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H5N1 Transmission Experiment Halt - Censorship Continues
Recombinomics Commentary 19:00
January 20, 2012

To provide time for these discussions, we have agreed on a voluntary pause of 60 days on any research involving highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses leading to the generation of viruses that are more transmissible in mammals.

In addition, no experiments with live H5N1 or H5 HA reassortant viruses already shown to be transmissible in ferrets will be conducted during this time. We will continue to assess the transmissibility of H5N1 influenza viruses that emerge in nature and pose a continuing threat to human health.

The above comments are from a letter to Science announcing the 60 halt in H5N1 transmission experiments designed to further delineate changes associated with efficient H5N1 transmission in mammals.

However, the two papers describing the five changes in two genes remain under censorship at Nature and Science as reports of H5N1 clusters in Egypt and Indonesia raise concerns that most of these five changes are currently circulating and raising additional concerns.
H5N1 clusters in Egypt and Indonesia are rarely reported, yet both countries have each recently reported two such clusters. 

Sequences from the Bali cluster in Indonesia included multiple receptor binding domain changes (D187N, A188G, R193M), and recently released sequences from H5N1 in poultry in Egypt includes recombination between H1N1pdm11 and seasonal H1N1 sequences.  The most recent human H5N1 sequences from Egypt are from March of 2010, in spite of a dramatic increase in the cases fatality rate, and the two recent fatal clusters. 

Moreover, the most recent human H5N1 sequence from Cambodia has HA S227N and PB1 E627K, which are likely to represent two of the five changes.  Similarly, the two changes in the Gharbiya cluster in Egypt (V223I and M230I) have been fixed in clade circulating in wild birds, as well as the recent fatal case in Shezhen, China, which also had S227R and Q196R.

The censoring of the five changes by Nature and Science continues to be hazardous to the world’s health.

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