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Freeze lifted on bird flu virus research

January 24, 2013
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Source: ABC.net

Scientists who created a mutant bird flu virus will resume the controversial research after taking a year-long break amid fears the bug would escape the lab or fall into terrorist hands.

Citing a public health responsibility to continue the work, the teams said research will resume in countries whose governments had given the go-ahead, except in the United States and at US-sponsored research projects in other countries.

"We declare an end to the voluntary moratorium on avian-flu transmission studies," US-based journal Science and its British counterpart Nature said in an announcement.

Teams in the US and the Netherlands announced last month that they had engineered a hybrid of the H5N1 bird flu virus that was transmissible by air among mammals, in this case ferrets, which are considered a good research model for humans.

Publication of the results was delayed and work was halted for a year amid concerns terrorists may lay their hands on the data.

"We fully acknowledge that this research, as with any work on infectious agents, is not without risks," the scientists said, following extensive consultation with intelligence, health and security agencies.

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