A little while ago, one of the two mutant flu studies was published. If you recall, these studies lay at the heart of a serious debate concerning biosecurity and the publishing or not publishing of potentially dangerous results.
In short, what did these studies do to cause such a stir? Well, they showed how the avian flu H5N1 could mutate to become much more effectively transmittable between ferrets and, so the assumption goes, between human beings. “Pandemic! Bioterrorism!” was contrasted with “Freedom of speech (and research)! Vaccine development!”.
Initial response by the NSABB (National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity) was to omit key details from the publications. A bit later, the WHO weighed in, favoring full publication. The NSABB then changed its recommendation to full publication as well.
The first study was published in Nature. Now, the second one is published in Science. Both open access, by the way.
In fact, Science is dedicating a special to the flu-stuff. (If you want a good overview of the whole process, be sure to check the timeline.)
As you can imagine, several recent popular science articles concentrate on the issue. Among others, in The Scientist, New Scientist, Scientific American, a Nature News feature, Wired Science,… So, plenty of info for those wanting to know more. It’s always a good idea to check out the original studies as well.
Herfst, S., Schrauwen, E.J.A., Linster, M., Chutinimitkul, S., de Wit, E., Munster, V.J., Sorrell, E.M., Bestebroer, T.M., Burke, D.F., Smith, D.J., Rimmelzwaan, G.F., Osterhaus, A.D.M.E., & Fouchier, R.A.M. (2012). Airborne Transmission of Influenza A/H5N1 Virus Between Ferrets Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1213362