The U.S. government has given scientists permission to publish data from two controversial studies that involved the manipulation of the H5N1 avian flu virus, HealthDay News reported.
Led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the studies made alterations to the potentially lethal virus until it was transmissible between ferrets, which are considered to be a close model for humans. H5N1 is currently not easily transmitted between humans.
In December, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the journals Science and Nature to censor some of the data from these studies for national security reasons, fearing that terrorists may use the information to create a biological weapon, according to HealthDay News.
However, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced Friday that the data from Kawaoka study could be published in full after an independent panel of experts determined there was no apparent danger to public health.
A spokesperson for Science said the journal is still waiting for a decision by Dutch regulators before deciding when to publish data from the Fouchier study.