NSABB Calls For Global Guidelines For Conducting, Communicating Research Involving Dangerous Pathogens

NewScientist reports on the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity’s (NSABB) recommendation that revised versions of two controversial studies on H5N1 avian flu be published in scientific journals, reversing its previous recommendation that the studies only be published if certain details were withheld. According to the news service, dissent among the board members over the issue has prompted the committee to “propos[e] talks to draft global guidelines for doing and communicating work involving dangerous pathogens.”

“[I]nformation released this week shows that the committee was divided over the issue, strengthening the case for new guidelines,” the news service writes, noting “only 12 of 18 NSABB members voted for that U-turn.” “Experiments that change a pathogen’s transmission or host range ‘require detailed analyses of risks and benefits before they are conducted or communicated,’ says the NSABB,” NewScientist writes, adding, “This working group should also create some way to ‘redact’ papers, says the board.” The news service notes, “Meanwhile, a researcher involved in the Dutch study has obtained some new results with H5N1 bird flu that give the committee’s rhetoric added urgency” (MacKenzie, 4/18).