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NSABB may review H5N1 papers again

Revised versions of two controversial manuscripts on transmission of the H5N1 avian flu virus in mammals — one submitted to Science and the other to Nature — will be reviewed by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), a possible step toward altering the board's earlier recommendation that the papers not be published in full due to security concerns.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the research, said that federal officials will ask for the new review so that the 23 members of the NSABB can have access to the same data and discussion as a group of global health and influenza experts convened in February by the World Health Organization in Geneva. That group recommended that the papers be published in full, but only after a full review of biosafety and biosecurity issues.

It recommended that a voluntary moratorium on the research be continued. Fauci made his announcement at a February 29 panel discussion during a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Washington,  D.C. Paul Keim, acting chair of the NSABB, would not speculate on the possible outcome of the new review but did say that recommendations from NSABB are subject to change if warranted. The board is expected to consider the revised manuscripts in a meeting late this month or in early April.

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