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Nature Rejects NSABB H5N1 Censorship Request
Recombinomics Commentary 15:30
February 23, 2012

“No one should presume to know all the ways in which influenza virus could be misused, and the motivations for doing so, but the consequences could be catastrophic. There are many scenarios to consider, ranging from mad lone scientists, desperate despots and members of millennial doomsday cults to nation states wanting mutually assured destruction options, bioterrorists or a single person's random acts of craziness. These are low-probability events, but they could introduce a new evolutionary H5N1 seed into the environment that seems not to exist in nature. This might not cause a pandemic instantly, but it could start the virus on a new path for pandemic evolution.”

That is the rationale provided by Paul Keim, acting chair of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), in response to questions posed by Nature (P. S. Keim Nature 482, 156–157; 2012) about the NSABB's recommendation that recent work on the transmissibility in mammals of artificial strains of avian H5N1 influenza virus should not be published in full.

The above comments are from the Nature rejection of the NSABB request to publish a redacted Kawaoka paper after the CDC has already published a similar paper that described viruses and methods that produced an H5 that transmitted in ferrets.  Like the CDC paper, the Kawaoka uses as H5 from one clade and places it on a background the includes a human NA flu gene.  Moreover, the HA and PB1 changes used in the Fouchier paper were also used in the published CDC paper.

Thus, the recipe for a transmitting H5N1 has been published in Virology, and the variations on the theme have been discussed in the media.  The fact that H5 from three different sub-clades (clade 2.2 from Egypt, clade 2.1 from Indonesia, and clade from Vietnam) indicates that the detail in the recipe are irrelevant to would-be terrorist.

Thus, the NSABB ignores the science and relies on fears that have nothing to do with full publication of the 2nd and 3rd transmission experiments.  The 1st has been published, and the key details for the 2nd and 3rd have been described.

The Keim arguments demonstrate why the NSABB board should be replaced with scientists who have a better understanding of H5N1 evolution and associated risks.

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