Via The Independent, the H5N1 debate rages on: 'Untrue statements' anger over work to make H5N1 bird-flu virus MORE dangerous to humans. Excerpt:
Some of the world's most eminent scientists have severely criticised the arguments used by some influenza researchers who are trying to make the H5N1 bird-flu virus more dangerous to humans by repeatedly infecting laboratory ferrets.
More than 50 senior scientists from 14 countries, including three Nobel laureates and several fellows of the Royal Society, have written to the European Commission denouncing claims that the ferret experiments are necessary for the development of new flu vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
They also said it is "untrue" to state that the new mutations in the laboratory strain of H5N1, which have enabled the bird-flu virus to be airborne transmissible between ferrets and, potentially, people, have already been seen in nature.
The letter signed by 56 eminent scientists, many of whom are national science academicians, was designed to correct "misstatements" made by the president of the European Society of Virology, Professor Giorgio Palu, who they claim made "incorrect" assertions about the need to carry out the research in an earlier letter he had sent to the Commission.
The ferret research is being carried out by Ron Fouchier and colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. He has been involved in a legal dispute with the Dutch government which has insisted that he needs an export licence before his H5N1 work is published in a scientific journal.
The Dutch government claimed that the work to study the mutations needed to make H5N1 airborne transmissible between ferrets or people has a possible dual civil-military function and could be misused by bioterrorists. Meanwhile, Dr Fouchier has argued that an export licence hampers his academic freedom to publish the results of his experiments in the open scientific literature.