Expert unease over deadly flu virus ‘created’ in Dutch laboratory

Dutch scientists have created a flu virus which is so deadly there is doubt about whether the research should be published, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The paper says American experts are worried detailed information could fall into the wrong hands and that terrorists could recreate the virus as a weapon. The fears are notable because the work was carried out on behalf of the National Institutes of Health in the US.
The research team, led by Ron Fouchier, professor of virology at Erasmus teaching hospital, was able to create a highly infectious variant of the bird flu virus H5N1. H5N1 rarely transfers from animal to human, but if it does, the infection is often fatal.
Fouchier was asked to find out if H5N1 could lead to a pandemic and was able to show that a couple of mutations in the virus dna changed it into an extremely virulent form. Japanese researchers have also made similar findings, the paper says.
Fouchier then offered an article on his findings to scientific journal Science which asked a US institute for bio-security to examine the result. That institute told the US government the research could be threatening to public health and security.
The Volkskrant says Fouchier is unwilling to comment on the situation because he does not want to prejudice the expert opinion. Both his and the Japanese research are currently being scrutinised.

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