s Influenza Specialist Group,