Scientists Halt Bird-Flu Research

Sushanta Das / AP Photo

In this Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 file photo, Indian health workers carry killed ducks to burry them at the R.K. Nagar Government Duck Farm in Agartala in the remote northeastern state of Tripura, India. An official says around 4.000 birds have been culled at a government-run duck farm in the state after some poultry tested positive for a deadly strain of bird flu that can potentially be fatal for humans.

Scientists who created a more deadly and highly contagious strain of bird flu are pausing their research for 60 days, handing over their reports to be reviewed by other researchers around the world before they proceed. The scientists who purposely engineered genetic changes to the H5N1 virus to make it more contagious among lab animals have penned a letter explaining why they’re halting research, which will be published with reports on their work in the journals of Science and Nature. They say that though the scientists' work has public health benefits, the National Institutes of Health expressed concern about the virus escaping laboratories and potentially infecting humans, which has prompted a major public debate over whether the research is safe.