US Government tries to restrict publication

of details on avian flu virus that spreads among mammals

John Timmer

Although avian flu viruses have infected humans in the past (often with lethal effect), so far, these infections have come directly from birds. Over this past summer, however, researchers presented disturbing results at a scientific meeting. By growing the avian H5N1 virus in mammals for several generations, they had evolved a strain that can spread among mammals (ferrets, in this case) simply through the air. Additionally, researchers identified the mutations that enabled the virus to do so–the kind of information that would be enough to allow any competent molecular biologist to create an exact duplicate.

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