H5N1, a subtype of influenza A virus that originated in Hong Kong in 1997 and has since spread across Asia and Africa, features a reported case fatality rate of nearly 60 percent in humans. Although naturally-occurring H5N1 has not developed the ability to be efficiently transmitted from human to human, two independent research teams have recently mutated strains of the virus, resulting in facile transmission among laboratory ferrets, which are considered the most accurate models for humans in viral studies. As a consequence of the security and public health risks of such information, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity recommended that Science and Nature refrain from publishing full versions of the research manuscripts. The move has provided a platform for international debate as scientists assess the potential benefits and hazards as a consequence of either disseminating all details of the studies or only a select few.
Belling MA, Dye K, Ilenin J, Amero J, Roecker AM. Laboratory Mutations of H5N1 Confer Efficient Transmission in Animal Models and Generate International Debate Regarding Publication of Dual Use Research. PAW Review. 2012 Jul 01; 3(2):Article 3 54-57 . Available from: https://digitalcommons.onu.edu/paw_review/vol3/iss2/3. Free full text article.